theo|digital is my blogging attempt at the intersection of communication theory and Christian theology. And we can get more specific. My area of interest in communication studies is called media ecology, a relatively young field that views communications technologies as cultural environments (read my attempt to answer What is Media Ecology?). Theology also has a long list of sub-specialties, but I might characterize my core approach as “contextual.” If theology is “faith seeking understanding,” then the faith has to start from somewhere. What’s true is that while God does not change, we do. As history progresses or cultures differ, we see the questions we ask about God change as well. All theology is contextual theology, and my approach as a digital native is one of them. I do have other nameable theological biases that come from being somewhat post-evangelical and all that entails: I’d probably use words like “poststructuralist sympathizer”and “missional.”
But it’s not supposed to be that heady. Yeah, I’ve tried to wade into the academic journals in these areas, but why I did was eminnently practical for the Christian church, and the questions aren’t derived from philosophical equations. For years at a campus minister at the University of Illinois, I found myself noticing how our ways of thinking and communication changed as we added new technologies to our lives. It was a notable decade. When I arrived as a undergraduate student, I experience my first connection to Internet, and I’ve watched highband ‘net, Facebook, and cell phones transform the patterns of thought for incoming groups of Freshman. I started wondering… what does it mean that I have spiritually life-changing discussions with students using text-based instant messenger at 12:45am? How does our projection of verses on our powerpoint screen modify the way we think about Scripture? What will junior high kids, who currently Txt three to five thousand messages a month–think about leather Bibles? What is the spirituality of Facebook?
When I researched for my master’s, I decided to ask, “If Christians are “people of the book,” what do they look like post-book?” And all I really did is get more questions than I started with. And discover that while there are not many people trying to ask these questions directly. Communications scholars might study religion and media, but not from the distinctly Christian theological worldview. And most theologians I’ve met are of the electronic media generation, who are either dismissive or pessimistic about new media forms.
I did get a great grounding in the history of communications media—from clay tokens to the printing press—that established some real context for my questions. And I was able to explore a doctrine of scripture more closely.
theo|digital is my chance to keep chasing these questions, and possibly involve others. Theology for digital natives. Theology from a digital context. Excepting the almost certainty that the word “digital” will eventually become passe, I hope the discussion stays around for a while. We need it.