The Zeitgeist Is In Beta

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This came across the Collide Magazine tweet line this morning. The world is evolving, adapting and adopting, but the real Truth is steadfast. Immune to change.

The original article can be found HERE.

The Zeitgeist Is In Beta

-Mark Steele

Pardon me, I just tweeted. Or perhaps I merely twet. Twittered? Hath Twought?

And, don’t even get me started on the act of engaging in Wii. Is it simply “Wii-ing,” or do I have to use the future perfect “shall have Wiid”? Is Wii already plural, or do I have to say Wiis? Are men who Wii called Wiimen? And do the French call it the Nintendo Yes?

A conundrum has arisen in the world of modern early adapters: When a new pop technical term enters the general lexicon, once we get used to the newly-invented word, who determines its verbalized variations? The answer: Everyone. And, it doesn’t stop with mere terminology.

The challenge with a new idea becoming zeitgeist while it is in beta mode is that public opinion will sway not only what it is called, but what it actually is. In some cases, this is a good thing, i.e., Facebook originally intended to connect college students but instead serves as a reuniter of long-lost relationships worldwide. Facebook is now the international kiosk at the mall where you meet if you get lost. And the iPhone 3G? Well, originally it was a nifty phone and wireless Internet device, but through the communal involvement of iPhone Apps it has become the ultimate timesaver and/or timewaster a hand can hold.

However, for every user-driven improvement, there are other inventions whose unexpected variations led to catastrophe. The World Wide Web was created to connect the population but has been used to connect the world to porn. The words fission and power followed the term “nuclear” long before the words weapons and war did. Twitter began as an informational update and became a more fashionable way to brag about yourself.

In short, modern technology has created a scenario in which the inventor no longer has the final say on what he invented. The consumers and interfacers are the ongoing explorers of undiscovered territory, exhausting the opportunity to redefine that which already exists and sometimes considering our capacity for self-made definitions more a right than a privilege.

It is an exciting and dangerous era in which to live. Exciting because we have a say in our present and future more than ever before. Dangerous because some things are meant to be continually reinterpreted … and some things aren’t. And, boy oh boy, do we love to reinterpret.

Take Christianity, for example. Many would call following Christ an idea-in-progress, an ideology that needs to change and shift with modern times. An ever-evolving dogma that is required to include and extol the shifting thought of modern culture. If the world around us renovates its morality, many believe a belief system rooted in love should make the same alterations. They treat God’s mandates as amendments. But they miss the point.

The act of following Jesus is meant to transform us. But we, in our majority-rules culture, have begun attempting instead to transform it. We say we want to make Jesus relevant again because culture has drifted in a newly enlightened direction. The world will never respond fully to Jesus’s sometimes-harsh rhetoric because the world sees such absolutes as mean and archaic. But the Word of God is not now, nor has it ever been, in beta mode. We, as followers of Christ, have got to be the ones to stand up and make the unpopular statement: When modern culture drifts a direction that softens and castrates Christ’s teaching, modern culture is wrong.

Standing on the absolutes of Christ’s teaching is becoming less and less popular, even in the emerging church culture. It is much more acceptable to ballyhoo the word “love” and twist that term to allow people to treat all of Christ’s standards as malleable. In the process, we communicate to a world that doesn’t deem our belief system popular that we don’t so much believe it ourselves. We’d rather change the details in order to make it a tastier option for the masses. In so doing, we suck the flavor out of our faith and serve it up milquetoast.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about change. I’m all about loving the world to Jesus instead of using guilt. But we have to be very careful about what we have the right to alter. Change is actually our first and foremost mandate, but it is most certainly not Christ’s teaching we are commanded to change. It is ourselves. If following Christ is unappealing to the world, it isn’t the formula’s fault. We are required to take a good, hard look at the mouths and hearts doing the communicating.

Leading people to Jesus has to become something. It must result in transformation. If my road to the cross results in the comfortable continuation of my own sin, then I haven’t merely redefined Christianity; I’ve wrapped the book jacket of a romance fantasy around a how-to manual and refused to read what lies inside.

So, let’s forge ahead as early adapters who live in a community-altering technological society. But let us not confuse our methods with our mantra. The zeitgeist is meant to evolve, but the truth? Well, the truth will never change. Let us resist the temptation to twist it into something popular that is actually no longer the truth.

Mark Steele is the President & Executive Creative of Steelehouse Productions. He is the author of “Flashbang” and “Half-Life / Die Already.” You can hear him discuss God in pop culture every Friday on the Steelehouse Podcast – available free at iTunes. His third book: “Christianish” will be released late August 2009.

3 comments

  1. Tristi

    Good article! I was just listening this morning to a conversation about evolution v. creation. They were actually saying that evolution is “proven”. “Proven”? I’m still waiting to hear that undeniable proof. Yet evolution should be taught in schools and not creation. Yep, we definitely need to hold tightly to the truth as we change.

    • Erik

      If evolution has been proven then why is it still the “theory” of evolution?

      The Ben Stein documentary “Expelled” is pretty good at describing what goes on in scientific circles with the whole debate. I’m sure a lot of it was sensationalized, but there’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of information is being repressed and destroyed in the name of “science”.

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