This morning I just finished reading Fast Company magazine’s “Twenty Predictions for the New 20 Years” (Dec. 2015 - Jan. 2016, pp. 14-20).
In a nutshell, they’re both exciting and terrifying.
Most, of course, center around rapid changes in technology – especially communications technology. Here’s a sampling of what’s ahead:
- Speed will triumph;
- Digital tools will unlock opportunity;
- Democracy will be digital;
- Diversity will deepen;
- Medical training will be rewritten;
- Human empathy will be central; and
- Simple will be more difficult (actually, more complex).
The article left me with a vision of a world awash in quick, constant and chaotic change -- where everything is experimental and nothing is fixed or certain. Maybe I’m just showing my age, but it struck me as a nerve-wracking way to live and work.
That’s why the last of the 20 predictions caught me completely by surprise: We will all be family.
Say what? In a world defined by constant change and mobility -- where our primary tether to the human community is a cell phone -- how can we possibly tout the centrality of family? Here’s Fast Company’s explanation:
Phones, planes, and televisions have all served to make the world smaller, and the ongoing wave of technological change will only draw us into closer proximity. We will have less license to ignore the troubles (and challenges) in other parts of the globe, and we’ll have a vested interest in maintaining familial peace. Nobody knows how to criticize you quite like your kin – they know your vulnerabilities well – but no one is better at coming to your aid, either. Of these 20 (predictions), this is the one with the largest measure of hope: that our increasing knowledge of and intimacy with one another leads to greater understanding and opportunity for all.
What the editors are saying is that for good things to happen, We must begin to share the spotlight with Me.
No doubt, the pace and breadth of change will grow exponentially, disrupting everything and everyone all the time. How can we possibly keep our heads above water and maintain a sense of living a meaningful life when the rules, the tools and the turf are constantly changing – rather like finding oneself in a disjointed dream keeping company with the Mad Hatter?
To survive in the Coming Greater Chaos, we will need an anchor. Somehow we will need to be grounded in something of more lasting meaning and purpose than the maelstrom swirling around us, threatening to consume us. (In that moment, a phrase came to me, a wry comment about theologian Paul Tillich’s sense of God: “Ground of our being, pray for us.”)
As it turns out, in this Brave New World, Good Company trumps Fast Company. As our interdependence grows – ever more quickly and with ever greater complexity -- the primary human challenge is to construct a sense of reality that fully acknowledges that fundamental fact of human existence – we are interdependent.
Collectively we are interdependent. Individually we are interdependent. Indeed, we are so fundamentally interdependent that our individual identities can arise only in social settings. Without a We, there is no Me.
Why is this so? Christianity has an answer. We are fundamentally interdependent because all humanity has a common source and destiny: our Creator. Each of us is a unique creation that, by design emerges in community and expresses a unique dimension of our Maker.
As we read in 1 Cor. 12 and elsewhere, each of us is a unique part of the Body of Christ with a unique role to play in the welfare of that body. Whatever else is going on around us at the moment, this is the foundation from which order can emerge from the chaos of our world and of our lives.
We each have lasting, unconditional value because we are loved unconditionally by our Creator, whose will and creative Word keep us alive in each moment. We are built to grow and serve – for the glory of God and the good of His people.
Of this we can be sure.
The visionary genius Marshall McLuhan understood that change is never linear or purely progressive. Instead, he said any change has four effects:
- Enhancement – amplifying or intensifying some pre-existing things or forces.
- Obsolescence – driving out some pre-existing things or forces.
- Retrieval – recovering some things or forces that were previously lost.
- Reversal – when pushed to its limit, a thing or force will flip over on itself into an opposing thing or force, which in turn amplifies, drives out and recovers various other things or forces that have come before.
So it will be – it must be – with the relationship between religious faith and the emerging, chaotic culture. The rate of change in the ethos of uncertainty will enhance our hunger for meaning and relationships. We will hunger to build our houses on solid rock rather than on shifting sand. That may inspire us to retrieve much of the ancient wisdom expressed in the Gospels and other sacred texts.
Of course, in the process some things – superstitions, antiquated world views – will be discarded. What Christianity comes to look like will be a mix of old and new, timeless and relevant, truth and wisdom. The principles will not change. Instead, they will become ever more supreme and self-evident. But the Spirit will be manifested in new and creative ways we cannot possibly imagine.
In the interim, we can borrow a helpful model from Pope Francis. He speaks of church as a “field hospital.” In an interview six months after he was elected pope, he explained his metaphor:
I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.
In this Year of Mercy, we should reflect on the importance of Good Company in the Age of Fast Company. How can we be good company? How can each of us better reflect the values and benefits of family? How can we as the Body of Christ serve as a field hospital where our goal and our greatest achievement is healing?
In the face of this question, I have two thoughts. Get started. Don’t stop.