Influencers of Spiritual Formation (6)
Globalisation and Glocalisation
The effects of globalization and glocalisation a powerful effect on the Malaysian church. Malaysia, as one of the economic Tigers is deeply involved in world trade. The technological advances in telecommunications and the Internet have created a smaller interconnected world. Malaysia is a member of the World Trade Organisation which means open borders for trade and professional services. Whether we like it or not, Malaysia is involved in the globalisation process. While there is no agreed definition of globalisation, globalisation is often understood to have the following characteristics: increasing speed in communication, the interconnected world become smaller, the blurring of national borders, reciprocity, manageable risk, and presence of trust (Beyon and Dunkerley 2000, 5-6).
The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir advises, “The challenge for Asia is not how to manage the present concept of globalisation but to make it work and to benefit from it. The challenge for Asia is to influence the thinking on globalisation, to reshape it, to reduce the chances of it going awry and in the process destroying economies and countries.” (Mohamad 2002, 16). The Malaysian church is should also take this advice to heart. The church should take up the challenges of globalisation and reshape it for the Kingdom of God.
There are many challenges of globalisation that provides the context that influences the societal corporate spiritual formation. This is the null curriculum of globalisation. Michael Warren, professor of religious education in the department of Theology at St. John’s University in Jamaica mentions three: “culture in the formation of perception, language in the formation of thought and hegemony in the formation of consciousness.” (Warren 1987). This highlights the insidious influence of globalisation. In this discussion, I shall limit it to two: McDonaldisation and Disneyisation.
Mark Chan, resident theologian for Eagles Communications, Singapore comments, “A Mcdonaldized ethos is marked by the dictates of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control does not value individuality, creativity, deliberation or attention to details. It is speed, proficiency, and the attainment of objectified goals that count.” (Chan 2002, 120). The characteristics of McDonaldization is derived from the working of the fast food chain; efficiency means simplified products, calculability means quantifiable products and services, predictability means standardisation of product and services, and control means replacement of human by technology.
McDonaldisation has arrived on our shores and even in our churches. In the name of efficiency, we have begun to simplify our sermons and church services. Some people call it “dumbing down”(Dawn 1995). Important facts are delivered in short sound bites. We have begun to play the number games in marking church attendance and giving. That is calculability. Predictability means standardising our church programs so that it is easily reproducible and by control, we look towards technology to solve our church problems. That’s why imported packaged education program produced by a megachurch in the United States is so attractive because it has been McDonaldised.
Disneyisation is the worldwide control of the arts, entertainment, media so that a particular worldview, values and filtered knowledge are disseminated. It exports escapism, American culture, products, and a delusion that happiness can be bought. Disneyisation has united the world into one culture that regards human beings as consumers. Christians are taught to be consumers of church services and other spiritual things rather than to be involved as participants. Through the media, arts, movies, and music, we are exposed to a delusion of a worldly worldview. The consumer worldview worship Mammon as god.
There is some similarity in Mark Chan’s disneyization and Tom Sine’s McWorld. Tom Sine notes that “McWorld is driven by aspirations and values of modernity and is aggressively at work creating a one-world consumer culture in which shopping mall is replacing the church as the centre of religious devotion, and all of life is reduced to a commodity.” (Sine 1999, 52). Both Chan and Sine discern that consumerism will be a major influence on Christians in the 21st century.
John Carpenter, former lecturer at Singapore Bible College thinks that Chinese Christians will be at greater risk,
“Confucianism has a “legalistic” wing that provides strong virtues than can help Asian societies economically progress just as Calvinism helped parts of Western society progress. Unfortunately, it also has a soft, humanistic wing that assumes “man is the measure of all things.” One wing encourages capitalism. The other wing will, by emphasizing the goodness of human nature, encourage consumerism. If Christians in Asia are going to confront consumerism, they will have to uproot all such tendencies to human-centered religion and ideology.” (Carpenter 2002,109).
Edmund Chan, a pastor in Singapore sums up the challenge of globalisation to the church into three crises; that of identity, of truth, and of authority (Chan 2002). In this globalised interconnected world, it is easy to lose our self identity and take on the identity of the world culture. In consumerism and pragmatism, it is not what is true but what work counts. Hence, there is a tendency to redefine the biblical teaching in terms of efficiency and functionality. In the increasing tendency towards individualism and self-development, there is loss of the understanding of authority, both within and without the church.
Spiritual formation should focus on helping Asian Christians to uproot the materialistic and pragmatic nature of their culture and society.
Beyon, J. and D. Dunkerley, Eds. (2000). Globalization-The Reader. London, The Athlone Press.
Carpenter, J. B. (2002). Costly Discipleship in an Age of Consumerism. Truth to Proclaim: The Gospel in Church & Society. S. Chan. Singapore, Trinity Theological College: 95-114.
Chan, E. (2002). Globalisation and the Church- A Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation: Towards a Biblical Response. T. S. Chee and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 54-59.
Dawn, M. J. (1995). Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Friedman, T. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London, The Penguin Group.
L.Y.Chan, M. (2002). The Cross Between the Golden Arches and Mickey Mouse: Discipleship in an Age of McDonaldization and Disneyization. Truth to Proclaim: The Gospel in Church & Society. S. Chan. Singapore, Trinity Theological College: 115-136.
Lim, H. M. (2002). Globalisation and the Economy- A System Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Toward a Biblical Response. S. C. Tong and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 128-163.
Mohamad, M. (2002). Globalisation and the Real Realities. Kuala Lumpur, Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd.
Sine, T. (1999). Mustard Seed versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.
Tong, S. C. and A. Wong, Eds. (2002). The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Towards a Biblical Response. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship.
Warren, M. (1987). "Religious Formation in the Context of Social Formation." Religious Education 82(4 Fall): 515-528.
 Thomas Friedman noted that globalization occurs in three eras: globalization 1.0 (1492-1800) is when the world shrunk from large to medium and is due to countries expanding their empires, globalization 2.0 (1800-2000) when the world shrunk from medium to small due to the influence of multinational companies and we are now in globalization 3.0 where individuals anywhere in the world is empowered and that the world is now “flat”. Friedman, T. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalized World in the 21st Century. London, The Penguin Group. p. 9-11. A “flattened” world that empower individual should be a boon to world evangelism. However, not all contributors who are Christians who contributed to, Tong, S. C. and A. Wong, Eds. (2002). The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Towards a Biblical Response. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship. , response with a positive attitude.
However Lim Hua Min’s comment is telling. Lim is a financial consultant. He writes, “It may be best to view the world in a developmental process in an ascending spiral like a spring. History unfolds this development spiral with its multitude of technology inventions which in turn affect the way society is organized. Ideas are created in response to societal needs. We move from an Agricultural Age to an Industrial Age and now to an Information Age.” Lim, H. M. (2002). Globalisation and the Economy- A System Response. The Challenge and Impact of Globalisation-Toward a Biblical Response. S. C. Tong and A. Wong. Singapore, Graduates' Christian Fellowship: 128-163. p.161 This should be an appropriate response as each age or era offers its opportunity for service in the expansion of the kingdom of God.