Monday, April 21, 2014

Prince, the Internet & Faith

“The Internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it. All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”
- Prince (2010)
"Nah, nah, nah... I can't hear you over all the numbers in my head!"

Sounds like one of those statements you wish you could take back, doesn't it? There have been tons of quotes over the years that have talked about how unnecessary various advancements are or how certain things just won't work. Take a look at a handful:

  • “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.
  • “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.” — T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965).
  • “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932
  • “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916
  • “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903
  • “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).
  •  “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” — Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.
  • “When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” – Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson 

Somehow, even the most brilliant of minds were capable of missing the mark on things that we all know now to hold value. The question then is, why couldn't they see the credibility of things that were, in fact, very possible?

I remember talking to a friend that had bought his grandmother a BluRay player for Christmas. He was so excited to show her how stunning the picture and sound were and told her he would bring some new discs over the following week for her to play. By mid-week, she had called him to tell him she had taken it back to the store. 

"Why?", he asked. 

"It doesn't work... none of my records are that small...", she replied.

The truth is that the issue was less about the item and more about not seeing the benefit of the item in action or knowing how it worked. When we don't know how something works it tends to get shoved in a drawer somewhere, dismissed or returned. Sometimes we are the ones that say that it "doesn't work well" or it's "not useful" or even that it's "just broken". There are also occasions where we push something aside because we don't want to change how we've been doing things for years. We don't like thinking that our way is harder or wrong in any way, or really don't want to work up the energy to adjust.

In a lot of ways, having faith falls into the same overlooked drawer.

In many of my conversations with friends over the years, the talk is less about belief as it is the benefit or use of belief. What might start off as "I just don't believe in God" turns into "I really don't get the whole 'christian' thing". 

Often, there's a lot of "It just doesn't seem like something that makes sense or works"... and that statement has made more sense to me over these years.

They haven't seen our faith, our hope in action.

Now, Christianity has done a great job of drawing out the plan, laying out diagrams and schematics. We know our 5 points, procedures, and even offer degrees in how well we think we understand how it all works. For some, that's all they need in order to explore faith... but for many, they just don't get how it works, haven't seen it in action, don't think there's any way it connects to their lives, and have decided that it "just doesn't work". We might want to think about the demonstrative side of our belief.

One of the most compelling things about Christianity is seeing it lived out. The reason for that is simple - it shows people how it works. They experience the love that was previously embedded in a book, in a video or on a bumper sticker. They become recipients of a kindness from those that know a peace beyond all understanding. They are presented with a gift that is not based on the condition of their past, present or future... a gift that is never taken back no matter where their lives derail or pause.

There was a friend of mine that was getting nowhere trying to teach his dad how to use his computer. He couldn't get him to read the starter book or take any tutorials... and the laptop just sat. 


One of his dad's old high school friends showed him a site where he could connect with their old car club from senior year. Suddenly, his dad had the instructions out, was watching tutorials (even signed up for a class at the mall) and was able to navigate his way to connecting with those friends from a lifetime ago.

What changed?

Someone demonstrated how it worked and how it could impact his life.

Our reality is that we are also dealing with a lot of people acting out "christianity" in a lot of wrong ways. There's the protesters, the rioters, the conspiracy theorists, the political machine, those spending more time condemning those around them and pointing out where they didn't measure up, yelling at a fallen world instead of offering hope. The demonstration of our faith has to outshine the darkness and even the tainted light around us. The great thing is that the light is not our own so it's intensity is not a problem, just how willing we are to put it on a stand for all to see and be drawn to.

There will still be those that just don't want to change, that don't think their way is wrong or that this is something that works for them. There are those that will stumble over the idea of Jesus... 

but if that happens, let it be because of Jesus and not our unwillingness to live out his words.

This is our ongoing challenge... to live out our faith, to demonstrate it in the lives of others, to shine brightly. 

That's what separates our faith from... just another fad.

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