Later this week, I want to look at one or two particular effects on the church that have been brought about by the internet, or perhaps one specific aspect of it. But today, as a prequel, I want to go back in time about 50 years.
We all are aware that the internet greatly accelerated social change in the countries that had access to it. The way we shop, the way we interact, the manner in which we obtain information, how we handle our financial affairs, etc.; all these have been greatly affected.
The standard comparison is that we are living in a time very similar to what happened when the moveable type printing press was introduced. Mass publication of printed materials was suddenly an option, and even more so when the presses were attached to steam power.
There was however, a small ripple of accelerated social change that took place in the 1960s and the medium of choice was the music of the day which we now know as rock. If you visited in a record store in the early part of the decade, the standard categories were:
- spoken word
- marching band
- big band / jazz
but by the end of the decade, well over half the record store’s real estate was taken up with rock. “Drums and guitars;” wasn’t so much a description of the sound as a constant complaint on the lips of those who didn’t like it.
You can’t write about this without mentioning The Beatles. They certainly exploded quickly on the scene and were an icon of the rock music age. Their songs are forever identified with the musical style that defined the ’60s
But how much of this would have happened anyway? If you listen to the bands that were around in the pre-Beatles age, you certainly see the trajectory where music was heading. The group’s name is, after all, a play on words on the emerging “beat music” which was being played in clubs in both Europe and North America.
But in the wake of The Beatles, social change happened, and it happened fast:
1966 — Men for the first time in recent history started sporting long hair. It wasn’t necessarily the hair style of previous centuries, either. There was also a radical shift in fashion taking place introducing new colors, shapes, fabrics and combinations.
1967 — Psychedelic drugs in particular and drug use in general swept colleges and high schools. “Tune in, turn on, drop out;” was a motto that recognized the link between tuning in the music (on radio, the primary source for music awareness) and turning on (with both hard drugs and soft drugs).
1968 — Rock music became a unifying factor in the opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. Protests spread throughout the U.S. “War! What is it good for?” is hauled out of the archives to this very day when America’s military finds itself involved overseas.
1969 — The Summer of Love. The Woodstock Festival and others like it introduced a sexual liberation such as had never been seen in the U.S. The musical Hair, launched a year earlier, summed up all the various things listed here (drugs, nudity, pacifism and of course hair itself) in a single production.
My point is that in terms of societal change, the 1960s were basically two decades for the price of one. In other words, change that might have come about over a 20-year period happened in seven years (if you track the Beatles back to 1963) instead.
Why did this happen? Music!
Again, all this serves as introduction to an article coming later this week. I want to argue that the same thing has happened to the church, not because of music but because of the internet. By this I don’t mean church websites or live streaming of services, any more than The Beatles’ influence is limited to the playback conversion from vinyl to eight-track tapes. Rather, I want to make the case that a number of things happened in the same quick succession as we saw in the larger culture in the four years from 1966 to 1969.
I may not have the years so exact, but I think you’ll see that also similar to those years, the accelerated ecclesiastic change in the church brought about by the internet has come to a screeching halt.
Weigh in! If you have a comment that you would like to see form a part of the next article, feel free to email or leave it here.