Sunday, 12 April 2020

Online Services

Today is Easter Sunday and churches are closed everywhere. Supermarkets are open, chemists are open, even garages and off-licences are open. In the town where I live there is a shop selling nothing but sweets that is still open. But churches are closed and the substitute offered is online.

This is what I think. Online services have no spiritual validity whatsoever. They are a mechanical imitation of the real thing which exist on a materialist level only. The words may be the same, the formal ceremony may be very similar but the spiritual force is just not there. How could it be? The spiritual cannot exist in the virtual. It is not a materialistic thing that can be reproduced through algorithms and those who consider this in any way a satisfactory replacement for the true interaction of human beings in the real world have no comprehension of what spirituality is. Where two or three are gathered together, there I am.  But they are not gathered together if they all sit in their isolated rooms staring at a computer screen. It's like thinking you can be fed while looking at a menu.

I know there will be all sorts of specious explanations as to why this is better than nothing or has been done many times before for the elderly who cannot get to church or is not different to services on the television (also spiritually useless in my opinion), but these are all self-deceiving excuses. The spiritual cannot be reproduced by the material, and computer technology is materialistic to its core.

You see, it all depends on what spirituality actually is. Is it just the outer form and words or is it an inner reality that may be conveyed by the words but goes beyond them? Clearly, it is this latter but that cannot pass through machines or remotely and if you don't understand that, you are a long way from the living truth of God. 

By accepting an imitation as valid you lose your connection to the authentic. I personally feel that the churches have long lost that connection anyway and if they hadn't, they would never have contemplated offering this parody of reality as a satisfactory substitute for it. It is a capitulation to the forces of secularism and this closing of the churches at Easter is surely conclusive proof that the churches no longer serve their supposed Master.  Don't bother attending an online service. Rather, go out into the open air. Stand in your bare feet on the grass and make your prayers to God there. He is to be found in the wind and the trees, the blue sky and the bright sun. Also, of course, in the human heart that is turned towards him. He is not to be found through a computer screen.

Is Christianity supposed to be about making good men or new men? Surely the teaching of Easter is that it is the latter. Resurrection of the spiritual self from the death of the earthly self. But the modern churches seem to believe that it all about being good and good, what is more, in the secular sense of a generalised humanitarianism according to the philosophical grounding of the French Revolution which was a complete rejection of God. The church, especially the Church of England (as a body, there are plenty of individuals for whom this is not the case), has increasingly incorporated the teachings of its enemy as its core principles.

Note: Lest I be accused of hypocrisy I should add that a post on blog is not like a church service. Computers are good for some things  such as conveying information and ideas but cannot serve as a medium between God and Man as, ideally, a church service should.


JMSmith said...

You've made a good and important point. Something similar is happening with the schools and universities, where a pretense of teaching is maintained on-line, but this is mostly a means to justify uninterrupted revenue to the schools and universities. I've been working very hard to translate my classes to the on-line medium, and I hope some students are getting something from what I have done, but behind all of this is the fact that the university doesn't want to refund tuition and the students want to graduate "on time." To return to your topic, I recently stopped attending services for the reason you describe. I'm hoping to overcome this, but find I miss the services much less than I expected. We've substituted family devotionals, and there is in those devotionals a presence that was decidedly absent in church. The biblical metaphor of salt is fitting. That presence is like salt in soup, and its absence is like flat insipidity. I do not expect exultation on Sunday morning. If I did, I'd join the pentecostals. But I do expect more than to sit in a vast waiting room listening to the air-conditioner drone.

Francis Berger said...

"It's like thinking you can be fed while looking at a menu."

That pretty much sums up the intrinsic value and spiritual nourishment one can expect to get from a virtual church service. Good post, William.

William Wildblood said...

"I do expect more than to sit in a vast waiting room listening to the air-conditioner drone". Perfect! That just about sums it up. Family devotionals is a good traditional idea.I t takes one back to the early days of Christianity in a way.

I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury interviewed on television this morning and he was very reasonable but is reasonableness what we look for in a spiritual leader? He made the reasonable point that the church is not its buildings but its people but actually it is the buildings that are the centres of worship and the places which spiritual power can be built up, especially old churches which were designed by inspired people who knew how to make a space spiritually resonant, for want of a better phrase. A building, church, temple or the like is or can be a sacred enclosure in which the power of God is concentrated.

I went along to my local church this afternoon and sat in its little garden of remembrance just to one side of the building. I felt I should do something to mark Easter. It was very peaceful and I was surprised that no one else was there. I thought a few people might actually go to the church even if it was closed but not while I was there which was about half an hour.

Thanks Francis. If I can return the compliment I thought your Crime and Punishment post very insightful.

Adil said...

Indeed, you'd hope at least the churches would stay away from the TV. I agree that there can be no real communion from a virtual service. The television screen is two times removed from reality. It might aid some on an individual level but there can't be any communion. It is spiritual distancing. The devil loves cameras since it undermines human sensory perception in favor of technology. The goal being cutting of the world from human experience and putting it in the objective lens of technology so that the intelligentsia can set the stage and manipulate us in return.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, Eric, the devil is a great fan of technology because it separates man from God while often pretending to bring him to some kind of enlightenment. But just as Satan is the ape of God so any technological imitation of spirituality is no more than that, a fake and a fraud.

Adil said...

Yes, I think the problem stems from Ahrimanic technology, that which wants us not to use and trust our own senses, and outsource our thinking to the machine. I feel that's where we're headed with the Corona scare. In the media it is presented as a clashing of world views between left and right but from a vertical plane both nationalists and globalists are conjoined in centralization of an ever more monitored society. Physical borders are being constrained but the spiritual borders are being diffused for the coming 5G-paradise.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - This is a thought-provoking post, because you are correct - and we all feel this, I think - but it is difficult to pin-down exactly why.

I came-up with the analogy of a theatre-lover being presented with a movie of the same production. It is not so much matter of its being necessarily worse (although it very probably is worse) but that it is *qualitatively different* - because live theatre demands a greater participation than does film - which is a more immersive and over-whelming experience.

I think this is why movies have never been regarded as so high a form of art as live theatre; despite that there are far more good, successful movies than plays. Movies can steam-roller our emotions into a powerful reaction, and this makes them more of a mass manipulation.

Online services, or - to follow JMS - lectures; have been available for a couple of decades; and someone who really wants to be part of a church, or to become really educated, will recognise that the live form is, at its best, a qualitatively superior experience - but certainly and always a qualitatively different experience (unless the live experience is deliberately degraded to the level of TV or a 'movie' which, sadly, happens a lot nowadays in so-called lectures in colleges).

Either way, online services - like online lectures - are the death of their institutions; as we will find-out in the course of time. That era when our spiritual life (or education) could be sustained by communal engagement has been dwindling for several generations; but it is now moribund.

We are back to our own individual initiative (assisted, perhaps, by specific ndividuals with whom we have a strong personal relationship) - and to accomplish anything Good we will have to do more than meet it 'halfway' (as has always been the case with lectures and church services): we will need to do More than half of the work our-selves.