Culture At Large

C:\Christianity: the Church as Computer

Andy Rau

You've probably read (and possibly had email-forwarded to you hundreds of times) Umberto Eco's witty 'Holy War' essay, in which he compares DOS to Protestantism and the Mac OS to Catholicism. Now here's another computer/Christianity comparison--this one tracing the gradual shift from centralized, monolithic computer systems to smaller, independent computers that give individual users the power to act on their own:

In the beginning—or actually 300 years after the beginning—was the universal church. Then came Martin Luther, King James and the Protestant Reformation. These were the mainline, mainstream mainframes of the ecclesiastical world. Next came the Congregationalists, the Anabaptists and freedom of religion in the New World. The resulting denominations and their conferences became the mini universal churches like the DEC, IBM and Hewlett Packard mini computers. In the recent past were developed the Community churches and Store Front churches which are likened to the Personal Computers. And now we have Emergent which I will compare to a laptop with a WiFi card installed.

The author closes with a call for increased "decentralization" of power within the church:

...the best laid plans of High Priests, conferences and committees often fail to work in the real world where the laity live.... People are smart. They can read, learn and understand. They know how to do what they need to do. And they know what it is that needs doing. Conferences, committees and especially High Priests have little idea what's going on in the communities where needs are met. Distribution of power to the people who pay for the resources and do the work is the most effective structure.

An interesting analogy. If you like the church/computer analogy angle, you may find this older essay about the church's operating system worth reading too.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Technology, Theology & The Church