Religious observers and technologists constitute two besieged groups that might combine their efforts to confront ideological provocations. Pastors, chaplains and other clergy can introduce the latter into their congregations with the former.
The cultural landscape of western societies seems quite foreboding to religious traditionalists in the wake of the Woke. Finding inspiration from Benedict of Nursia (AD sixth century) who sought refuge from corrupting urban influence through solitude, Rod Dreher – senior editor at The American Conservative – published The Benedict Option three years ago warning social conservatives that their moral precepts have lost public favor. His clarion call prepares readers for economic marginalization from reluctance to embrace the protean zeitgeist with its capricious whims and dogmatic mandates. Banished from societal influence, traditionalists receive only sporadic relief during political courtships before elections, after which their concerns are safely neglected.
Meanwhile, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields encounter similar hostility. Intersectional hustlers jeopardize the livelihood of those employed in technology by throwing hissy-fits across social media. All the while, quota-mongering pedagogues corrode fact-driven characteristics of rigorous studies into grotesque caricatures by selectively triggered outrage and arbitrary privilege ranking. Proposals to degrade STEM’s education rigor threaten to replace empirical and quantitative understanding of the real world into playgrounds for emotional pygmies.
The Common Foe
Erratic yet cohesive prerogatives reveal these psychotic autocrats as Self-righteous History’s Arc Progressive Enthusiast (SHAPE) acolytes. Academia and social media menace STEM participants. Journalism and the legal profession denounce religious believers. Both perils arise from a grievance-peddling conglomerate of mediocrities masquerading as elite wannabes. Their separate collectivist facets unveil animosity towards particular and isolated prey, but nonetheless encompass a core nexus of enraged contempt that we rationally perceive as hatred.
One can envision this circumstance as a Borg cube, portrayed in Star Trek in the conflict over our destiny of assimilation or individual freedom. The polygon’s facets encompass a postmodernist hive that recognizes no truth or principle, but only raw naked power.
Can one confront this metamorphic SHAPE horde? I suggest forging an alliance of sorts between traditionalists and technologists. Of course, other groups whose rights face SHAPE assault might show interest too, but this is aimed at trads and techies.
What would be the purpose of joining such disparate people? Mutual survival. Even Jesus accepted necessity over nitpicky injunctions (Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26 and Luke 6:3-4, citing 2 Samuel 21:6). Religious congregations sing hymns, recite scripture, and pray reverently. By contrast, unsociably reticent eccentrics tinker with 3D printers, build fiber networks, and compose Java code.
What could they share together? How would collaboration benefit both groups? In brief, trads organize teams and techies develop skills. I’ll call this putative association the Archimedes Option – or ArcOp for short.
Romans at Syracuse
In the spring of 213 BC, Romans under proconsul Marcellus attacked Syracuse, a city in south-eastern Sicily. Years before, its ruler Hiero II—an ally of Rome—petitioned the famed mathematician Archimedes to strengthen the city’s defenses.
Diplomatic shifts after Hiero’s death prompted Rome’s naval invasion with warships called quinqueremes (five-decked galleys). Polybius in Universal History (second century BC), Livius in History of Rome (first century BC), and Plutarch in Parallel Lives (AD first century) describe cranes with grappling hooks that lifted the ship’s bows as these galleys approached the southern shore and smashed them into the sea. Dio Cassius in Roman History (fragment, AD second century) relates that (concave) mirrors set some ships afire by focusing sunlight.
Eventually, the Romans sacked the city after scaling its neglected walls during a festival, but their militarily proficient struggle against the defender’s technology became legend. SHAPEs are merely vicious, so our success is more likely.
Justifying an Alliance
Would techies be welcome—as techies that is? After all, they fixate on the practical at the expense of the sacred, an attitude scorned by religious scribes (Isaiah 44:9-20). Maybe trads prefer a society of saints over scientists. Not me. Nature is too capricious. Red in tooth and claw, as they say. The earliest ancestor in my maternal genealogy lived in central Europe in the mid-eighteenth century and had twenty children by two successive wives. Only one survived to raise a family. Not attractive odds.
Saintliness embodies charity and kindness along with humility, but reducing infant mortality requires manipulating the material world in which we live. Humans are called on to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28) with their intellect (Sirach 17:6) and their hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11). That’s what techies do. Societies that enjoy penicillin, flush toilets, diesel engines and voltage transformers don’t appear by magic. The Church brings members of distinct talents to cooperate as a body (Romans 12:4 and 1 Corinthians 12:12). Including weird techies, hopefully.
The creativity Archimedes exhibited in defense of his hometown ought to be applied now to thwart the social justice tyrants. Prediction of future conditions is largely a fool’s errand, so an emphasis on technological flexibility would seem advisable. NASA engineer Mark Rober developed an ingenious glitter bomb to foil would-be delivery-package thieves. His concept and innovative detail demonstrate tools and techniques available to protect our occupations and practices.
So assuming the desirability of joint teams, how do such different personalities and aspirations get together? And given stereotyping, would techies want to join? The isolation of commonly introverted techies constrains their ability to interact beyond their vocations. (Q: How can a woman tell if a [male] nerd likes her? A: He’s staring at her shoes instead of his.) Hence, churches and synagogues should more feasibly initiate contact as Hiero appealed to Archimedes – maybe by exploiting their fascination with technical minutia. An XKCD webcomic cartoon succinctly illustrates this obsession.
Recall the Areopagus sermon (Acts 17:22-23) when the apostle Paul commended the Athenians about their devotion to sundry deities? He reached out by observing their expressed priorities. Fortunately, a surfeit of source material abounds in religious history waiting to be tapped. After all, Jesus was a techie or téktōn (Mark 6:3)—a craftsman or builder—as Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ (Director, Vatican Observatory) points out in God’s Mechanics. For that matter, Paul too labored to make tents (Acts 18:3) during his missionary travels. Unlike most techies though, Jesus reportedly commanded an intimidating presence (Mark 10:32) even to his disciples.
Jesus alluded to his craft by recalling the importance of a building’s cornerstone (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17, echoing Psalm 118:22) as a positional reference marker. The early Church recognized the significance of this metaphor by its repetition (Acts 4:11 and Ephesians 2:20). Besides, Jesus described the consequence of injudicious selection for locating a building foundation (Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:48-49), as well as maintenance of oil lamps (Matthew 25:1-13) and material property effects to chemical exposure (wineskins in Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22 and Luke 5:37).
Jesus melded hortatory (and ambitious) exhortations with practical and well understood analogies, appealing to the audience’s familiarity with agriculture. His parables enlisted organic allegories, such as cereal crops (Matthew 13:3, 24), mustard seeds (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32 and Luke 13:18-19), fruit trees (Matthew 12:33 and Luke 6:43), and vineyards (Matthew 21:33-34 and Mark 12:1-2).
For pastoral husbandry, he mentioned sheep herding (Luke 15:4 and John 10:2-4) and even swine tending (Luke 15:15). Jesus also expounded on economic concerns with parables alluding to a host of domestic topics: numismatics (Matthew 22:19-20; Mark 12:15-16 and Luke 20:24-25), budgeting (Luke 14:28-30), accounting (Luke 16:5-9), monetary valuation (Matthew 10:29 and Luke 12:6), and finance (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-26). Techies too appreciate specifics over recondite generalities.
Sources for Social Connection
Techies aren’t especially receptive to touchy-feely appeals – being generally dubious of emotion or sentimentality. Those for whom “Jesus loves you” or “Come closer to God” has salience (or else to their significant others) already sit in your pews.
Rather, techies embrace facts but more critically, they seek rational explanations. Yet, they eschew entreaties to self-referential authority, especially regarding assertions without logical exposition or verifiable evidence, such as spiritual promises from anodyne piety tracts. The “Just So” teleological purpose-driven answer explains everything and nothing – it’s simply unhelpful for calculating trajectory orbits to Mars or analyzing impedance for oscillator circuits.
Instead, for techies to darken your doors, employ the rich history available but long neglected because it’s so boring to most. Offer lectures on what their counterparts did in biblical eras, such as the sinuous rock-carved Siloam tunnel (2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30) under Jerusalem. Or feature Assyrian siege engines at Lachish (2 Kings 18:13-14 and Isaiah 36:2) that Senacherib commemorated on palace walls in Ninevah with its hydroponic Hanging Gardens. Both date from the eighth century BC.
Alternatives include Philistine metallurgical advantage over the Israelites (1 Samuel 13:19-22) or incorporation of the carob seed (gerah) as a standard weight measurement (Exodus 30:13; Numbers 3:47 and Ezekiel 45:12) based on its comparative uniformity. Goliath was felled in the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17:2) by a creek stone (v. 40) of barium sulfate hurled from a sling (v. 49). Iron Age technology covers items such as the pillared house (2 Kings 4:32), six-spoke chariots (1 Kings 10:29) and early cavalry (2 Kings 18:23 and Isaiah 36:8). Farther afield, the irrigation dam at Mā’rib in Yemen from the Middle Bronze Age facilitated the Sabaean Queen’s great wealth (1 Kings 10:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 9:1).
Phoenician merchant ships (1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21; Isaiah 2:16; 23:1; 60:9; Ezekiel 27:25 and Jonah 1:3) plied the Mediterranean out to Tartessos in southern Spain. The discovery of a first century fishing boat along the Sea of Galilee offers yet another topic, with forensic insight into the wood varieties and construction techniques. The Gospels (Mark 3:9; 4:36; 5:18; 6:45-54; et alia) frequently record Jesus and his disciples traveling by such boats. For techies to appreciate the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), consider the horst geology of its delivery site at Mount Tabor (Judges 4:6).
Contextual aspects of Judeo-Christian history are available from various institutes, including the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, the Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago Illinois, the Harvard Semitic Museum in Cambridge Massachusetts and the Bible History Center in LaGrange Georgia.
Join or die. Fairly compelling motto for the ArcOp. Sooner or later we’ll need proverbial grappling hooks. Might be prudent to bid those that could invent them.
Photo Credit: Canticles of Chiara