It’s really inevitable. The Church, sitting in a pool of culture, will eventually absorb some of that culture like the smell of smoked salmon sitting open in the refrigerator tainting the Jell-O. There is nothing wrong with that and in many ways can be a good thing. But it can also be a bad thing . . . depending on which part of the culture that is absorbed. The big problem is, while the first generation (the one doing the absorbing) may see it as innervations, by the time it gets to the next generation of believers, it is fused with the few simple doctrines of scripture and becomes an essential.
I was thinking about this last week as I listened to NPR’s Science Friday. The computer scientists and engineers behind the Microsoft’s Xbox’s Kinect described how they developed the system and what the future may hold.
Already the system, that is the system sitting on the shelf ready for Christmas, can recognize your face and match it to a data bank about you. It may soon be able to do that with your voice as well. Once the match occurs, the possibilities are endless. The software can record your voice and habits . . .and get to know you much better than you can imagine. In the future, your little Xbox, sitting in your living room, may be able to communicate to vendors (via the Internet) of your habits, wishes, vocalizations . . . so those vendors can tailor-make their products for you.
Not too far fetched, you could be sitting in your living room, Xbox off (or so you think) and you say something about needing to buy a new washing machine. Then, you go to check your e-mail and there is a letter addressed to you, offering you a “special” discount on a washing machine down at the local box store. It could happen, sooner than you think. It wouldn’t be big brother because in the five-page, 4 pt. font, contract (which you signed when you bought the Xbox) says that they can sell your information to the vendor.
Of course product placement has been around for quite a while. I remember when I first figured this out. I felt so deceived.
But to my point. I was listening to Christian radio this week again . . . in that dead zone between NPR stations. Sometimes I am positively surprised. But then I noticed some product placement. A sermon about a topic . . . then a commercial came on advertising about a book (written by someone totally different) on that same subject matter and I wondered what the relationship was (speaking of $$$$) between that pastor and the publisher? Of course authors are expected to market their own books, but paying a pastor to speak on a subject, just to get a book noticed (a book, which the pastor had nothing to do with) is different.
Someday, I predict pastors will sign on to “product placement” within their churches. It may start out simply as message from a publisher, “Preach about the gift of mercy this week, mentioned our new book “God Have Mercy, the Neglected Gift of the Spirit” and we will give you a gift card worth $100 of books at our online bookstore.” Now if your church has more than 500 people, the gift card might be $200. If you have a TV ministry, you might get . . . a new BMW. Then down the road, it gets a little more scary where it is more than product placement but thought placement. For example a pastor is asked to preach on the good idea of giving money to the Red Cross, then the Red Cross cuts him a check for the placement. Far fetched? We will see. As my Jewish friend David tells me (and he’s in publishing in Manhattan), “Mike, all human behavior boils down to money . . . just follow the money.” I disagree. I would say that 95% of human behavior boils down to me trying to make myself feel significant. Money is just one means to than end. Fortunately, in that remaining 5%, there is a little room for altruism.
It is Thanksgiving Eve and I need to get home. Sorry about the typos. Have a great day of rest and being with your family!