Busy reading the host’s high recommendation, “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech” when on page 147 (Kindle edition) I ran across this gem of a paragraph:
The problem isn’t just the media’s dependence on Silicon Valley companies. It’s the dependence on Silicon Valley values. Just like tech companies, journalism has come to fetishize data. And this data has come to corrupt journalism. Reporters and their bosses can assert otherwise. They can pretend to rise above the information, to selectively ignore the numbers and continue the relentless pursuit of higher truths and nobler interests. But data is a Pandora’s box. Once journalists come to know what works, which stories yield traffic, they will pursue what works. This is the definition of pandering and it has horrific consequences.
I had to stop a minute and ingest that carefully. Then something clicked in my mind and I rewrote the paragraph a bit – “The problem isn’t just the church’s dependence on church growth consultants, but the dependence on business-like values. Just like any business, church has come to fetishize growth. And this growth has come to corrupt the church. Sure, teachers, preachers and elders can pretend things have not changed that much and that they continue to pursue character and higher values, under-girded by the Holy Spirit. But the focus on growth is a Pandora’s box. Once teachers, preachers and elders know what works, what produces growth, they will pursue what produces growth. This is the definition of pandering and it has horrific consequences.”
I am sure a similar paragraph could be written about our educational institutions as well.
Corruption never really comes in the darkness. It comes in the light and disguises itself as benefit. That’s because corruption is not something apart from us, it is something within us. The desire for internet traffic or church growth is not corruption, the corruption is our willingness to form our values around those things. The answer is that we need to be so deeply steeped in our values that we can resist the temptation to shift them.
Practically, we need to spend as much, or more, time on monitoring ourselves as we do our institutions. We need to place ourselves in places of accountability – not concerning the health of our institutions, but concerning our own personal character and spiritual health. We need to fill our minds not just with the latest study – but with things of beauty, things of lasting import, and things of God.