When the Church is busy copying and the world needs 3D printing

The copy machine is one of the most amazing machines invented. The ability to take something and then rapidly replicate it with little difficulty and very inexpensively would blow away the monk scribes who hand copied sacred texts. The Protestant movement was able to spread so quickly in part because of this new machine that made rapid copies. 

And perhaps because of the role the copy machine made in the Church, it might be argued that no other machine in the world best describes the Church. 

For as long as I have been associated with the Church, I have seen the Church function like a well oiled copy machine. We copy programs from year to year. We copy other churches who do things in worship or in mission. We copy the business world in our leadership approach. We copy the nation state when we set out to conquer others with and forcefully convert them to our side. We copy the music industry by making some really cheesy music. 

And it is through these means of copying that the Church was able to do a great number of things. I love that the church is able to copy the best of things in order to further the spread of love. There is nothing wrong with copying, in fact it has been said that the best artists steal and copy.

With all the energy it takes to be a copy machine it exposes the fact that copy machines are not able to do anything new. It literally cannot do anything other than copy, and sometimes the copy is of less quality than the original. Copies of copies of copies of copies eventually look horrible. The Church, as a copy machine, understands that we cannot keep making a copy of a copy and we begin to hear voices call out that we have to do things differently. What the Church seems to be looking for is a new original in order to make clean fresh copies of that original. 

What would it look like for the Church to embrace an awareness that making copies is not as essential as it once was thought. The internet is now the greatest copy machine ever made and there is no way the Church can copy better than the internet. What the church needs is not a new original to copy, what the church needs is a new machine. 

Could we shift from a copy machine metaphor to a 3D printer metaphor?

A 3D printer is a machine that requires someone to create something new and print it. When you print from a 3D printer you see the raw material (plastic, carbon fiber, metal, even biocompatible material!) literally transformed into something new. For instance take plastic coil and turn it into a cast! 

As powerful and seductive as the copy machine is, the Church was never called to copy, the Church has been called to transformation. 

(I understand that a 3D printer is also making copies of digital files. All metaphors break down at some point, however I would still offer up the metaphor and philosophy behind a 3D printer as a more vibrant metaphor that of a copy machine.)

The Human Being is on the Endangered Species List

In case we all have forgotten, we are all human beings. By that I mean not only that we are all created in the image of God and should therefore endowed with rights and anytime those rights are violated it is an injustice for all. 

It also means that we are human beings as opposed to human doings

As much as we value productivity, efficiency and mastering skills in order to "crush it" in life, these values drown out the value of being. And human being is in jeopardy of extinction to be killed off by the human doing. 

We do not value those things that are not instantly productive - such as taking a class on Shakespeare if you "know" you are going into business. We do not value the face to face time that we once enjoyed because it takes too long to get to the point in a conversation when we can just send texts and exchange data. We do not value sitting and being still, and when you do you are either sick, inefficient or lazy.


But we are not robots fueled by solar power. We have to take time to rest and recharge - but even that is too much being for us. And so we take our food to go, we answer email while sitting at a stop light, we check instagram when we are in like to get meat at the grocery store (assuming we don't order our groceries online). All of this makes us feel guilty when we step back into being. Guilt follows us everywhere we go tellus us that we are either growing or dying, that we need to work hard in order to prove that we are valuable or at the very least not a slacking freeloader. 

For as much as we need human doings in the world, we need that many human beings. You are more than a doing (like a robot or a computer or a car) you are a being.

Help save the human being

“We live life forward, but we understand it backward.”

The Bible is not like a news report. Events in the plot of the story were not being recorded in the moment or even in the days to follow. Rather the Bible is a collection of stories that are told in the present about the past but have the luxury of knowing the future up to the present. 

If you are telling a story about the present in the present, it is very difficult to know what is important and what matters and what is not important or what can be dismissed. This is why we have 24 hour new cycles that can say that every little bit of news is "breaking" because we don't know if this newest bit of information is important to the story or not. Because we don't know the future we don't know what is important to hold.

However if you are telling a story that is set in the past, you have the ability to edit the story and change the story in order for it to make sense in the present. You can leave things out that don't matter as much. You can edit what is said or what was done in order to "get to the good parts". It is like when we DVR a show on television. We can fast forward through the commercials because they do not pertain to the story - but we cannot fast forward in the present. 

It is important to remember this when reading the Bible. The authors of the stories are writing with a luxury of knowing the future in relation to the setting of the story. 

So when a character in the Bible looks like they are predicting the future, in a sense the can because the person writing the story down knows the future that the character did not know. This does not mean that Isaiah or Jesus were any less "prophetic" it means that the storytellers are doing everything they can to convey a message that is more important than "this person could predict the future."