Friday, October 8, 2010

Vaporware and FUD

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy (which I am), I must admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by a slew of potential products that all promise to beat Apple’s iPad (see here, for example).

Now, I’m not saying that some of these products might actually work, and they might actually work better than the iPad, but before you rush out to buy one (and give Steve Jobs the finger), consider this – you can’t. That’s because they don’t exist. Not yet. They’re vaporware. They’re in development, due for release some time in late whatever.

So, why would producers of consumer goods go to all this hoo-ha about promoting something that doesn’t (and sadly, in most cases I suspect, will never) exist? Partly, the reason has got to do with a sincere effort to produce something that can compete with someone else’s hugely popular thingo. Partly, as one observer wryly put it, it’s all about FUD (that’s fear, uncertainty, doubt). In other words, if Google can get a rumor going that it’s about to launch an iSlate, it might delay a consumer’s choice to buy an iPad, and thus prevent a defection to the opposition.

The moral of this story is that if you put enough FUD out there, you’ll immobilize people who might want to explore something new and they’ll stay at home (with you).

Strangely, this is the story of the Christian Gospel.

No, I’m not saying that the Christian Church is generating all the FUD I see today. It might have done in the past, when the Church had a significant role in western culture, but not today when it has been marginalized and largely discredited. Today, it’s the turn of the forces of modernism and popular culture to throw the FUD at the Christian Gospel and the Church that promotes it.

If my recent TV watching is anything to go by, you can’t get a person with profoundly religious convictions unless he or she is a murderous psychopath. I honestly cannot recall the last time the Bible was quoted on TV fiction unless it was in the context of someone doing something that was unspeakably evil. Add that to the urban myths/infomercials (sorry, documentaries) that are peddled about how unreliable the Bible is and the picture that emerges is that you shouldn’t touch it if you don’t want to get infected with the green death. I get the feeling that TV producers actually fear the Bible because it seems to make people do bad things. It has become the root of all evil (see 1 Tim 6:10, and note the irony).

Of course, my experience, and the experience of my Bible-reading colleagues, is the polar opposite. That’s not an argument to say that everything that anyone has done in obedience to the Bible has been good (and I include myself in this category). But it is an argument against the assertion that everything that the Bible inspires is evil. There’s something more nuanced here than the presence or otherwise of the Bible in a person’s decision-making.

Could it be that people can and do interpret what they receive (from the Bible or other sources) and they often get it wrong? In other words, it’s not simply a question of what is transmitted, it involves the reception as well. Here is my starting point for the old-fashioned notion of original sin and total depravity.

So, what’s our response? Do we throw up counter-FUD to scare people into Church?


(Even if the resulting message is less entertaining)

The antidote to fear-uncertainty-doubt is not more fear-uncertainty-doubt or even, Heaven forbid, religious or anti-religious vaporware.

The antidote is actually the Light of the World (John 8:12), which the People of God has been called to hold up for the benefit of all (Matt 5:14). In one sense, this makes the Christian’s job easy – we are to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). In another, this makes the job hard – what does it mean to live as one who bears the light of the world? I guess you’ll have to read the rest of the Bible to figure that out.

Don’t be afraid. Ignore the FUD. It won’t kill you.

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