Please get a cup of coffee or tea and slowly read this article from Dr. Dan Scott. Dan is a great thinker on culture and Christianity, and his recent article to the Wilberforce Society was so insightful I want to share it with you. Dan is an impactful mentor and dear friend to me.
From Dr. Dan Scott
November 22, 2022
Dear Wilberforce friends,
In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a bestseller, Future Shock. The book’s premise was an allegory about the challenge of dealing with rapid change. Toffler begins the book talking about culture shock, the psychologically dislocating process through which human beings adapt to a change of culture.
When one moves to another country, the first weeks are usually exciting. We feel like we are on an adventure. We are more than tourists, but not yet residents. We learn many new phrases in a new language. We eat new foods. We may even wear different clothing. For many of us, that is extremely exciting.
After a couple of months, the adventure sours. We want to eat things from home we never even liked before. We realize that even if we are speaking the new language, we are engaging in glorified baby talk. We begin to meet people who do not want us in their country. If we cannot go home, we plunge into deep despair.
If we persevere a year or two, we experience something else: we begin to feel at home. We have begun to adapt. Our language skills improve. We make new friends. We become a bicultural person.
Now, were we to return home, we would find ourselves altered. The people of our home country will now notice some odd traits we have picked up. We may pronounce some words of our native language a bit differently. Some of them will not like the changes we have made. We will begin to feel “neither here nor there; neither this nor that.”
Toffler’s brilliant insight in 1970 was that soon, people who did not travel away from their native town would begin to move through a process very similar to culture shock. Only in this case, it would be one’s native culture that would change. Of course, cultures always change. The difference would be that change that once occurred over a century would happen in a decade. Then, the pace would pick up to radical change every five years. Then two years.
People would experience “future shock,” the inability to adapt to one radical change before facing a new wave of change. Adaptation would become continuously incomplete.
I think this book was one of the most prophetic pieces of all time. It accurately described a previously unheard-of societal condition to which nearly all of us can relate.
At nearly every level – social, political, technological, and religious – future shock leaves many of us dazed, confused, and irritated.
The answer is to ground ourselves in timeless things. That doesn’t mean we will not experience future shock. It just means that underneath all the change we will feel the solid foundation on which we stand. Of course, nothing in the universe is timeless. To find timeless things, one must transcend the visible, temporal plane. One must enter the company of God the judge of all and “the spirits of just people now made perfect.”
Spiritual practice is the habit of routinely, habitually, turning our awareness to our eternal place and state. Strangely enough, healthy spiritual practice does not make us irrelevant or weird. We still pay our bills and enjoy ballgames. We participate in the temporal world because that is where we are living now. However, we are aware that neither here nor now is the full picture. History is headed somewhere good – the Kingdom of God. The flow of life is guided by the wise and good Creator of all things. The tide of time moves us Godward.
This past week, many of us lost another person known and loved by our community. Little by little, the community as we knew it shifts. We want at least our own little world to remain stable and unaltered. However, we look around and realize that so many have already moved into eternity. Piece by piece, our familiar world, like a great kaleidoscope keeps moving and we fear that soon we may not be able to discern the features of the familiar even there.
It can be quite upsetting. We are tempted to become despondent, angry, even embittered.
Then we look ahead: Advent is coming. We will enter the joys of that past generation which in their own bleak midwinter had, like many of us, lost all hope. Then, a star and a baby revealed the glory of God that was about to break into the darkness.
I founded Wilberforce to address some of the spiritual needs that I felt around me. Then, the world changed. And changed again. I have continually asked the Lord what to do. But all I get is the words of an old song: “Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.”
As we met to thank God for Daniel Bell’s life (the member of the community to which I referred above), we told stories about the past. We touched one another and remembered good times. Finally, we gathered around that Table where past, present, and future all converge into timeless space. At the thin veil between here and there, now and then, we met God, holy angels, and the saints – including people we once knew that were not yet ‘saintly.’
Then, we walked back into a time and space that had, once again, changed.
Alvin Toffler had no answer for future shock. He anticipated endless social unrest and irresolvable psychological dislocation. All of that has unfolded as he predicted for everyone who belongs only to their own time and space.
For those of us who, amphibian-like, have become spiritually bicultural, future shock is only part of the picture. The other part preserves, heals, and completes everything we have ever known that has been true, good, and beautiful.
So, lift up your hearts! Every morning and every evening. When the journey gets long and weary, look at the star that never fails to lead us home.
Keeping touch with Eternity,