BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day this morning:
Thought for the Day, 2 May 2005
The Rev. Angela Tilby
We’ve all been told that television is turning us into mindless zombies and that our children are losing the skills of reading and writing because they prefer computer games. But now an American culture critic is suggesting that we’ve got it wrong. Everything bad is good for you – he says. What we thought was dumbing us down is in fact making us brighter. As evidence, he points to the fact that even telly plots are getting more multi-layered and sophisticated. Well that may be true. I never thought I would be moved by a Dalek, but the altruistic suicide of the last Dalek in the universe on Doctor Who on Saturday almost had me reaching for the Kleenex. Though as far as computers go I have definitely dumbed down. I was top at spelling when I was seven, now I routinely forget how to spell apparently, accommodate and recommend, and need the computer to correct me. The human mind changes over time in response to the world we live in. The last great change in Western Europe was when the invention of printing coincided with the rediscovery of the Bible. This led to a spiritual revolution – people came to see themselves as responsible individuals before God, each with a God-given soul to save and God given gifts to express. The spiritual task meant looking inwards. After the colour of mediaeval Catholicism with its feasts and fasts and angels and demons, the new version of the faith required plain whitewashed churches, built for private concentration on the word of God.
Now as I sit watching the under fives playing confidently with remote controls, and the under sevens programming their own viewing and the under nines showing their parents how to work the DVD I wonder whether we are not in another of those great changes. The future, it seems, will favour not lone souls but those who know they are connected, who can do many things at once and few of them in solitude, who can process material at speed from all their senses. Churches may be on-line, or liquid, or multi-plex, with the message that people belong to the whole and so to each other. This asks us to look into our spiritual treasurers and draw out what we need for now.
And one of the treasures re-discovered has been the Christian doctrine of the Trinity – that God is not only one but in endless relationship within God’s own being. Perhaps here is a mirror of what we are becoming, an image of a God who is not solitary or apart but a community of love. Towards the end of last Saturday’s Dr Who I wondered whether even Daleks could be saved by discovering love. Perhaps that is next week’s plot.