Moss contrasts analog religion, digital faith



Jessica White | Staff Writer

Many Chautauquans probably identify with what the Rev. Otis Moss III calls the analog generation, yet they carry digital ideals.

They didn’t grow up in a digital age, but they practice open-source dialogue, the free flow of information and other concepts that have come with new media — especially in a place like Chautauqua.

But in many communities outside the Institution grounds, there is a clash between analog and digital generations, Moss said, particularly when it comes to faith. He will discuss that discord between digital faith and analog religion at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy.

“Analog religion does not want to shift or change; it wants to keep its historical perspective and methodologies,” he said. “Whereas your digital communities are open to a variety of ways of engaging their faith.”

“Everyone has to be a winner and not necessarily a dialogue partner.”

— the Rev. Otis Moss III

Analog and digital are both literal and metaphorical terms, with younger generations picking up new, physical technologies but also digital ideals of mass communication, frequent improvement and shifting identity. Analog religious communities are not what Moss calls “open source.” They are not open to be questioned or challenged, and they are not looking for new ideas. Digital communities are looking for conversation.

“Where analog faith is very centered on the answer, the only answer, digital people are looking for others who are simply willing to engage the question,” he said.

The United States’ political culture also adds to the problem, Moss said, because the culture is analog but uses digital methodology. Politics say there is only one right answer, and politics and religion often mirror each other in that way.

“Everyone has to be a winner and not necessarily a dialogue partner,” he said. “But democracy demands a dialogue partner, and my argument is that digital faith connects deeply to democratic ideals.”

Moss is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has also been pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, and membership grew from 125 to more than 2,100 people while he was there. He has preached at Chautauqua several times, even beside his father, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr.

Beliefnet says Moss is one of “20 to Watch” ministers changing the future of the African-American church.

The digital age has greatly enhanced his own faith tradition, Moss said, because it have given him the ability to mobilize via the Web and communicate with thousands of others.

“People who never had a voice can now share their voice with the world,” he said.