The Starfish and the Spider

/ 20 October 2006

I just started reading The Starfish and The Spider — in part because I walked out of a presentation at Luther this morning that just made me crazy. The book is hopeful and engaging, and FULL of ideas that make me want to try them out in a religious context.

The presentation, on the other hand, was a piece done by the ELCA director of research about the "state of the church" in demographic terms. While it was interesting, I was profoundly frustrated by where he left off. It was almost as if he wanted to paint the most despairing picture possible, without providing any hope. Amongst other things he seemed completely oblivious to the enormous creativity, energy and innovation springing up all over the place -- much of which is mediated digitally (whether through the web, or in media-suffused contexts). The arguments that David Weinberger makes (the Cluetrain Manifesto, for instance) were completely absent from this presentation. And all things energizing and creative in recent digital culture were not even mentioned, other than, perhaps, as symptoms of an individualistic and selfishly-obsessed culture. ARGH!

That's why Brafman and Beckstrom's book was a good immediate antidote. The subtitle to their book is "the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations." I think that's probably what religious communities have always been -- or should be. Because, at least in Christian terms, Jesus Christ is not a "leader" in any of the ordinary ways in which we use that term. But our lives nonetheless live into the world he brought, brings, and is bringing into being. Now I just need to get the OSRR up and running, and keep encouraging people's creativity around here...