It seems to me that I keep confronting human intransigence against God’s requirement to decentralize. Allow me to offer two examples.
One: The Internet is by far the most democratizing influence on human society in history thus far. The very nature of the Internet is a world of radical equality. If you can connect, you are an active participant. Regardless of your tastes, there is always a place for you. The technology itself is wide open to everyone; your online presence is limited only by your willingness to engage. So far as the system is concerned, your device could be anything you make of it because the protocols are there for everyone. The old joke is that, on the Internet, no one knows you are a dog. The Internet doesn’t know what you are, only what you do.
Thus, your fame on the Net is limited to how well you cater to some audience. The whole thing is all about finding your niche. Think about this: Whatever is possible becomes mandatory. The New Testament refers to the Lust of the Eyes as the fallen human sense of curiosity and entertainment seeking; this is the key feature of the Internet. The Internet has destroyed the legacy entertainment and information industries; they are dead and don’t know it. Now that dissemination and sharing is unlimited, demand will fragment into countless flavors of unique individual tastes. Everything has to be offered in modular form. No supplier can possibly corner the market. More to the point, the means of making it pay have changed dramatically, so that the legacy media system of delivery is frankly a hindrance. Legacy media companies are dying all around us; the New Media blossoms.
Two: The same thing is happening in organized religion. It may take a little longer; religion is notorious for being the last social influence to move where the rest of the world goes. Keep in mind that religion as an organized human activity is still subject to all the same market forces as every other human activity. Once you implement your response to faith, it becomes a human activity subject to all the forces of fallen human nature. Before the First Century ended, churches lost their unique covenantal roots and bought into secular organizing principles with secular goals, and attempted to lock in their ambient style of management as somehow “holy” and essential to religion itself.
Thus, churches are struggling to hold each new generation. If you pay attention to the church news outlets, you can see the huge marketing efforts to sell new ways of keeping the young inside of dying structures. It’s more frantic now than ever before, because of the fundamental factor of the speed of information flow. Back when news traveled by word of mouth, change was very slow, over several generations. Now that we have instant communication with virtually anyone anywhere in the world, we see more dramatic change in one year than was previously possible in three generations. Human fashion cannot hold still.
God is making decentralization obligatory. We see throughout Scripture that, from time to time, God destroys systems that are designed to block His divine will. Do you recall reading in the Bible about the Tower of Babel? One of the key factors in the story is that God demands decentralization. While it is quite possible to accept His will and study ways to build a society that is appropriately decentralized and still united as one in moral purpose, no has shown much interest in doing that. Thus, every system that man builds is doomed to collapse whenever God feels like it has gone far enough. Every Tower of Babel falls.
Part of the sin of building such towers, attempting to route around God’s revelation to reach Heaven, is the necessary element of secrecy and manipulation. Scripture refers to God’s flock of sheep and His herds of cattle. The sheep of His pasture are those who obey His will, as outlined in the Law Covenants. The cattle are the broader mass of human society that ignores His revelation. His sheep know His voice; the cattle are driven, moving at the prodding of forces they don’t comprehend, completely oblivious to God. It is particularly blasphemous when men set out to hijack God’s prerogatives in their attempts to herd humans as cattle.
The last place you would expect to find such herding is in churches, yet that is where it is typically at its worst. As someone who once aspired to working as a clergyman, I can assure you that churches tend to be worse than secular society at large when it comes to deceiving and manipulating the clientèle. Especially in denominations where the management records were wide open, the informal secrecy was the worst. The clergy were always plotting against likely resistance of the membership while maintaining their aura of holiness.
Of course, the excuse was that the membership was loaded with folks too religiously immature to handle things properly. But that’s how secular organizations are; when you adopt secular structures, you get secular results. Holiness becomes a quality to be measured and manipulated, and you end up with an immoral ruling elite every time.
I’ve been burned by such systems repeatedly. It never felt right in my heart and I’ve come to despise the whole mess. So if you hang around here, you’ll see plenty of talk about decentralizing, and I will demand that each of you accept the responsibility to make your own choices. I’ll press that demand in network technology and in religion.