Saturday, July 8, 2006

Waterworld: A Response to "The Perfect Storm" PART III

A Different Fate for America?

I think the answer is different here for USAmericans than for most of the West.

For USAmericans, the Achille’s heel will be post-Christendom. Since moving to Michigan from Vancouver, B.C. I am amazed at the groundwater of Christendom – everything here leaks Christian imperialism [bumper stickers, music, films, conversations, schools, media, commerce, politics] in a way I thought was only true in lampoons and parodies. When I tell people I’m from a place where I avoiding using the term “pastor” [I frequently replaced it with “priest”] because that term typically required definition [i.e. no one seemed to know what a “pastor” was], the responses always consist of shock and personal affrontedness [even on the part of atheists and cynics].

Even the atheists in America are part of the assembly line of Christendom, a kind-of quality control for the unsound, fulfilling a similar function to a factory stress-test.

USAmericans just simply cannot fathom a western world without a Christian nation at the center, even if they understand Christianity’s role at the center to be worthy of ridicule and mistrust.

For the rest of the West, and we really ought to include USAmerica in this category as well, the battle we are least equipped to fight is that of post-scale. Our imagination for the potential harm of our interconnectedness has not caught up with our fascination over our genius. We are still so excited that we can outsource to India that we have not thought through the long-term economic implications of taking away hundreds of thousands of jobs from people who do not have the innovation and creativity quotient required to survive in an information industry. We are still so impressed with our ability to create weapons that we now possess an estimated 70,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled by the nations of the world. Atmospheric tests of arms stockpiles have released fallout figures equal to 40,000 Hiroshimas[1] and the accumulated waste will take hundreds of billions of dollars and at least another half century to clean up.

Furthermore, we have no concept of what might happen when the small, tribal-identity groups of global culture begin to unite in transnational identities and become discontent with national authority – through robotics and radio controlled weaponry it is conceivable that we could have a coup d’etats within the United States lead by expatriots who never even return to the country! We have no concept yet for the fact that cities inspire more patriotism than most countries – particularly in places like Mexico and Canada where the quality of life differs antithetically from the rural to the urban [compare Toronto with Enderby, or Cabo San Lucas with the mountains of Chihuahua], and where succession may be occuring unofficially without the required consent of a public vote or democratic sanction.

The sad truth of the post-scale world is that the implications of our actions are still beyond our understanding. We don’t fully understand globalization, we don’t fully realize the phenomenon of the internet-as-parent, and we have no reliable lens with which to view the dystopia of a thousand credible [or even discredited] voices we cannot control or monitor and whom our children may find fascinating.

In such a world we need leaders who are active proponents and purveryors of meaning and relationship. We need those who can guide our communities into an alternative future where we run less risk of inadvertantly killing one another through carelessness and ignorance and instead learn to rule ourselves with love and welcome one another into symbiosis.

I’d also like to make one final note about this season of bad weather, and that is to note the geography of The Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm is decidedly zephyr-like in that it is a westerly wind and, as much as there may be cause to despair about the loss of influence among Christ-followers in the west, there is so much to celebrate about the rise of Christianity in other parts of the world.

The spread of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia is such that we can already begin to see that, in the words of Mark Pierson, “the true hope for the West will not come from the West”; and, while Pierson may be assuming more than we’re comfortable with here, he reminds us that western Christians are not the only Christians on the planet. As we’re experiencing our Perfect Storm, the rest of global Christianity is experiencing a planetary springtime of spirituality. It may very well be that, as we’re sailing and fighting for our lives or huddled into caves in the hills, that our southern and eastern brothers and sisters are sending out search parties looking for staunch survivors who refuse to be swallowed in order to bring us home safer and more whole.

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