I happen to agree in many respects with Thomas Friedman’s conclusion in The World is Flat that globalization is indeed flattening the world. The voice at the other end of the McDonald’s drive-through could very well be in India.
An example of this flattening is the increasingly ubiquitous access to information on a global scale. The Google Book Search project is providing global access to book content on a scale never seen before. As long as I have internet access I can read or even download books scanned from the libraries around the world.
The Google Book Project provides another example, and a vivid one at that, of the flattening of the world. The amazing people over at Google frequently give the user a map showing all the geographic places named in a particular book. One particularly inquisitive programmer even took the time to have Google create a map showing all the locations mentioned in all the books in their database. Google is not letting me display the map, so view it here.
I recently read a book about Australia by Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country, in which he chronicles how little attention the world pays to Australia. I think he’s right. They hardly even show up on this map. By the way — this book was fascinating, I highly recommend it.
All of this raises a more interesting question for me, though. Will Western theology begin to take on a more global tone, increasingly addressing the issues of African or Malaysian or Siberian churches, or will those cultures continue to take on a more Western tone like the rest of their culture? In other words, how will the flattening of the world affect theological discourse? Is the world of confessional theology immune from the temptations of outsourcing? What are the dangers? What are the benefits? Your thoughts?
Postscript: Minutes after writing this post, this new acquisition crossed my desk: Bob Roberts, Jr., Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007). I have not read the book, and at first glance it appears to be primarily a practical admonition for a re-evaluation of the contemporary American way of doing missions and as such does not directly address my question. An interesting coincidence that it should cross my desk today, though.