Genuine faith is possible in isolation.
There is a lot we can say about the way religion and churches work as a social phenomena. Social science cannot answer any questions regarding the spiritual and miraculous elements, but it can report on the manifestations of those things. The only time social science can answer very many questions is when the church in question is not really a church, but masquerades as one. An awful lot of crap is labeled “Christianity” in our world.
But there’s something you need to understand from the social sciences: Individual social isolation is rising. It won’t matter if you point to any kind of conspiracy to make it like this; the point is that it will be a part of our world for the future. The only way to avoid it, even for part of your existence, is to gather in enclaves where technology devices are not used. It is utterly impossible to save the world, only little slivers of the population, and that requires more work than most people can do. Further, government policy is increasingly hostile to the chore of having to deal with enclaves that don’t have any political protection.
It is still possible with some older generations to compartmentalize technology, to think and operate on terms when such things didn’t exist. This will fade from the scene as these older generations die off. There will be a rapidly increasing rarity of individuals who can think and operate without a dependence on technology. It changes the basic assumptions of how your brain operates, and what kinds of things you take for granted.
Simple example: How many people do you know that can navigate from a paper map? I’m talking about people who aren’t confused by what they see on the ground that maps don’t show. More so, how many people do you know who can read and navigate from a topographical paper map (“tope sheet”), people who know what to expect based on what the map tells them? We would be foolish to not consider how this changes the social landscape (pun intended).
One of the key elements for those involved in genuine Christian religion is to recognize what this does to religion, in terms of how religion is an implementation of personal and community faith. Personal networked devices will change the very definition of “community.” It will mean true believers will not interact at all in the same ways. It will change the whole definition of “church.” It fundamentally changes how people see themselves.
One of the social sciences is Comparative Civilization. There is a lot of trendy nonsense that falls under that label in academia, but the real study of how civilizations are different can be very enlightening.
Understand this: Ancient Hebrew society and intellectual assumptions did not result merely from random events. That nation was pulled aside and given a whole new identity. The very substantial revelation of what their deity required represented a distinct new thing altogether. Yes, the whole thing comes down to them in the familiar form of suzerain-vassal treaty, with established protocols. There was no intent to make them utterly alien to their world. But there were key elements in their identity that were very unique. The message they bore to the rest of humanity was encoded in that difference.
Still, there were a whole raft of unspoken assumptions with that message, things those people took for granted. It is our duty to go back and dig up those things they took for granted, simply because they are part of the message. God kept elements of their existing context because they were critical to the project. There is something about the ideal handed to them, along with the unspoken assumptions, that signaled what God intended for human existence universally. Jesus gave us a few hints, in that His message was to reassert the essential things Israel had left behind in their natural inclination to to desire things that would only hurt them.
There are a lot of things Jesus didn’t bother to address because they were among those things His nation still got right.
When we examine the body of Scripture and all the information we have gathered alongside that documentation, we should come up with some universals that translate across the ages, between civilizations. I contend that it should tell you that the net result of this drift across the ages has been as predicted in the Bible: It makes it harder and harder to live life the way God intended after the Fall.
The isolation of this rising dependence on networking devices is a part of that trend. We need to recognize that this is one more thing being taken away from us that makes serving God one more increment less optimal. And we need to recognize that God is still in control, and not allow things to go beyond the limits of what can still work well enough for His voice to be heard. He has promised that things will get increasingly more difficult, yet never impossible.
So consider: What can we do to make faith viable in an age that is increasingly hostile to genuine faith? It does little good to think too much on the hostility part of that question, because it cannot be changed in the long term. There is a sense in which God is allowing us to be tested. So the challenge is to keep faith alive despite the loss of things that make it easier.
Thus, the question is: What will you leave to future generations of believers? How will you help them with the challenges they will face? Have you done anything to investigate what’s coming, and what could be done to make faith viable for them? Can you dismiss your social prejudices enough to see their real needs, instead of refusing to help them unless they embrace your personal world outlook?
The presence of ubiquitous networked communications devices makes things very convenient for a soulless government. Dehumanizing people is exactly what bureaucracy does; it makes it less work for bureaucrats. It is only natural that government policy will promote the growing isolation of the human soul. We simply have no words to express what this does to the human psyche.
The one hope anyone has is to develop a greater dependence on connecting with God to fill that void. This requires a resurgence of things our civilization as a whole has diminished: mysticism, contemplation, and the inner fire. God does not speak in the intellect, but in the heart.
I’ll be talking about my particular answers, but my point is that you need to reach for your own contribution.