Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Future Of The Church (A Response To Religion in Snow Crash)

It should be no secret that I am a Christian--much of the discussion I contributed in class were rooted in this belief--but you might not be aware of the fact that I am not opposed to the criticism towards the church. People often assume that all Christians act the same and that extreme activities and statements made by those who profess to be a follower of Christ is an indictment of the entire faith, but these are merely examples of people who do not follow the example of Christ. I have found myself frustrated with the behavior that has alienated many from Christianity and am not afraid to address these issues if given the chance (For the record, true Christians are expected to show love towards others, not stage violent protests). Therefore, when I read the portrayal of the future "church" as presented by Neil Stephenson in Snow Crash, I wasn't offended. Instead, what I experienced was fear, cause I know that this could happen--and is beginning to happen--in today's church.

The vision of the church presented in this novel is one of business. The description that most affected me is found 193-196. I read with a certain amount of trepidation that was a combination of disgust (from what was being portrayed) and dread (knowing that this could become a reality). Still, the description that hit me hardest was the chapel itself: "The interior of the chapel is weirdly colored, illuminated partly by florescent fixtures wedged into the ceiling and partly by florescent fixtures wedged into the ceiling and partly by large colored boxes that simulate stained-glass windows. The largest of these, shaped like a flattened Gothic arch, is bolted to the back wall, above the altar, and features a blazing trinity: Jesus, Elvis, and the Reverend Wayne. Jesus gets top billing. The worshipper is not half a dozen steps into the place before she thuds down on her knees in the middle of the aisle and begins to speak in tongues" (195-196). This is what follows a waiting process that includes donations to enter the church. Knowing that I do not have a problem with church in general, and am only criticizing certain commercially motivated churches, I did find this portrayal to be incredibly poignant. Many churches are recognized by the design of the building, and bookstores and cafeterias are becoming common. The main offense I take to this is the portrayal of the speaking of tongues, which is important in my faith as it relates to the Holy Spirit. Still, the book makes the speaking of tongues I primary issue, and the emphasis on tongues within the church (an issue I myself am sensitive to and have been concerned about) in the pentecostal tradition leads to many people feeling obligated and sometimes people might try just from pressure (instead of letting it come "naturally") Speaking in tongues can sometimes be forced in some churches (though some have the spiritual gift, see Romans 12) However, the book seems to use this phrase throughout it rather flippantly.

It also impresses me how this book includes Biblical references in its discussion. most specifically, with the Tower of Babel. There is even a section where the Bible verses are mentioned by chapter and verse (Chapter 30) Still, the books make many statements about religion (when asked whether Snow Crash is a virus, drug, and religion, the response is simply "What's the difference?" 200) But what would obviously be the most offensive for me is the statement regarding the resurrection. For someone to say that you can't be a Christian with the belief in Resurrection is entirely oppositional to the center of Christianity. It is even more offensive for her to say that the "myth" of the Resurrection is "National Enquirer-esque" (201) Though, obviously, this book is not a Christian book.

However, in spite of its objectionable statements, the book does include an interesting one. One of the statements made on page 69 declares that "Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later . . . which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds." (69, my emphasis) While I do not entirely agree with this, I do fear that the church is becoming to superficial and that meaningful content is sometimes glossed over, which is ironic since that which is intended to draw people to the church is also turning away the intellectual. For every Sigmund Freud and his Civilization and Its Discontents, there is C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity. Religion is not for idiots; some churches just dumb it down (though I refuse to neglect the many churches who do explore deeper, theological issues). However, if churches began to take the form of those represented in this church, including Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates. However, 99% is an unfair number in modern age.

Why am I writing about Christianity in a class about cyborgs. The answer is simple: I write responses to books based on what most resonates with me. In this book, it was the religious aspect that fascinated me. And as everyone know, Christianity is important in every response I gave to the concepts in this class. How could I neglect the opportunity to respond to a book that deals with religion so prevalently?

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