We would all agree that digital technology has made life better in many respects. But in what ways do smartphones, email, social media and the Internet in general bring pressures to bear upon us that diminish human dignity and work against us in the free market, our social connectivity, and the interior life? Douglas Rushkoff has been thinking and writing about these very questions for years. He is a media theorist and author of the book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. He has produced documentaries for CNN and PBS and is regular contributor to the New York Times. He spoke with Acton’s Paul Edwards for this edition of Radio Free Acton.
Today marks the official launch of the new and improved website for the Journal of Markets & Morality.
In addition to the new design, we also have included a search feature whereby anyone who wants can search back issues for keywords, authors, names, and so on. For example, a search for “Alexis de Tocqueville” yields 29 results, and a search for “subsidiarity” turns up 78! As is our current policy, everything up to the two most recent issues is free to access for the public and all issues are open to subscribers.
A recent study by Millennial Branding reveals that
“Owner” is the fifth most popular job title [listed on Facebook] for Gen-Y [i.e., Millennials] because they are an entrepreneurial generation. Even though most of their companies won’t succeed, they are demonstrating an unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit.
The study does not speculate on the causes of this upsurge in enterprise and creativity among 18-29 year-olds, but no doubt “Mother Necessity” has her hand in it somewhere. Our country and world are facing serious financial crises and offering us little assurance of any positive resolution before we are handed the reins of the world. This last summer’s gridlock in Congress over our looming default was a case-in-point, and the Eurozone crisis continues to cast a gloomy shadow on our economic future.
That Millennials are becoming increasingly more entrepreneurial in light of this, however, is a glimmer of hope. While it will surely take key contributions from members of every generation in their various callings to steer clear of economic disaster (or recover from it), we can at least take comfort in the fact that with the increase of Millennial entrepreneurs (even if “most of their companies won’t succeed”), there is good reason to hope for future job and wealth creation so vital to economic stability and recovery.
In my post “The Church, Vocation, and Millennials,” I examined a recent Barna study’s analysis that one major reason that Millennials are leaving Christianity behind has been a neglect to link vocation and faith in much of their religious upbringing. This most recent Millennial Branding study highlights a specific vocation that ought not to be neglected: entrepreneurship. As Fr. Robert Sirico writes in The Entrepreneurial Vocation, the “chosen profession” of entrepreneurs “deserves to be legitimized by their faith.”
Christians once believed that their faith was a way of life (the Way, in fact). Assuming that this study is accurate, if Church leaders want their community to stop hemorrhaging Millennials, an increased focus on how that Way of Life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, permeates their vocations—especially entrepreneurship—would be welcome.
We’ve launched a redesigned Acton PowerBlog but there’s more to it than just a visual update. You’ll find the following enhancements:
- A simpler look that seeks to better emphasize important features of the blog
- Convenient tab navigation on the right for frequently used items
- Increased real estate for blog posts like the one you’re reading
- Increased emphasis on social media including:
- New links near the top right and bottom of the page to Acton’s key social pages
- A live Facebook page stream on the right so you can see what’s happening without leaving the blog
- More “Like” and send buttons on front page blog posts (not just the first one)
- A new comment system that preserves all old comments while adding increased functionality
- A better subscribe page with more feed links and information
The new comment system is probably the largest change after the redesign itself. With this system (called Disqus) you no longer have to type your name and email every time you want to comment. Now you can login with an account from a number of websites including Facebook, Twitter, and Disqus itself in order to comment here. You can also give feedback on comments by liking and replying to them. If you have a Disqus account you can build a “commenter reputation” and your comments will carry more social weight with people seeking higher quality insights.
We welcome your feedback in the comments for this post.
The link posted just below mine from CNN’s Belief Blog highlights problems facing a local congregation, “Atlanta church faces eviction.” One of the points of dispute facing the congregation is the status of daycare and afterschool programs that use the facility. As John Murgatroyd reports, the pastor Mark Anthony Mitchell “considers the day care to be part of his ministry.”
What this case illustrates is that the true value of churches, so to speak, can be hard to pin down. Should churches simply be measured in economic terms? A study done in Philadelphia, for instance, tried to “to calculate the economic ‘halo effect’ of a dozen religious congregations in Philadelphia – 10 Protestant churches, a Catholic parish, and a synagogue.”
One outcome of the study, in part led Ram Cnaan, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is that “equipped with such measurements a congregation could produce hard numbers to show community organizations, policy makers and potential funders the value of its local presence.”
But as the study notes, this can cut both ways. One of the reasons that local governments have been focusing on church properties is that, as this study found in Philadelphia, churches can sometimes seem to reduce surrounding property values. Thus, “measuring the congregations’ impact on property values backfired for St. Luke’s and the Epiphany Church in Center City, where adjacent real estate values were lower than in nearby neighborhoods. While that could not be pinned on the handsome church’s presence, the category put St. Luke’s halo into negative territory: minus $226,000.”
This brings us back, in some sense, to the issue I ended yesterday’s post with, the question of the right relationship and valuation between material and spiritual realities. While studies such as the one done in Philadelphia are clearly intended to help local churches, they run the risk of subjecting these institutions to rules of competition within which they will never really succeed if compared with local businesses. The true value of churches can’t be measured economically in these ways.
So while social science has important things to teach us about how our spiritual lives impact our lives in the material and social world, these disciplines don’t exhaust what needs to be said. Jonathan Malesic, assistant professor of theology at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, recently wrote in the Journal of Markets & Morality (PDF) that the danger of “appealing to Christianity’s positive social function is that it substitutes a theological defense of Christianity for a sociological one. It admits that it is right to judge Christianity on its social function and then leaves it up to sociologists to amass empirical evidence for and against Christianity’s positive social effects.”
It’s true as Hunter Baker responds in the context of that controversy that Christianity (and the functions of a church) cannot be reduced to its social effects. And this is precisely the mistake we see at work in an ecclesiology that views that what the church has really “always been about [is] social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week, talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local politics, got the scoop, and made social plans (‘Let’s get together for dinner this week!’). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely without it.” What’s missing here is anything beyond the mere sociality of the church.
There’s no sense of the marks of the true church, what you get at church that you can’t get anywhere else: proclamation of the Gospel in the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. These are things, most especially the sacraments, that you just can’t get from Facebook.
The schedule for this year’s GodblogCon has been announced. Building on our involvement last year, the Acton Institute is again sponsoring this unique event. As a think tank committed to exploring the dynamic connection between theology and economics, the Acton Institute is proud to be a part of the innovative evolution of dialogue in a digital age. At this year’s Acton University, we had the pleasure of welcoming a number of bloggers who covered the event.
The dates for this year’s GBC are September 20-21, and will be held in conjunction with the BlogWorld & New Media Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The BlogWorld expo features media powerhouses like Townhall.com, Technorati, and Pajamas Media. See APM’s Future Tense for more about the economic clash between old (content) and new (linking) media.
After attending GodblogCon last week, largely due to the efforts of Rhett Smith, “New Media Ministry to the MySpace-Facebook Generation: Employing New Media Technologies Effectively In Youth Ministries” (a podcast of his talk is here), I started a Facebook page.
But I also urge you to read the experience of Agnieszka Tennant, a relatively new columnist at CT with whom I’m quite impressed, who writes that she “yielded to peer pressure and have begun to lead a modestly active Facebook life.” It’s a real temptation, as she points out, perhaps a greater one in virtual reality, to reduce people to means and consider only their utility for your own pursuits. “Social capital” can be a dangerous thing.
As persons, true sociality respects the personhood of the other. That’s the only kind of “social capital” really worth having.
More on BlogWorld & New Media expo: Mark Cuban, who gave one of the keynote addresses, is profiled in this lengthy Fortune magazine piece, “Mark Cuban wants a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”