I have finally finished reading Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society. It was not a very cheerful read. The thrust of Ellul's diagnosis of western culture is that it has completely fallen prey to technique. Things that were designed to make our lives easier have in fact taken over our lives. Ends have disappeared; everything is about means. We are becoming more and more efficient, more and more technically adept... But why? For what purpose? We no longer know. Everything truly human is suppressed in the rush to turn ourselves into part of the great machine.
As a sort of antidote, I have begun re-reading Eugene Peterson's book The Jesus Way. My main practical concern reading Ellul has not been for society as a whole. I find his picture sadly compelling, and it genuinely grieves. But what troubles me more is the way the church has fallen prey to the same tendencies. Peterson sets out the problem: "More often than not, I find my Christian brothers and sisters uncritically embracing the ways and means practised by the high-profile men and women who lead large corporations, congregations, nations and causes... But these ways and means more often than not violate the ways of Jesus... Doesn't anybody notice that the ways and means taken up, often enthusiastically, are blasphemously at odds with the way Jesus leads his followers? Why doesn't anyone notice?"
Peterson's point is that Christians so often try to do the work of Jesus - Kingdom work - in ways which stand in sharp contradiction to the Kingdom. Why doesn't anyone notice? I would suggest it is because these ways and means get things done. Too often for our liking, Jesus' way looks like a meandering, long-way-round, slow, rough path. We can apply a few simple techniques to get things done better. We still have the same goals in mind, of course; we just have a better way of getting there. And without a doubt, our ways and means work. They grow churches, they stabilise lives, they increase knowledge. Still the same goals...
Or are they? What if Kingdom goals are not the sorts of things you can pursue any which way? What if it is only Jesus' slow, wandering path that will actually get us there? What if 'getting there' isn't really the point anyway; what if it's all about the way?