Francis Gardom assesses the role of technology in the battle for orthodoxy

In her book about the Great War, 1915 – The Death of Innocence, Lyn Macdonald defines two early stages in any conflict. The first might be called the Innocent Stage and is characterised by such views as ‘It’ll all be over by Christmas (1914)’ or similar Jingoisms.

The second phase is the Bloody Stage, when it becomes more and more obvious that we have a major tragedy on our hands which is only going to be resolved at much cost and personal suffering.

The Innocent Stage is characterised by a contempt for all things technological and new-fangled – the particular example in 1914 being automatic weapons generally and the machine gun in particular; but to this might be added the aeroplane and the wireless-radio.

Experience proved that the outcome of the Bloody Stage was determined by the extent to which the combatants managed to come to terms with, and utilize, the Technology which they once disdained.

We are entering the Bloody Stage in our warfare with the powers of darkness. If you doubt this, just read this month’s Letter from America. One of the most potent weapons we possess is New Directions which is widely read by those who are on our side, defending the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ and those who, wittingly or otherwise, are rewriting that faith to make it compatible with the spirit of the age.

The production of New Directions would have been impossible without the technology of word processors, the Internet, computers, modems and fax-machines. All of us involved are self-taught – we don’t have any computer whizz-kids in our number – but we are aware of how few of our supporters are taking these weapons seriously. One hears them say ‘I’m too old/untechnical/simple to be able to use these things’. Militarists were saying the same about the tank, the aeroplane and the machine gun in 1914.

The fact is that we have an vital resource being seriously under-used. Let me outline how, by purchasing a computer (second-hand is fine), a cheap modem, and an inexpensive ink-jet printer (preferably new), you could enhance not only the quality of New Directions but produce first-rate teaching material for your parish/school/study group.

With a computer and printer you can:

produce attractive leaflets, brochures, notices, service sheets, study material -including both words and pictures at a fraction of the cost of getting someone else to do it, and with the option of making changes up to the moment of printing.

produce articles on disk which can be used by other computer owners and could be used by New Directions or published by Cost of Conscience or Forward in Faith without anyone having to retype them. The Beckwith and Burr papers which some of you received last month are examples.

receive on disc any New Directions articles which you want to publish locally without having to retype them.

open up the whole world of databases and spreadsheets for yourself which makes the production of things like parish membership lists and accounts infinitely easier.

With the addition of a modem you can:

turn your computer into a fax machine able both to receive and send faxes

access Trushare, Kingdom and other Christian Bulletin Boards which have an enormous amount of stored teaching material. Trushare has a 4000+-lines Newsletter updated at least twice every week with news of what is happening in the Church worldwide and especially in those areas where Forward in Faith is most involved.

for a fee join the Internet, enabling you to send documents instantly to other subscribers anywhere in the world, almost instantaneously, and free of charge apart from a local telephone call.

If you want to know more details of any of these things, I am glad to advise you personally. My NSM occupation is travelling around giving computer lessons to beginners.

Lyn Macdonald’s book gives an uncomfortable feeling of déjà-vu. The price paid between 1915 and 1918 for the luxury of remaining in the Innocent Stage can be seen on any local war-memorial. The consequences in 1996 of failing to arm ourselves in the present conflict with the weapons which Information Technology makes available could be just as serious in terms of the despair, isolation and accidie to which Christians, no less than soldiers, are subject!

Francis Gardom is Honorary Curate of St Stephen’s Lewisham in Southwark diocese