Taking Advantage of the Digital World
by Paul Chaffee
The digital world has become so enmeshed into our daily lives that it’s difficult to isolate and define it, much less critique it. From the invention of the transistor all the way to computer aps for our physical health, our spiritual health, grocery delivery, home safety and conveniences, thousands of games, millions of websites, and now robots and unsettling jumps in artificial intelligence and superdatabases – we’re quite enmeshed, actually.
I’ve never emailed, messaged, or otherwise communicated with Donald Trump, but a couple of weeks ago he sent me a message. I’ve always promoted networking and collaboration, but the ubiquitous connection between the president of this nation and those of us who own smartphones is at least as fearsome as it is exciting.
TIO this month looked for articles that might be digitally useful to faith and interfaith leaders in these extreme times. It opens with Elizabeth Hochman’s amazing tale of how using digital developments can fuel a global cause, in this case called KidSpirit.
The next three stories are a kind of case-study about an interfaith tool that has been empowered by the digital environment. Specifically, the Golden Rule poster began as a modest poster produced by a small Catholic missionary society at the turn of the century. It went on to become the most influential global interfaith resource at our disposal. This month’s first Golden Rule article republishes Leslie Mezei’s 16-year-old profile telling how the poster came to be and how it immediately started taking advantage of digital capabilities. Paul McKenna’s story, that follows, brings us up to date on a poster ministry that continues to grow and thrive after its institutional creator, Scarboro Missions, came to an end. Digital tools mean the ministry will continue to grow, and Felipe Zurita provides an extraordinary example of how this is happening.
All sorts of religion programs have been engendered in the current digital wonderland. Robyn Lebron has been ‘manager’ of the “Interfaith Professionals” group on LinkedIn for five years. The group has nearly 5,000 members but is getting poor support from LinkedIn’s new owner, Microsoft, severely compromising its effectiveness. Gaea Denker tells of the creation of an interfaith music album made possible through digital tools. Annalee Ward’s review of Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture is not an interfaith article, rather an article written by a Christian for a Christian audience. That said, any religious communications leader, regardless of tradition, has plenty to learn from this highly focused, academic analysis of what is happening to the church on the web.
Vicki Garlock’s profile of a group of interfaith schools in Israel says nothing about the digital world. But there is a request, when you finish reading, that dramatically demonstrates how valuable the digital world has become and the powerful results that are possible through its tools, results that can be found in the Hand in Hand schools Vicki profiles.
Is the digital world a net benefactor or malefactor today and in the years to come? Whatever one’s answer, high tech is surely here, for good or for bad. So those who want to create a safer, sustainable, peaceful planet do well to take advantage of what the digital revolution has to offer.
Header Photo: Blogtrepreneur, C.c. 2.0