Friday, November 15, 2013


God and Netflix

John Van Sloten @ Think Christian:
Netflix - along with all of the other big-data algorithms that insist on telling me what I like, want or need - is shrinking my life.

I just hit the “Personalize” button on my Netflix page and was prompted to input and rate all of the movies I’d watched in the past few years. Then, amazingly, after just a few seconds of processing, a “Top Ten for John” list appeared. Wow. The personalize button was then replaced by a taste profile link, where I could feed Netflix’s database more detailed information about which of the 31 different moods I preferred. I didn’t want to play anymore!


How can we possibly imagine anything when we refuse to change the channel? And how can God be God if we limit Him to the stations, tastes and choices we’re comfortable with?

In the tradition I grew up with, I was always told that God speaks through all things, all genres and all means of created media. He speaks redwood tree, epigenetics, abstract art, ancient Greek, Arcade Fire and comic book. He speaks in the academy, the office and out in the field. His words are common and gracious, and He rains them down on all of us, all over the place.

Every time we feed the algorithm, we limit our capacity to experience and hear our genuinely alternative, ever-creative, ever-new, everywhere speaking God.
There are good things and bad things about such an argument. Many are the people that have experienced such "diversity" in their theology that they essentially have no theology. Or taste. Or belief. Diversity is not an end to itself, it is a means to an end. Diversity, of itself, produces depth, but never depth.

On the other hand, people that stay deeply entrenched in the same box never grow. They reach the limits of the box and never get out of it. They are stunted people.

The problem is not diversity or lack thereof, but rather engagement with what you experience. If you go to church like you watch movies then this guy has a heck of a point. But if you are deeply engaged with your church, actively and intellectually engaged, you may need to stay within the confines of something for a long time to understand it. You may not leave the boundaries of the property, but you are digging ever deeper.

Similarly, if you experience much diversity, you must be intellectually prepared to sort the wheat from the chaff. Every experience has both good and bad associated with it. Again, if you walk away merely consuming the experience, you do not judge the good or the bad, it was simply, experience. If you engage, you take the good and add it to your bag of tricks. but the bad you discard.

But what I find most telling is that if I am engaged in increasing depth in my box, I will eventually leave it to explore some aspect. Likewise, if I seek purposefully diverse things I will eventually find a groove that I like best - IF I ENGAGE.

Let's not berate people for their lack of diversity, nor for being too diverse. Let;s urge them to engage with their experience. To seek God in everything.


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