The Future has Happened

I wonder if you’ve ever hear of Moore’s Law. Gordon Moore was one of the co-founders of Intel. In 1965 he observed that each new generation of memory integrated circuits, think of the memory on your computer, had roughly twice as much capacity as the previous one. So, as I understand it, Moore’s ‘law’ is that every 18-24 months chips double their number of circuits and their memory capacity.

Moore's Law, PC World
Moore’s Law, PC World

This means that computing power has risen on a steady exponential trajectory for years, giving the tech industry some sense of what to expect as they develop new gadgets and systems.

I’ll stop with this Moore’s Law stuff before it becomes clear that I don’t know what I’m talking about—I don’t. I mention Moore’s Law simply as a way to describe how we moderns see the world. We think things get better with time. In short, we believe in progress—we expect each year to be a bit better than the one before. We presume that new movements and technologies will make things better for our society as a whole. We believe in an exponentially rising line of goodness. We assume that technology, education or the language of universal human rights will keep us on this upward trajectory.

Paul didn’t believe in this. He believed in apocalypse. Read more

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Haunted by Plain Folk: Why Simplicity Should be a Christian Virtue

Last month an essay of mine was published in the Journal of Brethren Life and Thought. Since that journal is probably not one that will be showing up in your mailbox anytime soon, I thought I’d included a bit of it here. The piece is based on a presentation I gave some years back; I’m happy to see it in print.

Simplicity strikes many of us as a good, if occasionally naïve, thing. In his “A Salutation of the Virtues” the thirteenth century saint, Francis of Assisi, cast Simplicity as a courtly sister to Queen Wisdom, outranking Lady Poverty and Lady Charity. In the twenty-first century we may well be intrigued by Simplicity but we probably lack the saint’s solemn devotion. Consider the TV reality show “The Simple Life,” which cast socialite Paris Hilton in the role of a farm worker. The foibles of the out-of-place heiress generated spinoff shows around the world. thrill of the chasteThe irony of simplicity’s attraction in a complex and fragmented time is captured in Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s marvellously titled book Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels. There Weaver-Zercher explores the growing American fascination with “bonnet rippers.” She relates that in 2002 only two such books were published. In 2012 there were 85.[1] This growth betrays, she thinks, a desire on the part of readers to be transported from a hypermodern and hypersexualized present to a simpler way of life. Weaver-Zercher is not alone in her analysis. Sociologists Donald Kraybill and Carl Bowman offer a corroborating conclusion about our cultural fascination with plain living. In a book about Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren they write,

Despite all our comfort and convenience, the possibility that [members of these plain communities] are happier haunts, indeed, torments the postmodern soul.[2] Read more

“You have Heard, No Doubt, of My Earlier Life” (SD #102)

I presume it was relatively cold, the 15th of January in 1549. MM IllustrationThat was the day the authorities entered Elizabeth’s house and found a Latin Bible: “We have found the right person,” they said, “we now have the teacher.” The authorities believed this woman was an Anabaptist leader. Elizabeth was taken from her home and arraigned the following day (MM, 481).

The story is chronicled in the Martyrs Mirror, and that massive book, Elizabeth’s story included, has been an important devotional read for Mennonites for several hundred years. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say the Martyrs Mirror has been the most important book for Mennonites, next to the Bible. Read more

The Same Old Good News (101)

The book of Galatians was written to deal with a problem. Here’s the setup: the early church had come to realize that the good news of Jesus was for gentiles as well as Jews. What’s more, it was for gentiles as gentiles—they didn’t need to become Jews first and then become followers of Jesus. leavesGentiles were not required to follow the law, but, as we read in Acts 15, they were just expected to avoid food sacrificed to idols, avoid eating blood, avoid eating meat that was strangled and they were expected to not be involved in fornication. Here in Galatians, as opposed to Acts, Paul just mentions that gentiles were asked to help care for the poor. Think about what a dramatic shift this represented: it meant going from a way of life oriented around Torah law embedded in ethnicity, with instructions about everything from the type of fabric one should wear and how one should deal with skin rashes, to something else. Read more