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Humans, though they speak of technology as if it were separate from them, are virtually incapable of living a nontechnological existence. (p. 102)
--Clint Schnekloth, <i>Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Trans-Media Era</i>
It is with these thoughts in mind that Clint Schnekloth embarks on an examination of what it means to be faithful, as an individual Christian and as a leader of Christian community, in an age of constantly developing media and technology. Published from a dissertation presented toward earning the Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, there is much here that will be helpful for all of us trying to navigate the waters of our trans-media times.
It's a very helpful resource from an incredibly well-read, imaginative thinker in our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Instead of lifting up new media as THE salvation of the church or THE thing that will bring down human culture, Schnekloth engages a number of voices and realities to chart a path down which he believes the Spirit is actively leading the church, bringing the future of God into the world through means that would not have even been imagined possible less than 50 years ago. Moving from well-reasoned critiques of the trans-media era through the catechumenate and MMPORGs and social media, the picture that emerges is far more hopeful and far more anti-alarmist than those presented by many of our fellow pastors and theologians. In fact, if there is a note of alarm in the book, it is aimed toward those who will refuse to have anything to do with new media: if one admits that the Spirit could indeed be active through this sort of media (as it has been through the spoken, sung and printed word throughout preceding centuries), then a refusal to engage in some sort of new media is in a sense a refusal to join in the missio Dei itself.
This book was well-worth the time involved in savoring and reflecting upon it. The bibliography alone provides resources that should keep any thoughtful Christian engaged for months. I would especially recommend Mediating Faith to pastors and church professionals who are wondering about the philosophical and spiritual aspects of new media - it provides both cautionary critique and a faithful engagement of what is possible - both for the church and for the One we wish to serve faithfully.
Schnekloth offers that all media – the social connections we make online, his book, the resources he pulled together to write it, and even this review, as further comments on the thread of cooperative discernment of God at work among us. We must all participate, comment, react, experiment, fail, and learn, together to gain a better picture of the even unfolding promises of God. Mediating Faith is a valuable book worth reading. I click "like" and "share" and invite you into further conversation. - Geoff Sinibaldo. ([ ... ])
The first thing I need to let you know about Mediating Faith is that if you think this is just a book about how particular types of media can be tools for ministry, you're thinking too small. This book is way more than that. In fact, Schnekloth suggests that "all of life is mediated, and much more is media than we are often aware."
To be frank, that suggestion both frightens and intrigues me all at once. I mean, I want so much to be "real" with people, to be honest in my writing, to have an authentic voice. To consider that everything I do is "mediated" made me squirm a little. But Schnekloth points out in a footnote that even the Bible itself is media--we are just so used to it that we forget to think of it as such.
It is just this kind of revelation about how media is integrated into our lives such that we forget it is even there to which Schnekloth invites us. Furthermore, if media is so integral to who we are, how best can we as people of faith be stewards of the wide range of media available to us to help pass on the faith?
And speaking of the wide range of media available to us, Schnekloth truly covers the spectrum from faith-formation practices based on historic texts to the mysterious world of massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
Once again, I admit I felt frightened at the mention of MMORPGs because this is a world that I don't understand and have been reluctant to enter. So, imagine my surprise then when the part of the book that most delighted me came in insights derived from gaming!
After reading Mediating Faith, I am able to recognize my discomfort with MMORPGs is rather similar to the way I once was and many people I know still are reticent about joining Facebook. Whereas now, my Facebook, my own Facebook, my own most precious Facebook has become very much an extension of who I am. I mean, after all I met Schnekloth on Facebook!
The final thing I want to let you know about Mediating Faith is that you will want to have your dictionary.com handy while you're reading, and maybe even Wikipedia. Schnekloth is not ascared of big words, but I promise you that every one he uses is worth looking up to get his full meaning.
I do recommend this book to those interested in stewarding the range of media available for the purposes of faith-formation. It is dense, but rich and worth your time. And I look forward to future works from Schnekloth and however else he finds to frighten me because just when his writing gets scary is when it gets really good.
P.S. You can listen to my in-person interview with Clint Schnekloth at Life and Liberty Online Magazine