Bringing the tangible to an increasingly intangible world

November 14th, 2017

I still buy books and CDs. Books you can touch and CDs you place in a player. My children (28 and 25) consider it almost inconceivable that I buy music in CD format and books in bound format. To them, music and books are what you download, and I’m wasting time, money and space by actually going to a store and buying something so . . . tangible.

We are quickly becoming people who no longer buy tangible goods; we buy binary codes.

In short order, we will no longer have a tactile experience with the music we listen to, the movies we watch or the books we read.

In fact, when the people of Good Shepherd lift their Bibles before the sermon these days, a lot of them raise the mobile devices on which their Bible is stored. At least I hope that’s what they’re doing with those mobile devices during church.

And an increasing number of preachers — younger, hipper, and cooler than me — are preaching from their iPads instead of their leather-bound bibles.

So what is the future of commerce when you can never touch what you buy?

And where is purchasing headed when the money you use to buy those things you’ll never touch is itself embedded in computer codes, moving from your bank account to a company’s deposit system?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too alarmed.

After all if anyone has some experience trading in what is intangible, it’s those of us who preach the gospel.

Modern commerce may be turning the tangible into the intangible.

But the ancient church has always gone in the reverse direction — taking the intangible and making it tangible.

If you’ve ever tasted the bread of Communion or been immersed in the waters of baptism, you know exactly what I mean.

Talbot Davis is pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and the author of Crash Test DummiesSolveHead Scratchers: When the Words of Jesus Don't Make SenseThe Storm Before the Calm and The Shadow of a Doubt, all from Abingdon Press.

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