Why a great Bible scholar thinks many translations are junk
A modern 'revival'? What is that all about?

Our desire to be entertained to death is, well, killing us

Now and then it's important -- in fact, vital -- that we take a step back from how we're living and compare it to the generative, generous and caring ways that the world's great religions call us to live.

High-techWhen we do that, however, we might discover that we've pretty much got it wrong. That's what this article from The Atlantic suggests to me. It's about the "metaverse" in which we seem to be living now, a universe shaped and controlled by major tech companies, by social media and by others engaged in making sure that we're entertained to death every moment we're awake -- and that we're part of the show.

"(T)he metaverse," writes Megan Garber, "has leaped from science fiction and into our lives. Microsoft, Alibaba and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, have all made significant investments in virtual and augmented reality. Their approaches vary, but their goal is the same: to transform entertainment from something we choose, channel by channel or stream by stream or feed by feed, into something we inhabit. In the metaverse, the promise goes, we will finally be able to do what science fiction foretold: live within our illusions."

If that's the promise, it's one that will flatten, if not murder, our souls, our spirits, our genius.

So when Jesus, for example, called us to live flourishing lives (he said he had come so we might have life -- and have it more abundantly), it's pretty clear that he didn't mean we should spend our days and nights in front of a screen.

Meta-logo"No company," Garber writes, "has placed a bigger bet on this future than Mark Zuckerberg’s. In October 2021, he rebranded Facebook as Meta to plant a flag in this notional landscape. For its new logo, the company redesigned the infinity symbol, all twists with no end. The choice was apt: The aspiration of the renamed company is to engineer a kind of endlessness. Why have mere users when you can have residents?"

And, of course, we, the residents, are also the product. Which is to say that we are sold or rented to countless advertisers who want to us buy what they're selling, even -- and maybe especially -- if we have no earthly use for the product.

I have read the Atlantic piece both in print and online. In print, there are no ads on the pages of the article. Online, the first thing I see is an ad for some vitamins that I recently ordered online, though it's unclear why I should click on the ad and buy more of what I've already bought. But, you see, the pop-up commercial has moved me from being a reader of an interesting article to thinking about my own health and what I might need to stay healthy. I've become a resident of The Atlantic page as opposed to simply a reader.

And that self-centers me versus the idea of moving me out into the world to comfort the afflicted, to offer what I can to help people in need, to do unto others what I would have them do unto me.

As The Atlantic piece asserts, "we will surrender ourselves to our entertainment. We will become so distracted and dazed by our fictions that we’ll lose our sense of what is real. We will make our escapes so comprehensive that we cannot free ourselves from them. The result will be a populace that forgets how to think, how to empathize with one another, even how to govern and be governed.

"That future has already arrived. We live our lives, willingly or not, within the metaverse."

So, again, let's think about the kind of extravagantly hopeful, useful, awe-filled life to which healthy spirituality calls us. The metaverse ain't it. Now, go be human, fully human.

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On my blog recently, I wrote here about resurgent antisemitism. Along those same lines, here is a column by a senior contributing editor to the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, about how he has stopped telling American Jews to quit worrying about antisemitic violence because, it turns out, it's worse than he thought. It's clear that a hate-filled internet, with its various social media platforms, isn't helping.

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P.S.: The Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, on the board of which I serve, has scheduled monthly sessions at which people may hear from and speak to Holocaust survivors. The list of such people grows smaller each year, of course, so this is a rare opportunity. You can read more about it and how to participate here.

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ANOTHER P.S.: If you missed my latest Flatland column when it posted on Sunday, it's still available here for free. It looks at possible futures for the large United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and its now-six campuses in the KC area.


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