Saturday, August 27, 2011

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

Facebook, Twitter, Google, iPods, etc. have changed the world in radical ways. Cell phones have replaced landlines. Facebook has replaced email. Interactive blogs have replaced static websites. The list goes on and on. The young people who have grown up with digital technology thrive on it. They operate out of a digital perspective. They are more visual, more individualistic, and more connected. They are also less word-oriented, less patient, and less reliant on professional experts. These cultural shifts aren't good/bad or right/wrong. They are just different. And those differences continue to become more apparent - especially when compared to the good ol' days.

Marc Prensky writes about the difference between "digital natives" (i.e. youths who are growing up with new technology) and "digital immigrants" (i.e. everyone who is learning to use new technology). Here is how Prensky describes the emerging perspective of young people: "Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards."

As digital natives and digital immigrants interact, they are going to have to learn to speak one anther's language and figure out how to effectively navigate each other's cultural differences. In fact, the digital divide might prove to be a more challenging cultural journey than the traditional barriers of nationality, gender, race, etc. As Galadriel said in Lord of the Rings: "The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air." Our task for the future (and present moment) is to figure out how to effectively navigate through our changed and changing world. This is important for everyone who is interested in education, ministry, business, etc. Together we need to figure out how to be culturally savvy when the digital immigrants hang out with the digital natives.

What can we be doing?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Facts about Wealth and Poverty

Three quick facts about wealth and poverty:

(1) The bottom 50% of Americans control 2.5% of the nation's wealth.
(2) The top 1% of Americans control 40% of the nation's wealth.
(3) Deuteronomy 15:11 says: "I command you to be openhanded toward your siblings and toward the poor and needy in your land."

Here's some more info:

And of course Jon Stewart shares some insights, too:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Breaking Up With God (Review)

Breaking up with God is a lucid, honest, and poignant memoir. It details Sarah Sentilles' journey from a college girl to mature woman; from a BA in literature at Yale to a PhD in theology at Harvard; from a naive understanding of God to a complex one; from an infatuation with God to a spiritual agnosticism; and from a track toward ordination to an exit from the Church. It's also a powerful testimony to the change that happens when one explores a diversity of theologies.

Here is how Sentilles previews her journey in the beginning of the book:
"My relationship with God was never casual.  When it began to unravel, I was in the ordination process to become an Episcopal priest.  I was the youth minister at a church in a suburb of Boston and a doctoral student in theology at Harvard.  You might say God and I were engaged and the wedding was planned – church reserved, menu chosen, flowers arranged.  Calling it off would be awkward" (3).
Breaking up with God is the analogy that Sentilles uses to describe her change in vocation, faith, and life. While at first this seemed like a cheesy analogy, it quickly made sense within the context of her "God-is-my-boyfriend" understanding of God. This analogy illuminates the deep pain that goes with breaking up with someone you love deeply. Lives go in different directions. Social connections are rent asunder. Places of familiarity become places of emptiness. And all of these things are made worse when it's on a cosmic/divine scale. Thankfully she moves on to a place that's better for her.

Woven within Sentilles' story of breaking-up and moving-on are sidebars that offer theological insights into her journey. Each sidebar offers a different understanding of God that she learned along the way: A Sunday School's God (15-18), A Mystic's God (33), James Cone's God (75-76), Desmond Tutu's God (83-84), A Romantic's God (87), Gordon Kaufman's God (118-119), Mary Daly's God (128-129), A Philosopher's God (135-136), A Theologian's God (150), Rainer Maria Rilke's God (177-176), An American's God (195-196), An Ecologist's God (202-203), and An Anthropologist's God (221-222). It's clear that each of these perspectives challenged and expanded her understanding of God in life-altering ways. By the end, studying theology went from the joy of "reading love poems" (108) about God to a "pragmatic enterprise that had to do with what's required for living a moral life" (112-113). This new understanding of God and theology changed her life and didn't allow her to go back.

Sentilles' relationship to the Church also changed as she studied theology. She learned that there were more than four gospels written (120), the Bible's construction was a political process (121), Christian history was continually wrought with diversity (122), modern Christianity contains many different perspectives (123), the Church has elements of racism and sexism (124-125), and the priesthood is more about administration and social connection than about theology and social ethics (151-152). This left her with a sense of disillusionment that led her to the decision to break up with God and move out of institutionalized religion.

After Sentilles breaks up with God, she moves on to an agnostic spirituality (222). In this spirituality, God is a mystery that can be understood in many ethical ways. Plus, in this spirituality, a life of faith is defined by living ethically in day-to-day life. Here is Sentilles' description of her emerging spirituality:
"I don't go to church, but I do go to the covered stalls of the farmer's market on Sunday morning...This is a kind of faith for me. To be in season. To crave what the earth makes when the time is right. To know who grows my food and how they grow it...To thank the farmers who planted and tended and harvested and brought it to the market...Communion is not about making one meal sacred on one morning in one holy place, but about making all meals, all eating, all feeding sacred." (215-216).
If you want to explore some of the deep life-changes that can happen when you study theology, check out this book. If you want to explore some of the differences between seminary and the church, check out this book. If you want to read a powerful narrative about personal transformation, check out this book. But don't read this book if you don't want you, yourself, to be changed in the process. Sentilles tells a story that is specific to her own life but universal in its testimony: studying a diversity of theologies will transform your life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spiritual Benefits of an Economic Downturn

The economy is tough for a lot of people. For some, it's time to get a second or third job in order to support their family. For others, it's time to reassess their lives and priorities in order to find a new "normal." Here's a quote from John B. Cobb that speaks to our current ecomomic situation well:

"For people who consume too much in the first place, the loss of wealth – when wealth has become a god in one’s life - offers the opportunity for entering into a more genuine faith: faith in God. The fruits of this faith are an inner peace, a trust that no matter what happens there is a greater love in which all are enfolded, and also a desire to serve the real needs of other people and other living beings..."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

EWALU @ 50

Camp EWALU is celebrating their 50th year of outdoor ministry on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-5, 2011. This beautiful camp has touched the lives of over 500,000 people. It's also the place where we served on staff during our college years. We can testify to the Spirit-filled nature of this place. So come one, come all to the celebration! There will be live music, swimming, hiking, and much more. To whet your appetite, here is an interview with Kelsey Mackereth, Director of Church Relations for EWALU:

Who Started EWALU?

Ewalu was established in 1961 by the five eastern conferences of the Iowa District of the American Lutheran Church. It was owned and operated by 169 congregations. It is still owned and operated by over 180 churches within the Northeast and Southeast ELCA Iowa Synods.

What makes Ewalu unique?

Ewalu is a unique setting in which youth and adults can come together in discussion about their faith. Our programs offered are unique and range from camping in teepees amongst the pine trees to whitewater rafting down the Wolf River in Wisconsin. When asking staff and visitors this question they say 'the people make Ewalu unique'. The people who serve here and the people who worship here help create Ewalu as a special place.

How has Ewalu changed over its 50 years?

Over the years Ewalu has change through the number of people served and the facilities in which we host. When Ewalu started in 1961 there were two weeks of summer camp and 177 registered campers. Over the years these numbers have both grown with over 1,000 campers so far this summer and an average summer now consisting of eight weeks.

What are your hopes for Ewalu for its next 50 years?

To continue serving and offering a place for people of all ages to come and 'be'. 

What kind of events are planned for the 50th anniversary?

We have started off our celebration with two open houses earlier this year and will continue celebrating Labor Day weekend. September 2-5 will be a weekend long event full of camp activities for people of all ages. Activity options for this weekend are the high ropes, guided hike, arts & crafts, swimming, and much more. There will also be music performances by various Ewalu Alumni singer/song writers. On Saturday at 2:00 there will be a dedication of the new buildings. It will be a fun weekend to come enjoy this 'special place apart'.

Who is invited to the celebration?

Everyone is welcomed to come join us for this celebration!

Where can people find out more info?

You can find our more information on our website:, call: 563-933-4700, or email me at: