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 God and the Internet 

October 5, 2007 
[Originally published by the Universal Press Syndicate, March 4, 1997]
God and the 
Internet“Top Anglican prelate says sex is for married,” says a headline in the Washington Times. Yes, it’s now front-page news when the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, gives a measured restatement of what, until recently, all Christians took for granted.

Today's column is "God and the Internet" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.God and the Internet“I do not find any justification, from the Bible or the entire Christian tradition, for sexual activity outside marriage,” Archbishop Carey told an audience at the Virginia Theological Seminary. “Thus, same-sex relationships in my view cannot be on par with marriage, and the church should resist any diminishing of the fundamental ‘sacramentum’ of marriage.”

God and the InternetEven speaking to seminarians, the archbishop felt obliged to assume a tentative tone: “in my view” — as if an ancient orthodoxy were only his personal opinion. Not that his statement didn’t take some nerve; it did. That’s the point. Many of the clergy who agree with him would hesitate to say so aloud.

God and the InternetSuch is the power of fads in our time, when media-borne ideas can suddenly exert great pressure on old institutions. Only a few years ago, “same-sex marriage” would have seemed an absurdity, especially to religious people who believe in a divine design informing nature. Now it’s already making inroads in the law — and even in some churches.

God and the InternetThe principle of authority is that there are immutable truths and rules that even the most powerful must respect. Authority is often confused with power, but real authority is a check on those who currently hold power, as the Constitution is supposed to restrain our rulers from acting like dictators. If the government can change the meaning of the Constitution, constitutional authority becomes a nullity. If the clergy of our day can revise old Christian doctrines, Christian doctrine becomes a series of fads — what the comedian Flip Wilson used to call “the Church of What’s Happening Now.”

God and the InternetThe mass media have spread the assumption that fads can be moral imperatives. They create an illusory world in which the past hardly exists, especially the Christian past.

God and the InternetThose media are less useful for communication, in the sense of conversational give-and-take, than for propaganda. The rise of mass media has proved especially useful for tyrants who are determined to obliterate historical memory and create masses of manipulable people, as Stalin used his media monopoly to rewrite history and science.

[Breaker quote for God and the Internet: Real communication]God and the InternetJust as freedom depends on keeping political power carefully divided, it requires media that are not only independent but diverse. In the recent era of media giants — when three networks dominated the airwaves — ideological diversity was minimal. We’re now moving into an era of media fragmentation, for which we should be deeply grateful. It means the end of the liberal opinion cartel.

God and the 
InternetCBS’s 60 Minutes recently ran a short piece about alarming myths propagated on the Internet. But the great virtue of the Internet, as opposed to the big networks, is that anyone can get a piece of the action. You can actually talk back, contradict, argue, without buying your own network. There is far more interaction — real communication — than was ever possible on the big networks. On the Internet, falsehood is harder to spread, and easier to correct, than on the centralized media of the recent past.

God and the InternetJohn Henry Newman, a nineteenth-century Anglican who converted to Catholicism (and eventually became a cardinal), observed that during the Arian heresy of the fourth century, the Church’s elite, including most bishops, had largely embraced Arianism. It was the laity who defended orthodoxy and finally prevailed.

God and the InternetIn the same way, the grassroots media are now rising up against the elite media. Of course the new media have their own absurd fads, but because of the actual diversity of those media — and we all want “diversity,” don’t we? — absurdity can’t get a monopoly. Just as important, it can’t create the illusion of consensus. To listen to some of the network talk shows, you’d think America was populated exclusively by liberals (and “responsible” conservatives who might as well be liberals).

God and the InternetThe real trouble with the media age is that there haven’t been enough media. Fortunately, that’s no longer true. And liberal fads are no longer likely to pass for “official” truths.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
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