This week the question posed to the Gospel and Global Media Cultures class was; How can communities of faith draw on denominational/theological statements to advocate for easing or even erasing digital divides?
There are two things that I want to clarify before giving my reflection on the question posed. The first is defining what the purpose of denominational/theological statements are, and what exactly is a digital divide anyway.
I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA has what they call social statements. These statements serve as teaching documents to inform members as the think through social issues. Social statements are also used to set police for the church and to offer guidance in its advocacy and work in the public realm. To learn more about the process in which the ELCA takes to establish such statements click here.
The digital divide can really be understood in a few ways. For the purpose of this posting I am going to use the definition put forth by Susan Crawford. One third of Americans do not have Internet access. This demographic is generally low income. Crawford also states that this is a justice issue for us, similar to how electricity was a justice issue in the early part of the last century.
Now, I know what you’re thinking how can Internet access be a justice issue. In a day and age where almost everything needs to be submitted via the Internet, and where an increasing amount of school research is done. With out equal access to this resource Crawford states that two Americas will emerge due to the communications inequality.
Now back to the question at hand. The ELCA has two social statements that offer a starting point, but by no means explicitly discuss the technology regarding Internet. These to statements are Economic Life (1999) and Education (2007). This is a line for the Economic Life statement, Out of deep concern for those affected adversely, we of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America here assess economic life today in light of the moral imperative to seek sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all. Part of this sustainable livelihood for all is equitable education.
One of the problems regarding our access to equitable Internet access is that many of us don’t even know that it is a problem. At least I had no idea until I watched the interview of Susan Crawford. In regards to that statements that potentially inform the ELCA, on this topic, were written at before or near the beginning of when this communication system became an ever-evolving part of our daily life.
The question now, is what will the church do in regards to this topic. I would say a good place to start is for the church to see the Internet, social media, blogging etc. as useful way to communicate, network and share in the life of people in the world. Some congregations and denominations do this better than others, either way we need to engage in the world via the communication systems that people are using, and fight for all to have access to the resources that have become necessities to survive in our culture and to seek employment in the workforce.