Sacred Cows, Ideas and Innovation
Who invented the smartphone? Well, certainly Alexander Graham Bell and Antonio Meucci and Edison and Tesla had something to do with it. And the folks at Fairchild. And Palm and Cisco and General Magic and countless others.
When we insist on waiting until it’s done before we share it, we walk away from the most important component of innovation.
Innovative ideas begin to shape future reality before the innovation is even fully developed.
Innovation is not limited to smartphones, the internet, or technology. Ideas like hospitals, orphanages, and liberty were innovations. Just as ideas like Critical Race Theory, postmodernism, queer theory, and trans-humanism were innovations. Ideas beget ideas and those ideas shape reality for good or ill.
Ideas are never stagnant. Once shared, they circulate and diffuse through groups of people. Before those ideas are even fully developed, they begin to mold the social imagination and sentiments. We live in a world structured around ideas. We often refer to it as ‘culture.’
Our cultural moment is shaped by innovative ideas and forces that began decades ago. Contrary to popular belief, not all innovations are good or beneficial. Innovative ideas emerge from the worldview of the person who conceived them. As an idea flows from the academy down through music, arts, media, elite circles, and politics, that idea carries with it a worldview (a belief about reality and how we behave based on that belief). The question is whether or not the worldview embedded in an idea is good or not – true or not.
We must ask questions:
“If I believe this idea, what is the result?”
“Where does this idea lead if taken to its logical conclusion?”
“Does this idea lead to human flourishing for everyone or just some?”
“Does this idea potentially harm people?”
For instance, women living in most Islamic cultures do not have the same rights as men. At some point, when faced with the innovation of the car, some Islamic clerics responded by putting forth the idea that women should not be allowed to drive. The result is that in a few (not all) Muslim majority societies, women are forbidden from driving or heavily restricted. This creates the conditions where females are dependent on males for transportation. Thus, limiting mobility and ultimately, freedom (of women).
Another example can be observed in predominantly Hindu cultures like India. The cow is sacred to most practicing Hindus in India. Cows cannot be killed or harmed in Hindu cultures. Due to the caste system, the population is segregated. The upper castes are forbidden from associating with the lowest caste (referred to as the ‘untouchables’). This creates the conditions of zero socioeconomic upward mobility for lower classes. They are stuck. When people are stuck, they are trapped in perpetual poverty – many are starving.
What does this have to do with sacred cows?
Since cattle cannot be killed or harmed in Hindu cultures, it means they cannot be used for food. India could feed its starving people beef but the idea that cattle cannot be killed prevents that from occurring. The result is malnutrition and mass starvation that could be prevented. Imagine 1200 lbs. of beef walking down the middle of the street crowded with starving people.
Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims. The idea of forbidding people to consume what God created for food is a bad idea. People die. Sacred Cows make good hamburger meat and maybe its time to innovate with the idea to feed the starving people of India beef.
The Thinking Christian must possess a biblical foundation and the cultural intelligence to understand that ideas capture the imagination prior to being fully adopted and acted upon. We need to understand that innovation is not limited to technologies. Ideas are innovations as well. I’d argue that ideas are far more powerful than technological innovations.
We must recover a biblical vision of total reality, objective truth, and innovate against the bad ideas that harm people and God’s world. By simply sharing innovative ideas about that which is good, true and beautiful, we are actually shaping the future for God’s glory.
We would do well to develop a theology of innovation – beginning with “In the beginning God created…”
The Gospel of the Kingdom proclamation that Christ is risen and is currently ruling and reigning over ALL things, and that He will restore ALL things is the most powerful innovation ever. Let’s begin innovating with the truth – there’s an idea worth sharing.