the cluetrain manifesto and the American church

I just started reading the cluetrain manifesto: the end of business as usual. I had heard of the book many times, and having now started reading it, am amazed at how it’s just the right time to read it, for me. It all began before Y2K, with a website put together by industry insiders at www.cluetrain.com. The book itself was published in 2000, though it seems like it was written today. The essence of it is that markets are conversations, that the Internet is about giving people a voice again, about connecting them with each other, and therein lies the power, and the understanding. Why are MySpace, YouTube, eBay, Facebook so popular? Why are there more blogs than one could possibly read? Voice. Conversation.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, coupled with the legacy of the Englightenment and other cultural phenomena, modernism began to reach its pinnacle. So much was reduced to reason and science. Some, like Chesterton, avidly opposed this cultural trend. We very quickly went from a culture with some semblance of a marketplace (the kind where buyer and seller could know one another) to a mass production society, and soon, a mass media society. While some of this was definitely positive, we went from a land of craftsman to an assembly line where people just did there small part. Management and marketing became a science where marketing came to be about identifying people as consumers. Fortunately, we’ve been moving past some of the fallacies of American modernism the past several decades, with the Internet spurring the change further.

What of the American church? The Cluetrain Manifesto is primarily applied to the business culture, but the American church hasn’t escaped the influence of modernism, the American business culture, or the American dream. Based on my own experience alone, I can think of plenty of examples where church is ‘engineered,’ where it’s about formulas for Christian living, where people aren’t empowered, where having a ‘voice’ is discouraged, and it goes on. And lest you think I’m only talking about organizational churches, I’ve seen the same thing in house churches before. Part of what encourages me, though, is there are always voices. I have known wonderful, powerful people throughout the church, in churches of all models and denominations, who authentically try to live out the Gospel, most notably by loving people. Loving people as they are. Maybe we, as Christians, will get what other people are getting, that people don’t want a package sold to them. Rather, it’s a conversation, a dialogue, a human-to-human connection.

After thinking about it, maybe there’s a deeper reason the cluetrain manifesto has 95 Theses…