Hallo again to all.
Every few years we survey the readers of Anglicans Online to understand better who you are. The last time we checked, in 2007, we discovered that only about 0.5% of our readers live in Africa. Internet access in Africa is better now, so that figure may have surged to 1%, but African residents are not well represented among our readers.
One of the reports considered for inclusion in our News Centre this week was this article by Bertha Shoko, published in The Zimbabwe Standard, about further antics of ousted Anglican bishop and Mugabe lapdog Nolbert Kunonga. It describes a conflict between Mr Kunonga and Chad Gandiya (the Bishop of Harare) over a shrine to Bernard Mizeki in the city of Marondera.
We suspect that most readers of Anglicans Online will know who [Robert] Mugabe is, and those who have been paying attention will probably remember who Nolbert Kunonga is. We have a sneaking feeling that no more than half of you could find Zimbabwe on an uncaptioned map of Africa, that almost none of you have any idea (without looking it up) who Bernard Mizeki is, and that you'll just have to take our word for it that Marondera is a city somewhere in Zimbabwe (presumably near Harare, else Mr Kunonga wouldn't be meddling).
Why, then, when we select 10 to 20 news stories for the week that might be of global interest to Anglicans, would we even consider featuring yet another helpless complaint about the behaviour of a petty despotic ex-cleric in a country whose biggest contribution to the World Cup was a promise not to cut electric power to football fans during the matches?
While pondering that question, we came across an article by John Naughton in The Observer (London) entitled "The internet: Everything you ever need to know", which we think is brilliant. It looks at the internet not as a technology, but as a force for change, and reflects on the nature and consequences of that change. While not directly mentioning religion, or religious conflict, it helps us to realize that the concept of 'far away' is gone. Mr Naughton reminds us of the destructive effect that the internet has had on newspaper publishers, record companies, bookstores, and manners; it is an easy leap from there to its destructive effect on organized churches.
Internet damage to the newspaper industry, while very distressing to us life-long newspaper readers, is inevitable. There is really nothing that we can do about it. Newspapers are going to die, and they might or might not be replaced by something that is sufficiently newspaper-like that the name can be re-used. We dread the day that we step out to fetch the morning newspaper and it is not there, never again to appear. But we know that day will come, and we try to prepare ourselves for it.
While most of the combatants in the 21st-century church wars blame other combatants for starting the wars, we remain steadfast in our belief that the internet has caused these wars, and fuels them. If you have instant online connections to millions of people, you will surely find that some of those people annoy you or horrify you, and probably you horrify them. Xenophobia lurks in all of us, and because of the internet, everyone is exposed to many more ξενοι than ever before. So of course there will be more φοβος. That's just how God made us, and we remain that way despite thousands of years of preaching that we rise above it.
The Naughton article in The Observer ends with a reference to one of our favorite quotes: 'Zhou Enlai, when asked about the significance of the French Revolution: "It's too early to say."' So true. It is obvious that there are going to be cataclysmic changes to the world's organized churches. It is obvious to us that the root cause of these cataclysmic changes is the internet and not Satan or Gene Robinson or Robert Duncan. Attempts to stop or reverse these changes, whether by would-be church leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, by various bishops-in-waiting, or by would-be uniters of religion are surely just going to make the footnotes of the history books.
If change is inevitable, then what's the purpose in classifying it as good or bad? Change is. If you can improve your life by railing against change, or by railing for it, then by all means do so. You might make the, um, newspapers. Most everyone else is either going to find a telly to watch the World Cup, check Facebook to see what their new friends or enemies in the Gourma-Rharous Cercle are doing, or read a good, um, book.
See you next week.
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