If you’re of a certain age, you may recall a time when the word ‘globalization’ didn’t exist. It’s a modern invention – only entered the dictionary in 1951. Legend traces its widespread use to a famous article in the Harvard Business Review in 1983. Surprised? Globalization is now so established in common parlance that we hardly remember it only became a ‘buzzword’ after the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War – with the idea that we might at last become ‘one world’ of global unity. Didn’t happen that way of course, but globalization has been marching forward inexorably at a rapidly increasing pace since WWII. Does that fill you with dread or delight?
Think of globalized markets and monetary exchange. McDonald’s (est. 1955) went international in 1967, and today operates in over 100 countries serving 69 million customers per day. International credit cards arrived in 1974. Coca-Cola can be found in the most remote locations on earth – even in space. But we don’t get the true scale and scope of globalization until we step back and look at history…
Take communications. For thousands of years, human beings could only communicate as fast or as far as a person (or horse) could walk. Then the late 1800s brought electricity, the telegraph and telephone; the early 1900s brought radio and television – but these all took decades to become widely used.* Then came the digital age: the mobile phone (1973), world wide web (1989). The 1990s brought GPS, ‘smart phones’, web-based email services, Google search, and Amazon. The 2000s brought social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram… Now we can communicate globally and instantaneously – with anyone, at anytime, anywhere, watching news ‘as it happens’.
Everything is being globalized: communication, technology, culture, law, language, beliefs. It’s the exponential rate of change that truly boggles. As Christians, should we fight, flee, or embrace?
For some, globalization lays the foundation for a one-world government, an antichrist with limitless power over personal data, facial recognition, micro-chip encoding, crypto-currencies. But hang on. Does it also lay the foundation for the global reach of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God? Bible translation experts work together virtually from all over the world, bringing God’s word to languages and people groups in inaccessible countries. ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations… (Mt 24:14)’.
*The telegraph was invented (1844), telephone (1876), radio (1920), television (1927), but they took time to develop. The first trans-Atlantic phone call (1927) took place 50 years after the telephone’s inception.