Thursday, April 10, 2008

Geek Culture Wars..... how do Christians love on Geek culture?

As usual, American Christian culture is about a decade behind the rest of the nation. This article from the February 9 issue of World says it all:

If you think that secular humanism has become biblical Christianity's most threatening opponent in contemporary society, Peter Jones wants you to think again. He will tell you—politely but emphatically—that you're at least a decade or two behind the curve.

Secular humanism boasts that it is void of explicit spiritual content—and in a way, Jones says, it has lived up to that promise. But in featuring such emptiness, it has left a globe full of people with vacant hearts and minds craving even a little spiritual substance. And that hunger, in turn, has turned its victims into prime candidates for what Jones calls "neo-pagan spirituality." It is all the rage.

Secular Humanism? A decade or two? Think like three or four. The incredible irony is that "neo-pagan spirituality" is so firmly entrenched now that addressing it is like having a conversation about the Soviet Union. Seriously.... Buffy the Vampire Slayer signalled the ascendency of neo-paganism a long time ago. Christian thinkers need to be aware of neo-paganism, but not as the most "cutting edge" challenge.

I'd say that honor goes to Geek culture.

Geek culture is the subculture of high tech high flying programmers, developers, systems designers, and general tech-heads who basically rule the internet. These aren't the people who put up groups on Facebook....they're the people who build Facebook. They're a global community, connected more by shared values than by racial-ethnic ties. And they are flexing their muscle.

Geek culture is ruthlessly libertarian. "No whining" is a mantra in many circles. Geek culture thrives on a Do it Yourself approach to life: you're smart and savvy and nothing is stopping you from building the life you want, so get busy. Quit whining and get busy. However concomitant with that "get busy" attitude is a generosity with knowledge and willingness to help. For those who are looking to improve themselves, Geek culture offers abundant advice and assistance.

Wikipedia is the prime example. You want an article there...just get off your keyster and put it up.... and then other people will help you perfect it. However Geek culture doesn't just apply this ethos to online resources. There's a large movement within Geek culture of handcrafting clothes, furniture, and anything else in your life....mainly because you can and it's an expression of you. Again Geek culture is an ethos, not just an online activity.

The libertarian streak also entails a certain desire to be left alone. Slick salesmanship earns scorn and derision. The ethos is one of a meritocracy of ideas ... present your ideas honestly and be willing to fight for them ... in the end truth will out. Fools are not given much quarter (unless they are able make fools out of themselves in such an entertaining way that they merit repeat visits).

There's lots more analysis, but for more information, check out these key geek culture websites:
BoingBoing (a so called "directory of wonderful things")
LifeHacker (something akin to a Farmers Almanac for Geek culture)
David Allen's Getting things Done (something like the Geek code of living)
Make Magazine and Craft Magazine (emphasizing the Do It Yourself ethos)

The key thing I want to convey however is that treating these folks like they're "the enemy" is nuts. There's a lot of good stuff in the ethos. We need to get to know these people. We don't need to show them how cool Christians are (as though we high schoolers trying to ascend the ladder of hipness). Somehow, we need to embrace how unhip Christianity can be, and yet still find a way to get to know these folks and show them the love of Christ.

If you're interested in trying to figure this out, why not:
1) join the Geek Culture Mission Project group that I've started on Facebook. Post a few thoughts or helpful links.
2) Digg this article for others to see.
3) Blog about this yourself
4) Forward this article to your online friends (as a fun game, lets see how long it takes for Al Mohler to address this issue....if you think it's timely enough, lets see how many people will forward it to him).
5) Quit whining ourselves....and start figuring out what kinds of positive projects we want to work on that might be a blessing to these folks and other mission fields.

Comments away
Soli Deo Gloria