Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Twitter Marks the End of Church Pews

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
Today I'm putting up a guest post from Dixon Kinser.  Actually, it's a post taken from the archives of his blog So Indie It's Embarassing (  Sadly, he doesn't post much anymore, but there's some fantastic things there.  Enjoy!

by Dixon Kinser

It is my opinion that when Christian’s gather for worship the rituals they undertake function as a kind of training. What they do together gives shape, form and imagination to the kind of people they are trying to become. This is as true for the obvious elements of Christian worship (preaching content, song selection, giving, confession, prayer for the church and the world etc.) as it is for the more oblique ones (room orientation, seating configurations, vestments etc.). It is these oblique ones that I think will be most affected by a technology like Twitter.

Twitter is, of course, a relatively new technology that allows the user to update a personal web feed with what they are doing at any given moment. It provides a new and interesting way to communicate to be sure, but it is also indicative of the larger culture trends toward virtual relationships. These are the kind of relationships that are facilitated in spaces like MySpace and facebook and use email and twitter their means communication.

These media make it is possible to converse with many people, all over the globe on any given day but never look at another human being in the face. Even worse, these technologically based relationships can actually supersede the real thing (ever had somebody ignore you while you were talking to them to respond to a text?)

All this brings me to my point.

As our culture moves into more and more virtual forms of communication (for a scathing critique of this reality see the film Wall-E) will the church’s practice of meeting together become increasingly both counter cultural and crucial.
Christianity is a living way of life that requires relationship with other human beings. The kind of formation we seek (I am a Christian so I put myself in this camp) happens most authentically in community when face to face with other human beings. As more and more technologies crop up that draw us away from looking at other people in the face the more important the churches practice of relating to other people “in person” will become.

And this is why Twitter could very well be the death knell of the church pew. We all know that worshipping in pews requires very little face-to-face interaction. Yes we subvert this with some of our practices (passing the peace etc.), but for the majority of our community training we only see the back of our neighbor’s head. Will the increased need for face-to-face time in worship in response to our cultures increasingly virtual relationships finally call for the end of pews?

We need to look at one another and one of the technologies working against us is the church pew. Architecture is one of the intangibles of our Christian formation and its augmentation can really make a difference. Could this be the time?

It’s not like the pew has been around since the time of Jesus or anything. It’s usage came into vogue as another communication technology rose to prominence – the printing press (ever notice how a Basilica’s pews are shaped like the layout of a book?) Perhaps its demise at the hand of another communication technology is just the right kind of poetic beauty.

Or is it irony.


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