Watching and Being Watched

With the ongoing public debate about Edward Snowden, the NSA leaks, and the role of surveillance in our society, I wanted to share (without necessarily always endorsing) an interesting perspective from Dr. Eric Stoddart, a Lecturer in Practical Theology at the University of St. Andrews, and author of the recently-published  Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance Society: Watching and Being Watched.  A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to interview him for the magazine I was then editing, Fermentations .  Here is the abridged version of the interview:

BL: Can you give me an outline of the argument that you’ll be making in the book?

ES: I start from the point that surveillance is now ubiquitous, in the sense that it is really our primary response to negotiating social relations in a world of networked strangers. And I want to challenge the current paradigms of surveillance that tend to see it so predominantly as an issue of control, and instead to take a different starting point: of surveillance as care—to take that theologically from the standpoint that God watches over us (Psalm 139), and to see that as our beginning place for thinking about how surveillance is a way that we can practice care. However, more fundamentally care becomes a critical hermeneutic for tackling issues of surveillance—care that is understood not simply within that domain of healthcare, childcare, or nurturing, but care that is a clearly political concept, that takes us into realms of challenging the narratives of our society; the social structures that inhibit and encourage the flourishing of human relationships. The theological angle is that we don’t start from the idea that God watches over us in surveillant care. We pray this, in the liturgy, but we don’t commence with our acknowledgment of God knowing all about us and from whom no secrets are hidden. We start the liturgy with our recognition of the prevenient love and grace of God.  We seek and receive absolution and then pray the “collect for purity’ (which I call ‘the surveillance prayer’).  I want to say that it’s actually not the omnipotent, all-powerful God who is our starting-point for surveillance, even as care—it’s the crucified God, where we start, and that crucified God is our theological hermeneutic, for asking questions about how surveillance helps and hinders care, relationships, social structure.

BL: What would you say to the objection that surveillance technology is our society’s attempt to play God—on the one hand, a desire on the part of some to exercise control over our lives; on the other hand, a desire on the part of the rest of us to be safe and secure via surveillance, rather than relying on God for that?

ES: I think this is where we have to start asking very serious questions about the type of society that we live in and the theological expectations that we have. I think it’s not at all appropriate to frame this as “Do we trust in God for protection, or do we trust in the technology?” I think it’s a completely false comparison. We wear seatbelts in cars. We don’t trust in God? We have brakes on cars; we have regular checks on vehicles. Is that somehow not relying on God? Let’s take it into the typical arena where this becomes an issue: surveillance in the face of terrorist threats. I think we have to grasp the nettle and say that it is not a question of trusting God to stop a terrorist attack. Maybe there are terrorist attacks that God has stopped, but there are certainly terrorist attacks that God has not stopped, and we all know it and could list off the dates and times. And I think there’s a false dichotomy placed there. We could think of surveillance technologies as God’s way for us to keep safer.

On the other hand, we have an obsession with being safe, and this is where surveillance reflects back on who we are. Part of the theological critique is to say, “How do we think about risk, about danger? How do we understand the world that we’re in?” This is not a world that is as predictable as those who calculate risk factors might believe it to be. Part of the theological task in my book is to question our reliance as Christians on the idea of risk, that somehow we can weigh up and balance and say, “On balance of probability, X is going to happen, or Y is going to happen, or not happen,” and somehow then navigate our lives through that. I think that’s profoundly atheistic, and the response is not a naïve rushing back to trust God, but a recognition that actually we need to be able to create communities that can handle risk, that can handle suffering. This is not as it were to retreat into the long grass with our theodicies and our explanations that somehow or other it will all come out right in the wash, but to assume that there is going to be a catastrophic terrorist attack again somewhere and God is not going to stop it. Christians can too readily either be frightened or turn to military response, revenge. What we should be looking at is building communities that can handle all types of risk—theodic communities (as Stanley Hauerwas and John Swinton call them)—communities where people learn how to live in a world that is dangerous, but with the right sort of fear, not the wrong sort of fear.

BL: Could you sum up for us what aspects of society’s attitudes toward surveillance you are wanting to challenge in your book?

ES: I think there are probably three. There’s the nonchalance, just not seeing it as a problem: the standard “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear,” as if somehow or other that makes surveillance okay. I think that has to be challenged in society, because it’s a very naïve response.

There’s also the self-centeredness, which is a major issue. In that I mean the self-centeredness that ignores the disproportionate effects of surveillance. So yes, you and I may be hindered slightly going through airport security, and we may have a lot of benefits, because we can swipe our credit cards getting money out of the ATM round the corner—we’re not particularly disadvantaged because of the social class, the economic group that we’re in, and the culture that we’re in. But we are very self-centered as a society, and we ignore the damaging effects of surveillance. There are groups who are disproportionately affected, and we just don’t take that on board in our naïve acceptance of surveillance.

And the third is that over-enthusiasm or over-trust that’s either overly negative because people have read Orwell’s 1984, or overly enthusiastic because they watch programs like BBC’s Spooks, which is a drama, entertainment series about the intelligence services—incredibly popular in the UK—and there the geek can sit in their London HQ and in a second’s notice call up every CCTV camera in the country on his screen. And people think that that’s what real operators can do! They forget that it’s entertainment. And that again creates a false sense of expectations.

BL: And among Christians particularly, what attitudes toward surveillance are you challenging?

ES: In addition to those three—because I think Christians need to be challenged on those as well—I think there’s a great issue about Christians being suspicious and frightened, suspicious and frightened of the other; and that is heightened by Christians’ endorsement of surveillance. It may be heightened by Christians’ readiness to use surveillance, perhaps on the church premises. Now, setting aside issues of the very proper checking and monitoring of those who are going to be working with children or vulnerable adults—let’s take that for granted and set that aside—the idea that nobody can be trusted anymore, that pastors need to be accountable for their use of the internet, using software in some cases for that. Where does that start breaching professional responsibility, and trust? We’re not at the stage where every pastor has to submit his or her weblog, for where they’ve surfed. But there are software packages being sold specifically to Christians as accountability tools. What is that going to do to relationships of trust? It may seem a good thing in the short term, but is it a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and what is actually going on there?

I think the other issue is this idea that we’ve touched on about risk and danger, and a naïve trust in God, that somehow or other we have two responses. We trust in God and make preparations, yes, but we sort of turn a blind eye to surveillance. I think it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who talked about having others get dirty hands—and there’s a grave danger, I think in Christian circles, that we turn a blind eye to surveillance, because we know that it’s messy and its murky but we want it, we want it for the safety of our children and our families and our communities, but we don’t want to ask too many questions. We want others (the security services, other public officials) to get dirty hands doing the surveillance that we wouldn’t actually like to be associated with as citizens. I think that is more problematic than the naïve idea that somehow or other God is going to stop a terrorist attack. I think that has to be abandoned in order that we can have greater faith and greater trust in handling the aftermath in a Christian manner.
BL: Some people want to say that we must sharply distinguish between a technology, which is neutral, and the uses we decide to make of those technologies, which may be good or evil. Clearly, there is something to this distinction, but others challenge it as ignoring the fact that technologies always have certain purposes and uses in mind when they are developed, or certain side-effects that should have been foreseen. What do you think?

ES: I think we make a mistake when we talk about technologies doing this or technologies doing that, because technologies are developed by people, technologies are deployed by people, their deployment is authorized by people, it’s legitimated. The choices we make about how technology is designed, those are made by people. And I think that we need to see ourselves much more from within a technological paradigm, instead of seeing technology as something external to us. That is—we are part of a technological system. Suchman talks about the “politics of the code,” meaning that, right down to the level of software coding, there are political issues. When someone designs a database, for example, the data fields that they create and that are going to be populated with data, the connections that they’re going to make between them; those are political decisions. And if we see technology as something outside us, that does things, we absolve ourselves, both as people who write the software code, or those who buy it for our companies, or as public officials.

We need to own the technology in a much better way, and in that sense, it’s not a question of technology being used for X purpose or Y purpose or whatever is intended. That is important, but I think that technology contains opportunities for reform from within it. Opportunities for, you might say, democratizing technology—not standing back from it, trying to resist and push it away, or creating alternative spaces that are non-technological. Instead, to acknowledge that we inhabit that technological world and to see it as a place where we can have influence, through our politicians, through our own actions, as software designers, as educators, as politicians ourselves, over not just what technology is used for, but how technology is designed. This can include asking why it’s designed in a particular way or what intentions there are right at the point where there are aesthetic decisions about it. It is there that we can find ethical decisions, right at the level of actual hardware design. I think we can be much more hopeful—but not necessarily overly so—for reform from within the technological paradigm.
BL: What are mistakes Christians make in thinking about technology?

ES: I think, if you want to boil it down to the mistake that Christians make about technology, it’s that Christians have never really come to terms with a technological world. Deep down, if you scrape off all the surface, most Christians, I suspect, would actually like to live in a pre-technological village society, where everyone knows everyone else—something not unlike the Waltons, but without the poverty. Christians have not really recognized that we are actually living in a world where we have to communicate across distance, that we have in some sense collapsed time and space with computer-mediated communication.

But it’s even more profound than that: Christians tend to see the individual relationships, the face-to-face encounters that Jesus had with the people in Galilee, as not simply paradigmatic of how people are to relate, but as actually the only real way of relating. They almost fossilize the cultural dynamics of Jesus’ day and equate that with what the Incarnation is really about. The Incarnation, from such a perspective, has to be about embodied face-to-face relationships and anything else is somehow not so good or it’s a compromise. The mistake is to be unable to grasp technology, to be unable to say that we are actually technological people, that we are embedded in a technological world. Even in Jesus’ day, they were partly technologized: they built boats, they sailed, they had wheelbarrows, they had chariots, they had technology. As a carpenter, he was using technology. Somehow that gets forgotten by Christians in this romantic longing for unmediated relationships. I think that is profoundly sad because it does mean that Christians start from the place of being suspicious and frightened of technology. If you switch the perspective and say that this is a world that has technology, that we are part of a technological social system, you then ask how can we become who we are more effectively, more faithfully—not in spite of, but through that technology? Not idolizing it, not failing to see its real challenges and problems, but taking a critical stance.

BL: Just there you talked about the danger of idealizing this notion of personal face-to-face relationships; but earlier you’d seemed to suggest that one of the problems with surveillance technology was relying on it instead of personal relationships and trust.

ES: Yes, I think that part of the difficulty is that we’re in a world where our first response to having to relate to strangers in a networked world is to go to surveillance. And I think that yes, in terms of having to gather information about the stranger, trying to understand, trying to categorize, I think there’s all legitimate elements of that. But I think that if it’s our first and only response, we lose out on something. It’s surveillance tied in with those issues of fear, and surveillance tied in with a misunderstanding of risk. I think that if we recognize in our society that yes, we have to deal with strangers, we have to exchange tokens with strangers, do we have to always have so much surveillance in order to do that? Can we afford to cut back on some of the surveillance, and still relate to strangers? By using money, coins, notes, that’s a form of technology, and it’s a token of trust between strangers, but that doesn’t define our entire relationship with strangers. And the problem with surveillance is that, because it is ubiquitous, it tends to dominate, and our only way to think about one another is to think in terms of the stranger as a threat, the stranger is someone to be feared. That’s our starting point, so I think that in that way, we can still make some use of surveillance—we have to—but is it the only paradigm?

BL: In this book and much of your other work, you are engaging with issues affecting all of society, a society that is largely non-Christian. What do you see as the role of your Christian faith in engaging this context?

ES: I take my starting point from the fact that most people who are Christians spend most of their time in professional occupations, in family life, in meeting with their neighbors, and a tiny proportion of their time in church as we traditionally know it. But we seem to devote such a ridiculously disproportionate amount of time to the activities of church, in terms of our scholarly activity, in terms of our considerations and thought.

Now I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be narrative communities that maintain the story and teach people. But part of this is an obsession with Word and the teaching ministry. Are we really enabling people with the tools, with the critical thinking, with the theological awareness, that they can then deploy when they are, for example, serving coffee in a coffee shop and making decisions about how they are going to treat people?

We often can reduce it to: how are you going to think about being kind? Now, that’s not unimportant. But what about the person who is involved as a professional software designer? How do we help them to think theologically about what they’re doing? What about a person who is buying an IT system for their company? How are they as a Christian going to think theologically through the issues? Where are the resources coming from for that?

And that’s why I think that most of what I want to do is giving tools, critical ideas, funding the imagination of people who are Christian and who are not otherwise being helped to think critically about what they are doing in the wider world. That’s whether it’s as a politician, as a public official, as a cleaner, as a bus driver. It’s about the points where they have decisions to make, not just about how nice or kind they are to people, but, depending on the profession, certain really quite strategic points of influence. How can they think critically about it—not to impose their view on others, but to take up that responsibility.

So I think that the role of a practical theologian in this way is to offer people theological tools for where they spend most of their life.

The Modern Sacrament of Freedom

Having recently written on the god-like aspirations of contemporary technological development in relation to the problem of GM food, I was struck by Richard Bauckham’s critique of a far more prosaic manifestation of the same temptation—the car.  In chapter 2 of his wonderful God and the Crisis of Freedom, he has this to say about that infernal contraption:

“The modern dream of freeing humanity to be whatever we choose to be by transcending all limits has, of course, produced the ecological crisis.  This has exposed the myth as a dangerous fantasy.  The attempt to transcend all limits has brought us up against the undeniable finitude of the creation to which we belong.  We cannot reject limits without destroying the creation on which we depend.  We cannot make ourselves gods, independent of the rest of nature, supreme over it, molding it into whatever future we choose.  But the habit of trying is not easy to break.  Modern humanity is addicted to the freedom that rejects all limits.

There is no more pervasive symbol of this freedom and its destructive futility than the car.  Cars are the modern sacrament of freedom; they symbolize it and promise actually to give it.  We can glimpse the kind of freedom they promise in the typical television advertisement: an individual driving through open countryside, mountain ranges, and deserts with the widest possible horizons.  Some also navigate through picturesquely narrow streets.  Cars offer individuals the freedom to go wherever they wish, whenever they like, as fast as possible.  They give independence, freedom to be entirely one’s own master, not dependent on others, not even accompanied by others.  They suggest the freedom of escape from any situation and of new opportunities and experiences always to be found along a new road.  They give the feeling of control over one’s destiny.  This is why most car owners cannot imagine living without one.  But, as always, this kind of freedom restricts the freedom of others.  The more people have cars, the more difficult life becomes for those who cannot afford them or are too old or too young to drive; public transport decays, and shops and community facilities are no longer within walking distances.  But the more people have cars, the less the car owners themselves enjoy the freedom they value.  Commuters spend highly stressful hours in bumper-to-bumper, slow moving traffic.  Motorways become car parks.  Roads destroy the countryside the car owner wants the freedom to enjoy at the weekends.  Moreover, since car ownership has become common, cities and most aspects of life in cities have developed in such a way that normal life requires constant long journeys.  The freedom to travel has incurred the necessity to travel.  Again typically of this kind of freedom, cars increase personal independence at the expense of the community.   Many a vast residential area is for many residents no more than a place through which they drive on the way from their houses to other destinations.”

A Snapshot of America

More than ever today, we hear handwringing among the press, politicians, and pollsters, about how America is “headed in the wrong direction,” and eager finger-pointing over who is to blame.  Naturally, we assume that it is our politicians (especially the ones on the other side of the aisle, of course) who are responsible for the general national malaise.  But how much of it, I can’t help but wonder, is due simply to the steady inebriation of our senses with electronic media, and abandonment of reading?  One doesn’t have to be a Luddite to be sobered by the following statistics (taken from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows):

1150: minutes per week that the average American young adult spends online (on a computer)

49: minutes per week that the average American young adult spends reading any form of print publication.  

2,272: number of texts per month the average American teen sends (that’s 75 per day)

153: hours per month the average American spends in front of the TV (still rising despite increased internet usage)

Unsurprisingly, Americans outstrip Europeans by a long shot, spending 50% more time surfing the Net and three times as much time in front of the TV. 

(These figures are all from 2009, I should add, and are most likely considerably worse now, as they had been getting worse at a rapid pace through 2009.)

And consider that, as of 2006, 42% of those watching over 35 hours of TV programming a week (the national average) also used the Net for over 30 hours a week, for a total of over 65 hours per week, nearly 2/3 of their waking hours.  



An intriguing passage from the fascinating (and deeply troubling) book Merchants of Doubt, about which much more soon to come:

“Cornucopians hold to a blind faith in technology that isn’t borne out by the historical evidence.  We call it ‘technofideism.’

Why do they hold this belief when history shows it to be untrue? Again we turn to Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, where he claimed that “the great advances of civilization, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.” To historians of technology, this would be laughable had it not been written (five years after Sputnik) by one of the most influential economists of the second half of the twentieth century. 

The most important technology of the industrial age was the ability to produce parts that were perfectly identical and interchangeable. Blacksmiths and carpenters couldn’t do it; in fact, humans can’t do it routinely in any profession. Only machines can. It was the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department that developed this ability to have machines make parts for other machines, spending nearly fifty years on this effort—an inconceivable period of research for a private corporation in the nineteenth century. Army Ordnance wanted guns that could be repaired easily on or near a battlefield by switching out the parts. Once the basic technology to do this—machine tools, as we know them today—was invented, it spread rapidly through the American economy. Despite efforts to prevent it, it soon spread to Europe and Japan, as well. Markets spread the technology of machine tools throughout the world, but markets did not create it. Centralized government, in the form of the U.S. Army, was the inventor of the modern machine age.

Machine tools are not the exception that proves the rule; there are many other cases of government-financed technology that were commercialized and redounded to the benefit of society. Even while Friedman was writing his soon-to-be-famous book, digital computers were beginning to find uses beyond the U.S. government’s weapons systems, for which they were originally developed. Private enterprise transformed that technology into something that could be used and afforded by the masses, but the U.S. government made it possible in the first place. The U.S. government also played a major role in the development of Silicon Valley. In recent years, something we now all depend on—the Internet, originally ARPANET—was developed as a complex collaboration of universities, government agencies, and industry, funded largely by the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was expanded and developed into the Internet by the government support provided by the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, promoted by then-senator Al Gore.

In other cases, new technologies were invented by individual or corporate entrepreneurs, but it was government action or support that transformed them into commercially viable technologies; airplanes and transistors come to mind. (Transistors were explicitly promoted by the U.S. government when they realized that Minutemen missiles needed onboard rather than remote controls, and vacuum tubes would not suffice.) Still other technologies were invented by individuals but were spread through government policy. Electricity was extended beyond the major cities by a federal loan-guarantee program during the Great Depression. The U.S. interstate highway system, which arguably created postwar America as we know it, was the brainchild of President Dwight Eisenhower, who recognized the role it could play both in the U.S. economy and in national defense; it became the model for similar highway systems around the globe. And nuclear power, which may help us out of the global warming conundrum, was a by-product of the technology that launched the Cold War: the atomic bomb. The relationship between technology, innovation, and economic and political systems is varied and complex. It cannot be reduced to a simple article of faith about the virtues of a free market.” 

(Anti)-Social Media and the Pastor

(This is the first of what I hope will be a somewhat informal series of reflections over the next few weeks on the promise and pitfalls of social media.) 

Mark Driscoll has in the past couple years gained a great many enemies (and, I expect, made few worthwhile friends) by his unguarded use of social media as an extension of his ministry; while he may have done much good at the same time (I don’t know), the nature of the medium is that the mistakes get magnified.  From several thousand miles away, nothing edifying or profitable Mark Driscoll has said online has ever reached my ears, but a number of offensive and divisive things have, things which, while they might only bother me slightly, I know will greatly and needlessly antagonize many of my Christian brothers and sisters.  Is this just because Driscoll likes to be obnoxious?  Perhaps.  But I’ve come to wonder increasingly how much of the problem is with the media, not the messenger.  Can Twitter serve as a tool of the pastoral office?  Or is this like trying to use a screwdriver to hammer in nails?  


The pastoral office, it seems, actually consists of two distinct but closely related offices—that of preaching, and of pastoral ministry.  While many pastors today seem to think that social media provide them a great platform for extending their reach as they pursue both these tasks, it seems to me that these media are, by their nature, almost certain to be detrimental to the faithful prosecution of these offices, unless they are used very judiciously. 

The task of preaching is to declare the word of the Gospel, the truth of Christ, to his saints and also, when they will listen, to the world—to expound and apply the teachings revealed in Scripture for illumination, edification, and training in righteousness.  How can this be done in sound-bites?  There may be a couple passages in the New Testament that manage to capture the whole essence of the Gospel in 160 characters, but to do the subject justice usually requires extended narrative and careful exegesis.  We Reformed have often been scornful of 10-minute Anglican sermonettes; why then do we think that Facebook and Twitter posts are likely to be any less superficial and uninstructive?  Of course, the problem is not merely one of length, but of impersonality.  It is quite important for our faith that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”; when the Word merely becomes pixels, it is a poor substitute.  Christ’s encounter with those to whom he preached was often a remarkably personal encounter, discerning the word of condemnation or encouragement that each needed to hear.  Preaching, it would seem, generally works best when it is rooted in personal encounter, so that the message may be tailored to the actual needs of those hearing, rather than merely being let loose upon the multitude to work its magic or wreak its havoc, as the case may be.  Again, we Reformed are generally scornful of megachurches, where mic-ed up pastors declaim to thousands of people they may have never met before; why should we be any less concerned when the mic is Twitter, amplified to reach potentially millions, without the pastor having any idea who is reading?

This concern applies all the more urgently to the task of pastoral ministry, which aims to shepherd the souls of believers, chipping away at the armor of hearts that are hardened, and strengthening the faint-hearted with words of grace and comfort.  The diseases of soul that pastors are called upon to diagnose and treat are countless, and the wrong diagnosis and prescription can, I suppose, do eternal harm.  I am very glad that I am not called to that awesome and heavy responsibility, and have great respect for anyone who undertakes it.  But I cannot see how this complex task—of discerning sin, its causes, and its symptoms, and of determining the appropriate word of challenge, of counsel, or of comfort to apply in order to root out the sin—can possibly be performed without great risk upon faceless, numberless masses sitting in front of their laptops or tapping on their smartphones.  One might profitably condemn some vice to a group of guys in a Bible study, whom one felt needed to hear the message, and who would be able to respond and interact to discern its application to them.  But unleashing it on the world at large, without the ability to make all the relevant qualifications, might well trouble tender consciences, who don’t realize you weren’t talking about them, or might turn off people who misunderstood your point and thought you were being needlessly judgmental.  The more flamboyantly-worded your utterance, the more likely to do harm rather than good.  Unfortunately, the medium almost demands flamboyant wording.


If we don’t go so far as to say the medium is the message, we must at least admit that it dramatically shapes it.  It is not hard to see how this is the case in the world of social media.  What are these media about?  Well, they are about grabbing attention, about making people notice you and hopefully share whatever you said, so that even more people will notice.  The medium thus constitutes a powerful temptation toward vanity, and, for the pastor, the still worse temptation of substituting fidelity to the unpopular Gospel for something that will prove popular enough to be shared far and wide, that is not automatically bad.  Of course, these temptations can be resisted, and there can be good reasons for wanting to get people’s attention with these media.  We should want to grab people’s attention with the words of life and prompt them to share it far and wide.  

But this leads to a subtler temptation.  For the problem is that social media are self-defeating in their goal of grabbing attention.  Diluted by the thousands, millions, billions of similar utterances coming through the Cloud all the time, and embedded in web pages or mobile devices engineered to distract us from intent focus on anything in particular, the vast majority of what is said on social media is no sooner read than it is forgotten.  Of course, this is why it has to be short and snappy (although, of course, this brevity, which  it takes real talent to pack a lot of substance into, exacerbates the transience)—because people don’t have much attention to spare.  In this overcrowded competition for ever more evanescent flickers of attention, one must try to be either extremely profound or extremely witty or extremely provocative.  Unfortunately, the first of these is the hardest, and the last of these is much the easiest.  Even if it were possible to make a balanced, nuanced, carefully targeted, and pastorally sensitive pronouncement in 160 characters or a Facebook status update, the medium would militate against such an utterance—no one, browsing through their feed full of witticisms and exclamations and flashy pictures and caustic political commentary, would even read to the end of the statement, much less be inspired to “Like” it or share it.  

For these reasons, I am skeptical that such media can really serve as an effective extension of the pastoral ministry, or even of preaching, unless it be, as some do, primarily just to share links and quotes (and if a quote on some contentious matter, ideally from those very few truly great writers like Lewis or Chesterton who could pack a year’s worth of sermons into a sentence).