The Sacred in Cyber Space – Part 1 of 2


The Sacred in Cyber Space – Part 1 of 2

“The electronic age is an age of ‘secondary orality,’ the orality of telephones, radio, and television, which depends on writing and print for its existence.”

from ‘Orality and Literacy’ by Walter Jackson Ong, 2002, Routledge. ISBN 0415281288.

A lot of experience tells us that web communities are quite real and effective, beginning with The Well back in the prehistoric days of cyberspace (what we would call now a listserv but with a stronger sense of interactive community over time). Nathan Brockman writes about how the website of the Parish of Trinity Church is a ‘sacred parish space.” A Jesuit and philosopher Walter Ong, who died a few years ago, wrote a book on the the relationship between oral culture and technology, which is applicable to the web as a technology that in a strange way it returns us to oral community. If you think about it, much of what we do online is like speaking–dash off a word here, show a family photo, have a multiple conversation, tell stories. Kids with text messaging know that their form of communication makes and supports community. Those of us interested in the once and future church need to be online as a community of Christians; cyberspace is where the future is being discussed and formed. If you like, to borrow a prehistoric image, www is the cave where everyone is hanging out (and because this is ECVA–where the cave paintings are). – Ken Arnold

Next Week: The Sacred in Cyber Space – Part 2 of 2, On Walter Ong and Technologizing the Word.

On View: “Christ on the Cross”, a painting by Patricia M. Brown, 1998, 9.5″ x 5″. As seen in Visual Preludes 2006

Patricia Brown is a painter living in San Francisco, and a member of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church.

Ken Arnold is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. You can read more of his work here.

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