Thursday, March 29, 2007

Netheads and Christianity

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal ( has a good article this morning on issues surrounding the YouTube lawsuits. Doug and I make almost exactly the same point in our book, namely that "individual choice" is a cultural idol of our age, and music downloading and YouTube clips are manifestations of it. Henninger talks about the effect of all of this on politics. Doug and I warn against the tendency of Christians to "unbundle" individual verses of the Bible, missing the overall themes. If this is so, then the cultural imperative of individual choice may not be good for Christianity, or at least we will need to be cautious of its influences. However, Henninger makes another point, namely that unbundling may cause people to be suspicious of overarching claims to political meaning. He uses as an example the surprising popularity of RudyGiuliani among so-called cultural conservatives. What is the implication of this argument for Christians? If "unbundling" leads to Christians rejecting the idea that Christianity's meaning is single dimensional ("higher taxes on the rich" or "pro-Life") then there could also be some good which comes of this.


Toby said...

Interesting topic.

It seems that Christians, as citizens, have to compare courses of action, none of whose outcomes meets the Christian ideal. Given the emphasis on "individual preference", Christians are often expected to make these judgments themselves, and not to take them from some outside authority. Since I'm around applied math all day, I'd put it this way: each Christian is being asked to approximate God's judgment. My generation has been told to do this quite explicitly: "What Would Jesus Do?", we've been told to ask ourselves.

As you say, a single-dimensional metric is clearly insufficient. I'm in a functional analysis class this semester, so my natural question is "how good can any finite dimensional approximation be?" Will 10 be good enough? 100? Are there 1000 fixed dimensions we can use to compare any two situations with confidence? My intuition says that any fixed set of criteria will be insufficient: what we need are "integration" and "measure theory", so to speak.

That being said, there's a slippery slope to any approach that gives up a fixed set of criteria. One can always find new dimensions whose importance justifies one's selfish preference.

mph04c said...

They can sue all they want, but the laws are squarely in favor of google on this one.