Friday, October 29, 2004

CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL TRENDS

CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL TRENDS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

By Dr. Lee Ken Ang


Outline

Preface

1. Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement

1.1. Definition of Post-Modernism
1.2. Characteristics of Post-Modernism
1.3. Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement
1.4. The Influence of Post-Modernism on 21st Century Society


2. Genetic Engineering

2.1 Confrontation between Science and Religion
2.2 Miracles of Genetic Engineering
2.3 The Crisis of Ethics and Morality


3. Digital Technology

3.1 The Global Structure in the Digital Age
3.2 The Monopoly of Information
3.3 The New Structure of Human Relationship



Preface

The social trends in the 21st century are believed to experience the panoramic sweep of two new worldviews, namely Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement. In addition, humanity is not spared from the tidal wave of digital technology and genetic engineering, which are capable of influencing and shaping the social structure in the new century. Hence, effort has to be made to understand and analyse their influence and impact upon 21st century society from the Christian perspective and value system.



1. Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” [2 Timothy 4:3-4]


Any single moment in history can never be divorced or isolated from other instances, and there is indeed a close relationship between any historical movement and social phenomenon with their historical context and background at a specific period. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we understand the progression of history and its trends before we are able to obtain a better perspective of social trends in the 21st century.

The transition between Middle Age1 and the Renaissance2 was an important period for Western civilisation. The Medieval society was a theistic society, in which the theistic worldview was clearly dominant. The Renaissance reversed the status quo and was anthropocentric in various areas in its revival approach. Theology in the medieval society was considered the queen of science (which at the time meant knowledge), but gradually the emphasis began to rest upon the study of man and nature. This paradigm shift is most obvious in art where most of the topics and themes were extracted from nature and human studies. Men believed they could rival God in bringing rational orders and harmony to the world. Such belief was given expression in painting at the beginning of the 15th century through the invention of linear perspective and the portraits of human figure. The new emphasis on human capabilities led to the growth of the multi-function man who could be scientist and artist at the same time. This served as the dynamic force in the rapid development of the knowledge of science in the 17th century, where brilliant figures like Isaac Newton, John Locke and Rene Descartes began to question and criticise the traditional religious and social beliefs.

The 18th century signified a brief period of optimism, in which idealists believed that humanity had reached the height of enlightenment and exalted itself to almost divine dimensions, subsequently giving birth to rationalism. In the 20th century, the rational mind had been absolutised to the extent that science was regarded as the highest truth. Men began living in a world of pseudo-confidence that science provided certain knowledge. Rationalism was crowned the divine measure of all truth and knowledge became highly systematised and classified. In the era of the 20th century, scientific rationalism was the ultimate truth and destination whereby humanity imprisoned itself in naive optimism.

In view of this, we should note that post-modernism actually functions as a counter-worldview that triggered the major shift in various perspectives in the 21st century.


1.1 Definition of Post-Modernism

The term “Post-Modernism” first appeared in the 1930s. However, it was only in the 1970s that interest in Post-Modernism had become so widespread and attracted much attention. From the standpoint of history, modernity and post-modernity simply refer to two consecutive periods of time. According to Max Weber, modernity refers to the period of Industrial Revolution in which capitalism replaced feudalism. Therefore, modernity by nature should be modern, creative and dynamic. Post-modernity, on the other hand, is the worldview that post cedes modernity, which also signalled a major shift in social and cultural legitimisation.
In a pre-modern society, men believed in a just society based on revelation from a just God. Modernity shifted from such mentality in an attempt to use reason as the guide to justice. Worse of all, Post-modernism deprived men of any universal standard for justice.


1.2 Characteristics of Post–Modernism

Post-Modernism is the new thinking of our age, flooded with a pluralism of perspectives. It was first thought to have arisen in art, cinema and architecture, amongst others. The post-modernist moved away from the framework of modern worldview, inventing a new social order, culture and thinking without regard to the original purpose of their functions in their attempt to defy modernism and even substituting it.

(a) Post-modernism abandoned the macro-structure of thoughts (traditional) and caused the shift in Enlightenment democracy to post-modern anarchy whereby the post-modernist denied the existence of any universal truth. There is a shift from being to knowing to constructing meaning.

(b) Post-modernists emphasised emotion, feeling, intuition, meditation, prediction, personal experience, custom, metaphysics, ancient tradition, cosmology, black magic, myth, religious sentiments, mysterious experience etc.

(c) Post-modernists demolished and buffered the distinct differences of science and knowledge (modern) – for instance, hypothesis and theory, phenomenon and existence.

(d) Post-modernists rejected the notion of the autonomy of human reason as the access to truth. They used language to construct meaning in order to impress their readers.

(e) Post-modernists ...


1.3 Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement

There appears to be an internal relationship between Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement. The New Age Movement promoted a brand new worldview, which attempted to generate a new state of consciousness and feeling of meaning in opposition to the traditional worldview and social system. It sought to harmonise both Eastern and Western religion, Eastern mysticism, Western science and technology, Eastern therapy (acupuncture, herbal treatment) and various mysterious religious experiences in order to integrate and develop a new system of thought.

Because of its highly syncretistic and appealing nature, this new worldview of the 20th century enjoyed a great degree of popularity in all strata of society, despite the lack of a systematic theory and organisation. In fact, the effect of the New Age Movement penetrated every aspect of modern life to reflect its basic principles that are incongruous with recognised traditions, major worldviews and commonly accepted universal truths. Although it originated with many jagged edges and internal tension, the Movement nevertheless became very widespread.

The New Age Movement emphasised subjective spiritual experience and strongly taught its adherents that anyone can experience a certain degree of supernatural power and that such power was inter-transmittable. The Movement also departed from the safe use of drugs to investigate and experiment with medicine. It assumed a unified cosmos manifested in two dimensions, namely the visible universe3 and the invisible universe4. The New Age Movement promoted 'integrative medicine" in order to attain perfect harmony between these two dimensions of the cosmos and to achieve the desired health and purpose.

Another significant influence and possibly the core belief of the New Age Movement is pantheistic monism (God is in everything and that everything is God). New Age adherents believed in the divine nature of the human self, which could be developed towards perfection. Such thinking also encouraged possibility thinking or positive thinking, in which New Age believers considered that humanity, societies and culture were collectively gearing and evolving towards greater consciousness and comprehensiveness.


1.4 The Influence of Post-Modernism on 21st century Society

Post-modernity represents a period of time in the progression of history whereby its characteristics are manifested through different channels, such as art, movie, architecture, sociology, medicine and religion. The New Age Movement, on the other hand, functioned as the cobweb for various influences of Post-Modernism, owing to its ability to penetrate every facet of human life.


(a) The influence of Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement on the Ideology of
Society

The worldview of Post-Modernism is a worldview without worldview. Post-modernists disagree that men lived in a subjective and real existing world. Instead, they believe that the world we live in daily is one where we construct on our own using languages, literature and concepts: language functions to construct the world. Hence, what is termed as real world is nothing but the product (creative) of our ever-changing society. Prior to this pervasive perspective of conceptual relativism, the world of Post-Modernism was one with many 'worlds'. Everyone was constructing his or her own world using his own understanding and interpretation.

Such a worldview results in a highly individualistic worldview. People can have different worldviews (linguistic construct) yet every one of them is right and accurate. The validity of one’s worldview cannot be denied and should not be challenged.


(b) The influence of Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement on social structure

Post-modernists strongly oppose the existence of any truth of correspond and therefore rejects as well the notion of being to knowing. They do not believe in the existence of ultimate truth in the cosmos and reject reason as a guide to reality.

The Post-Modern society places great emphasis on the individual, where power sharing is preferred to a single authoritarian. This poses a great threat to Eastern societies where family forms the basis unit of society and obedience to one in authority ensures the continuous functioning of society. Superficially, Post-Modernism should encourage democracy, freedom of speech and respect for various schools of thought. However, the true spirit of Post-Modernism is that of promoting conceptual relativism in all aspects of reality. We witness the death of truth, replaced by various untruths. We begin to create our own 'truth' as we construct languages that will serve our purposes. Such a mentality endangers the construction and affirmation of a person towards truth. The same destruction is experienced in our construction of our moral standard and value system.


(c) The Influence of Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement on Social Moral Values

Unlike the pre-modern period where man founded his moral value on the characteristics of a transcendent God who is good, human ethics in the Post-Modern context can be likened to any knowledge that is linguistically constructed. The human self is exalted to almost divine dimensions with the advent of the New Age Movement, challenging the very heart of most orthodox religions. In a world without God, the distinction between absolute light and darkness, good and evil disappears. When one views himself as God, he is actually making himself absolute in every aspect of life. Such absolutisation becomes the standard of measurement that is used to evaluate and judge the world. In the course of the propagation of the New Age Movement, God is seen merely as the structure of the universe. He is no longer immanent, personal or sovereign over human affairs, not a moral being and is certainly not gracious or providential. This causes the erosion of the existing value system in traditional society, making it increasingly relative, especially in North America. Ethics is no longer based on universal truth (reason), but is subjected to the description given it by society.

Under the influence of a pluralism of perspectives promoted by Post-Modernists, incidents manifesting great wickedness have almost become the norm in modern society (that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time – Genesis 6:5). The root of this social evil could be the result of the paradigm shift in the ethical model of society (the shift from the Judaic-Christian ethical model to one that is on the loose, free from the restraints of morality and discipline). Due to overemphasis of human rights and democracy, teachers in the United States are deprived of their 'rights' to voice their critique and opinion in the context of morality and ethics in their daily duty of imparting knowledge to students. All explanations are limited to clarification of information, whereby one wrong sentence (one that violates the permitted boundaries) may cost them their career or even warrant serious charges. Even parental authority and responsibilities have eroded to an alarming extent. Consequently, society is no more what it used to be.


(d) The Influence of Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement on Religious Teaching

Spiritual experience is arguably the most important aspect of religious experience. However, spiritual experiences associated with Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement are unacceptable to most orthodox religious segments. Due to its assimilative and pluralistic nature, the door of the New Age Movement is opened wide to all, even to unorthodox religious sects, cults and other groups. This has resulted in various experiences of black magic, medium of spiritualism and confrontation and contact with evil spirits. These include what is known as holistic medicine, integrative medicine and spontaneous healing. We ought to be aware of the various snares present in society and acquire a discerning mind to avoid stepping into these dangerous zones. The confusion caused by non-ordinary (supernatural) therapies proposed by the New Age Movement to modern society is almost unprecedented, and a great deal of damage has been caused to it. At the same time, the New Age Movement also enthusiastically promotes Eastern traditional therapies and herbalism. Certain therapies or herbs have been popularised without any scientific research or laboratory test. Under the superstition of “one medicine heals all sicknesses”, many people (educated and uneducated) suffer the severe consequences of such medicine given in treatment.

In addition, many new schools of religion and culture flourish in recent years all over the world. On the surface, they give the impression of religious revival. However, what lies beneath are deadly traps hungering for victims. We have seen cases where a misguided faith has led to chaos and even disintegration of families. In more serious cases, severe delusion has resulted in group suicides as well as confrontations with the authority (stage demonstrations, gun battles and riots).

Positive thinking within the framework of the New Age Movement contains mysterious methodologies and means of releasing the divine self from the bondages of material and sexual desire inherent in the modern world, in order to attain the feeling of cosmic unity. This is clearly very different from seminars or teachings purely on how to unleash one's potential. To a great extent, the positive thinking of the New Age Movement has been veiled with a mysterious mask of religiosity and its activities have been sophistically camouflaged, making us vulnerable to its traps. Hence, we need discernment stemming from a correct faith in God to judge the deceptive teachings propagated by the wave of positive thinking brought about by the New Age Movement.



2. Genetic Engineering

On 26th June 2000, the President of the United States, Bill Clinton declared the completion of a working draft of 3.1 billion letters in the “book of life”, signalling the start of an imminent tidal wave of genetic engineering. In his speech, he proudly declared, “Today we have learned the language God used to create life.” The mapping of the human genome, a scientific achievement comparable to the landing on the moon has pushed humanity into an unknown future. Genetic engineering may bring either crisis or blessing, or even a major shift away from most exclusively homocentric focus in addressing the multifarious issues related to the new conflicts.

The mapping of the human genome (completion of working draft) has forced us to rethink our stand over the following issues:

2.1 Confrontation between Science and Religion

In the book “High Tech High Touch”, the author predicted that genetic engineering would triumph over all other technologies (including information technology) in the new century – the 21st century shall be the Century of Biotechnology. However, he also reminded us that fundamentally, science remained as the only tool to knowledge that would allow human beings to dominate and manipulate whatever resources in order to secure a better living. The questions of our human right (in this scenario, to intrusively interfere with ecology via genetic engineering) cannot be answered within the framework of science – they fall under the category of religion and morality.

The dangers posed by the tidal wave of biotechnology activities are great, even though the mapping of the human genome gives rise to high expectations of further groundbreaking development in the years ahead, especially in the treatment of fatal diseases. There is no denying that we need wisdom to discern what is permissible and what is not within our ethical boundaries. We should never restrict the discussion of ethics and genetic engineering only to what can be achieved through scientific advancement. Instead, we ought to broaden our scope of evaluation to encompass what should or should not be done. Technology is neither machinery nor a scientific tool; it is neither good nor evil, but comprises all the possible consequences it may engender. Nonetheless, it complicates the ethical issues related to genetic engineering and such complications are spilling over to religion.

We should therefore be cautious in safeguarding our religion from the strong current of manifold possibilities resulting from genetic engineering, especially in addressing critical issues in the ethical realm. Religion remains important because its understanding of human nature – material, spiritual & intellectual far supersede that of science and technology. In contrast to the latter, most religious teachings emphasise the respect that should be accorded to human dignity and human rights much more comprehensively. Nevertheless, science and religion are actually complimentary in nature, making it possible for us to harmonise the existing tension between the two, so that both these spheres can genuinely contribute towards ensuring that developments in genetic engineering become a real blessing to human race.


2.2 Miracle of Genetic Engineering


(a) All Things are Possible with Science

More miracles are in the offing, as many believe in the huge advances of biotechnology. The mass media have been publishing articles relating to breakthrough in medical science, either in the cure or prevention of previously fatal diseases – for instance, various types of cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Scientists believe that life expectancy can even reach a staggering 1,200 years through the possible invention of a biochip that contains scraps of the human DNA or by way of microchip implants and transplants in the central nervous system to help cure stroke, brain tumour or even cancer through gene therapy. These are but only the few possible developments that will consolidate our superstition in science, in doing the impossible and performing miracles that challenge the natural order. Perhaps we are over-optimistic of our future, considering that there are still millions of puzzles and uncertainties that cannot be solved at present, leaving aside what genetic engineering can offer to medical science. Things are not as simple as a linear equation, such as y = a + bx.

We are merely at the beginning of our journey to unfold the mystery of life. The truth is that we are barely even walking! Sequencing the reports of four alphabets, A, C, T and G, which represent the nucleotides that constitute the human (including other species) DNA is already an extremely difficult task, let alone managing and interpreting 3.1 billion “part list” embedded in our chromosomes in order to understand the way we develop, age and succumb to diseases. Considering that the possible permutations of even a single human protein are so immense, scientists believe it will take at least a minimum of 100 years to procure comprehensive knowledge of all genetic functions – and that possible only with a supercomputer grinding day and night. In reality, we may be like a child who has just learned the alphabets, all the while blindly assuming that we have grasped all knowledge under the sun – a real naïve and ignorant optimism.


(b) Behavioural Genetic Determinism

Behavioural genetic determinism is the belief that genetics is the major factor in determining behaviour. Professor Edward O. Wilson from Harvard University once mentioned that all human behaviour has been written in our genes as immutable biological imperatives. Some, in opposing the hypothesis, have argued that behavioural genetic determinism has severed the root of morality and ethics. Debates flare concerning the way we should respond to genetic analysis of traits such as intelligence, criminality and homosexuality as well as characteristics associated with social, political and legal significance. Behavioural genetic determinism asserts a genetic basis on the manner in which we decide our religion, spouse, education and numerous physical behaviours such as aggression and impulse. The debate “behavioural genetic determinism versus human free will” centres on the value of human free will, i.e. how do we measure the degree of validity and reliability of free will in our behaviours should it be that all decisions are purely made based on embedded code in our genes? If we are deprived of our free will to choose, what then is the value of morality and ethics? Under such circumstances, how do we define moral responsibilities?

In fact, the accuracy of genetic information is not as comprehensive and irrefutable as some scientists have claimed. There are still many obstacles to overcome before we can correlate genetics (an individual’s genetic endowment) with behaviour. We often get the wrong impression that our physical behaviour is determined solely by our genetic makeup. In reality, humans are different from machines; we are not confined solely to the material realm since we have a mind and are conscious of a spiritual dimension. These three dimensions are inter-dependent and the alienation of any one of them will lead to severe disorder.

Genesis 1:26-27 teaches us that man is created in the image and likeness of God, and hence possesses a mind, spirituality and moral attributes from the moment of birth. The mind makes possible our basic ability to think and reason and in the process we find knowledge. This is the contribution of science in human civilisation. However, no one seeks knowledge for the sake of seeking it. Knowledge has to be affirmed through sharing with others and valued in its application. Science can never be used as a yardstick to measure right or wrong (of knowledge). It is the subject of morality – based on the attribute of a moral God. In light of this, our behaviour can never be truly evaluated or measured without involving the spiritual realm. Our material, mental and spiritual dimension should never and can never be isolated. These three dimensions form a single entity that interacts and determines our behaviour.


2.3 The crisis of Ethics and Morality


(a) Ethics and Technology

The ultimate aim of improving heredity qualities is to create a more ‘perfect’ being. This forces us to redefine the meaning of perfect and disabled. We should never underestimate the flaws inherent in the genetic engineering paradigm, in which the scientists believe that each specific feature of an organism is encoded in one (or several) stable gene where transfer of the gene will result in the transfer of these discrete features. Under the new definition, we are heading towards an extreme form of genetic reductionism, or even genetic singularisation. We should never allow scientists, or even certain world leaders to decide our fate since genetic information is a common human asset. No one has the right to define and decide the meaning of perfection.


(b) Genetic Discrimination

Biologists begin to realise that by changing the ordering pattern of genetic material, we can improve our heredity qualities. Genetically engineered generations (eugenics) will inevitably cause genetic discrimination, thus adding to the problem of discrimination caused by skin colour. Genetic tests can be conducted to reveal our genetic information, which consists of our entire genetic data and gene products or inherited characteristics that may be derived from an individual in the family. The distinction of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genes can lead to discrimination even in the family, whereby we classify human beings in a manner that deprives them of their rightful opportunities.


(c) Man is God

The mapping of the human genome provides the necessary information for genetic engineering. In 1883, Sir Francis Galton used the term “Eugenics” (derived from the Greek word ‘well born’). It is a science that deals with the improvement of heredity qualities of a particular race or breed through a variety of methods, which include control of mating. Humanitarian eugenics strives to create future generations of good health, high intelligence and also noble character. In fact, we can see that eugenics and sterilisation have been intertwined throughout history.

Recently, the U.S. Congress passed a sterilisation law and imposed immigration restrictions on people who are mentally retarded, mentally defective and epileptic so as to eradicate them from American society. It attempted to halt the breeding of mental defectives to ensure the reinstitutionalization of criminal activity or promiscuity by the group, which would damage society. The horrifying Genocide by the Nazis in Germany, who sterilised and massacred 6 million Jews in the name of eugenics through the enactment of the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Disease Offspring, was the greatest ever persecution in human history. Under the guise of eugenics, humanity wrote the bloodiest pages in its own history! Man paid a heavy price for trying to play God.


(d) Equality

The economic incentive to discriminate based on genetic information is likely to increase among wealthy individuals or nations as genetic research advances and the cost of genetic testing decreases. This will caused great injustices to the poor and denies them their rights and opportunities.

In addition, insurers can use genetic information to decide on the coverage and enrolment of premiums since individuals are not protected from the disclosure of their genetic information. Employers may try to avoid employing workers that are likely to take leave, resign or retire, or claim healthcare benefits excessively though the results of genetic tests. Even if genetic condition (to develop certain disease) has no effect on a person’s ability to perform work, discrimination may still occur.


(e) Legal and Moral Responsibilities

If behavioural genetic information is incorporated into our legal system, we will have to redefine the legal responsibilities of criminals as the discovery of ‘criminal genes’ may support his or her inclination to carry out a particular crime. What social consequence will such genetic diagnosis have on our society?

On the other hand, behavioural genetic determinism provides us with many excuses to shun our moral obligations. For example, we may have less tolerance towards drinking if we discover an ‘alcoholic’ gene in us. Such a mentality will certainly corrode our moral instinct and even our conscience.


(f) Privacy

We are exposed to the dangers of disclosure of genetic information for medical treatment and research. Such information can be wrongfully used in violation of our rights and benefits in the event it falls into the wrong hands.



3. Digital Technology

Personal computers were first introduced in the 1980s and laid the foundation for the emergence of an ‘e-century’. The invention of the microprocessor directly paved the way for a personal computer revolution that relegated the massive and bulky prototype computer to the great hardware graveyard of obsolescence. In the past, a great deal of trouble was required in entering data into a gigantic computer, which is normally placed in an air-ventilated room with a size as large as the room itself. It was a job that was labour-intensive, tedious, time-consuming and having a high probability of entry error. With the advent of semi-conductor technology that led to the invention of the transistor and integrated circuit, the process of data entry has been reduced to a matter of seconds.

Many concepts, structures, functions and boundaries have to be redefined to strike a parallel with the emergence of an e-century. In a grandiose yet overwhelming manner, the e-century makes its debut in human history.

Professor William J. Mitchell has remarked, “Roadways and rivers connected the ancient Roman Empire; the Canal formed Venice and Amsterdam; railways made possible Western America; underground trains enabled New York and London to become the new centres of civilisation; and highways built the civilisation in Northern California. When we set our sights on the 21st Century, it is clear that we rely heavily on digital communication. In this era where everything is prefixed with an ‘e’, we have of course the emergence of e-politics.”


3.1 The Global Structure in the Digital Age


(a) A World without Boundary

The free flow of information via Internet begins to shape our world into one without any boundary, although the idea may be looked upon as rather delusive. While the transfer of information may bypass the geographical boundaries (visible), it certainly has not escaped from the clutches of businessmen. The Internet is congested with various baits and snares (normally in the form of advertisements) to lure potential customers who surf the Net. However, we must realise that there is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. Surely, there can never be an electronic world without boundaries.


(b) Globalisation

Globalisation is considered the most significant result of the e-century. The Earth village, previously mentioned, is already outdated, apparently too large for the concept of e-century. The globalisation that we experienced in the e-century has reduced the size of the world and laid it at our fingertips. The full view of Earth has come alive on our computer screens, thanks to the advancement of information technology. In the past, we travelled to experience the real world; but now it is the world that has stepped into our lives instead. In the future, it will be even difficult to differentiate between our lives and the electronic world. It will be a world where the strong survives and who will decide what we see and hear.


3.2 The Monopoly of Information


(a) Colonisation of Economy

The forces directing the wave of globalisation are none other than developed nations like the United States and the Great Britain. This is the new “military strategy” undertaken by these nations after the weakening of imperialism as they gradually lost absolute control over the economy of their colonies. The colonisation of information resembles the second opium war (1900), where the developed nations launch their attack via information invasion and also support activities that aim to destroy the national security and stability of developing and third world countries, causing them to be vulnerable and yield to the super powers at present.


(b) Colonisation of Culture

Most of the information at this moment has been “Americanised” even though it is supposed to be free from any form of cultural influence. For instance, more than 70% of information available in the European countries originates from the United States. The Asian “pro-Western” mentality has provided the opening for Western culture to spearhead a new cultural attack under the wave of globalisation. With the advantage of information technology that it possesses, Western culture is infiltrating the developing countries and putting local culture in danger of obsolescence.


There are two crises engendered by e-culture colonisation:

(i) The promotion of western culture, value and materialistic social consciousness, which contradict local culture and value in many aspects; and
(ii) The procurement of larger consumer markets for developed nations through cultural invasion.


3.3 The New Structure of Human Relationship


(a) E-discrimination

The advancement of digital technology has indirectly led to inequality in the social order, resulting in a new category of discrimination apart from racial discrimination that is rooted so deeply in society in the past. In the new social order, social stratification makes use of the ownership of information as the standard to measure and distinguish social status. Such situation is evident even in the international stage where poor countries are deprived and oppressed by developed nations, which control information. Those who are uneducated and computer-illiterate are viewed as having a lower standing in the e-society.


(b) The Information Technology-savvy

Those that are IT-savvy face extreme pressure in life in keeping pace with the latest computer advancement and information technology. The evolution of the computer and information technology is taking place at an alarmingly rapid rate. In the past, the functions of the personal computer double within 18 months with approximately 50% price reduction. At present, the duration required to achieve this is shortened to 18 days or even 18 hours. New products and technology swarm the market like tidal waves. This group of people suffer great anxiety and depression, fearing that even a little loss of focus will result in them being left behind. In order to stay in touch with the latest development, they often spent considerable time in front of the computer screen. In the process, they are forced to sacrifice keeping in touch with people through the traditional tangible manner.


(c) Cyber Addicts

According to a survey in the United States, 64% of interviewed parents believe that cyber addiction will cause their children to feel alienated from society, while 42% feel that the Internet will cause their children to act against society. In fact, cyber addiction affects adults as well; those who spent long hours in front of their computer to communicate via pager, chat room and e-mail. Such addiction will inevitably widen the gap between people and deepen the feeling of loneliness and alienation. For cyber addicts who are married, unhealthy devotion to the Internet and virtual reality may create marriage crises, posing yet another great challenge to counsellors in the e-century.



Summary

The impact and influence of Post-Modernism, the New Age Movement, Genetic Engineering and Digital Technology on 21st century society is very pervasive, as we have just discussed. The influence from Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement can be felt more in the dimension of socio-ideology, while digital technology and genetic engineering will alter and change our style of living drastically. On the one hand, they create numerous opportunities for better standard of living, but on the other hand, they seem to have pushed the 21st century into a serious ethical crisis. In taking us in a journey to rediscover our mind and soul in their effort to oppose scientific rationalism, Post-Modernism and the New Age Movement is actually leading us towards destruction. As the Bible vividly describes, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Post-Modernism/the New Age Movement and Digital Technology/Genetic Engineering may appear to have different directions of propagation (one through ideology and the other through lifestyle), but in actual fact, they are in the process of assuming the role of God in determining the fate of mankind. In the 21st century, the Church of Christ will have to confront fiercer spiritual warfare – false prophets within the Church and anti-Christ in the world.

In order to face such a century, what Paul had instructed and encouraged Timothy is still very useful to us today:

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. ” (2 Timothy 4:3-5)


1 A.D 476 to 1453; when the Western Roman Empire was destroyed until Constantinople was captured by the Turks
2 A.D 1400 - 1600; revival of art and literature in Europe based on ancient Greek learning
3 accessible through ordinary consciousness
4 accessible through "door of perception" such as meditation, trance, ritualised dance,
acupuncture, herbalism, hypnotherapy and many others

1 Comments:

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