~by Michelle

In my professional life, my work is to explore how we can be well in a digital world. There are so many facets to wellness — mental, physical, emotional, social, spiritual. We talk about civic wellness as well — about the impact of digital life on our ability to talk about hard things and solve hard problems.

For me, this continual interest in understanding wellness is not just my job. I’ve long been fascinated with human nature and behavior (my background is in Psychology and studying the human side of organizations and systems). But beyond all of that still is something deeper.

And once in a while, in my networking and study and reflection for work, I come across material that stops me in my tracks.

I recently learned about a new initiative called AI and Faith, seeking to bring the perspectives of people of faith into discussions about and design of Artificial Intelligence. In talking with one of the leaders of this organization, I learned about some of the work of Andy Crouch. Crouch is an author of several books; he was the executive editor of Christianity Today for four years; he’s involved in other organizations like Fuller Theological Seminary and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

I’ve only started his newest book, but the following video gives a glimpse into what he sees as the antidote to the negative impacts of technological advances. To be sure, progress has its upsides, but, as he notes, it also has its paradoxes.

How he connects some of his thoughts into Romans 16 is thought-provoking and inspiring. I’ll never look at the chapter the same again (which, as Crouch helped me see, was not written by Paul, but by a person named Tertius.)

In addition to the video below, I wanted to share a snippet from his newest book that I just started (this share is not promotional, it’s emotional; what he said moved me deeply).

In the first chapter, he shares his perspective on what early Christianity was: a radical kind of social revolution, a movement toward the truest kind of inclusion in divisive times.

Much like the struggles of our day, there was increasing fragmentation and stratification of society as the quest for wealth and power became more of a focus in an “ever-more complex and urbanizing empire.” But, Crouch notes, “The Roman empire was a lonely place for almost everyone, powerless or powerful.” So what was the countercultural movement about?

People from all walks of life and social strata came together — such as the group greeted and seen and acknowledged by Paul in Romans 16 — around a shared belief. “They had come to believe, against all evidence and social convention” (and in the face of oppression in the culture and in the political power structure), “that they were in fact fully persons and that they had discovered the way to a flourishing life together.” (Of course we who are Christians know that that belief was not fabricated by them, but instilled by their belief in Someone who sees all as equals, and Who gave His life for each one.)

If you have ever seen a portrayal of the kind of excess and social inequality found in these ancient times, you can imagine the contrast he draws as he describes what early Christians did instead.

“[G]roups of men and women, Jews and Greeks, slaves and free…enjoyed a very different kind of meal. In halls that were accustomed to to feasts that signaled the status and significance of the host, this community would pass a single loaf of bread from hand to hand, in remembrance of someone not present. In place of reverent toasts to the emperor, they would sing songs both ancient and new that spoke of a different king and kingdom.” (The Life We’re Looking For, p. 17)

I won’t ever think about my church’s sacrament in the same way, either.

Sacrament of bread and water in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints