Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Geek ecclesiology (i)

Over the public holiday on Monday, I took the opportunity to start setting up the new server to host together with a few other sites. Amongst the various tasks this entailed was setting up the firewall. Setting up a firewall for a 24/7 internet server requires a lot more thought than the commercial firewalls many people run on their PCs. This is because these servers run 'services' (like HTTP, FTP, SMTP, and so on). Therefore these must be accessible to the outside world, but not to anything, otherwise there's a strong likelihood they'll get hacked.

The way this setup works is for the firewall to be set up with all its 'doors' initially closed. Then the designer gradually opens them up, by intention, one by one, in order to allow in the right kind of data through certain 'doors' (literally: ports) in the firewall. There are two kinds of doors: ones to go in, and others to go out. Both can be locked, or opened up. So all in all, this is can be quite a fiddly task, and it requires a fair bit of thought. Then the configuration has to be programmed, and that's another matter again.

This got me thinking about the way churches open doors (or keep them shut) to different kinds of people. There are a very small number of churches who keep all doors shut. I guess these are cults. But most churches have some kind of 'admission policy' to full and effective community membership, whether it be stated, or unstated. eg. No troublemakers, no lower-class, no gays, no people of the wrong colour, no liberals, no evangelicals, no children, no disabled, no uncool-dudes, no elderly, no unintelligent, and so on. This amounts to locking down the firewall to this kind of entrant.

I guess my instinct is to have a church which is completely unfirewalled - although to do this on an internet computer would be insanity. And there's the rub, because just as a firewall protects from the possible entry of a malign stream of data, so some of the church 'policies' (deliberate or not) are there in part to protect what is already inside. But against what?

There's a double challenge here: to churches which lock-out - to question why they are doing this. But also to me - is there really such a thing as an unfirewalled church? Or do all communities have some kind of firewall preventing entry to someone who might pose, for example, a danger to some of the more vulnerable members of that church? A realistic view of a church (my church, your church) has to reckon with this perhaps. And another blog post would be about how different churches should do this, once they've owned up to the fact that they do...

Lastly, my geeky thoughts wondered off over to John10:1ff: Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. I wonder what kind of an ecclesiological firewall would let Jesus in, and keep bandits out?


At 6/02/2005 3:30 AM, Anonymous Bald Man said...

A question that occurred to me, and perhaps one that will help answer yours, is this: What kind of a firewall is Jesus?

So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." (John 10:7)

At 6/03/2005 10:18 AM, Blogger Dr Moose said...

A firewall, as I understand it, is rather like the angel with the fiery sword stationed outside Eden to prevent ingress.

Maybe Jesus is the firewall that prevents us from seeing (and being scorched by) too much of the holy fire that is the fulness of God? A mediator to enable us to approach that glory in safety, and yet also to mediate that glory to us.

Just a thought.


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