The Map Is Not The Territory

I’m tired of the Adventist church’s aversion to change.

It reminds me of an applicable quip from the final Presidential debate of 2012: “You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.”

It applies because the church thinks of itself as having a role to play in a universal conflict controversy, doesn’t it?

Obviously, the nature of Adventism’s spiritual artillery hasn’t changed much recently. I’m not talking about the message. I’m talking about the methods. The church keeps showing up at a drone fight with armed with a sword; it’s stockpiling hand grenades for a cyber war.

I know there are those in the church who want to continue going through the same old motions but the world is no longer the same old place.

In 1569, German cartographer Gerardus Mercator designed what is known as the Mercator Projection Map as a navigational tool for European sailors. The crazy thing about this map is that it distorted areas of the poles to create straight lines of constant bearing. Long story short it made it easier to cross the ocean.

In 2012 Ethan Marcotte gave an interesting talk called The Map Is Not The Territory. Designer Frank Chimero distills what he took away from the presentation like this:

“Maps are abstractions that [distort] reality into something presentable, something understandable. But an abstraction can only give you one facet of a complex reality. Things get bad when those abstractions become the terms your mind uses to consider the thing itself—you mistake the map as the territory. And it’s funny how those maps begin to mold your understanding of the world around you.”

He goes on to say that if he asked you to picture the a map of the world you would probably envision North and South America to the left of Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. But who is to say that North and South America aren’t to the right of the other continents? Someone—somewhere and at some time—settled upon a point of reference which became widely adopted.

Referring back to the Mercator Projection Map, Ethan mentions that the accuracy of the sea came at the cost of the land. He realized that map’s can be biased and serve a specific need for a specific group of people. He realized that they can even misinform and confuse those with different needs.

Today’s youth live in a very different world than that of their parents. Adventism’s traditional maps aren’t particularly useful when it comes to navigating modern waters.

The de facto maps (methods, strategies, traditions, etc.) that are sanctioned by the General Conference, various Divisions, Conferences, churches and schools and various ministries (and “ministries”) are biased. They are largely reverse-ageist. Many are outright outdated.

What are we doing? How can Adventists navigate the modern world, how can we help others navigate the modern world, especially in light of the second coming, if we’re using outdated maps?!

Can the excuses.

We’ve got a mission to complete. Let’s get serious about it. I’m talking to you Millennials. I’m talking to you Gen Z. You don’t need anyone’s permission to serve God to the best of your abilities.

You’ve already mapped out your beliefs. Those aren’t going to change. Now map out how to put them into action.

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