I recently watched the movie “Idiocracy.” Written and directed by Mike Judge, this comedy explores what life might look like 500 years in the future. This film is not for those who cannot tolerate raw humor. Its author penned “Beavis and Butthead.”

The film’s critique of the deterioration of culture and society led me to re-read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” Why English teachers waste that book on ninth graders is beyond me. Reading it as an adult was fascinating.

The film and the book, released over 50 years apart, suggest the same path for humanity (both focus on the United States, but seem to indicate that society has taken a turn globally). Both highlight the dumbing down of society and see as a culprit for that fate the rise and pervasiveness of technology and entertainment. Society in both futures becomes vapid. Books are illegal in “451,” and they are replaced by living rooms adorned with --ahem -- large screen televisions recessed into each wall. In “Idiocracy,” the President of the United States is an -- ahem again -- WWF wrestler. The criminal “rehabilitation” he doles out amounts to gladiatorial combat with monster trucks in an arena which seats thousands of people.

Surprisingly, the redemption of society in both stories is found in the same place: the land. When “Idiocracy’s” future Department of the Interior discovers that they ought to irrigate crops with water instead of a Gatorade-like energy drink, the redemption of society begins. When “451’s” fireman Montag begins reading books instead of burning them, and thus has to escape the city as a fugitive, he heads to the country. Among the barns and rolling hills he finds a small band of renegades who recognize the importance of books and act as a walking library, each dedicating his life to remembering one particular book that had been written.

What do these stories have to say to the church? First, we must beware dumbing down the gospel. The mainline church is increasingly biblically illiterate. We must resist the urge to pare down the gospel in order to make it intelligible (see Kyle Childress’ “God in Particular” at The Ekklesia Project). Church members can handle -- and want to know about -- the gospel in all its complexity.

Second, the church must question the ways in which technology may be shaping the people of God (read Debra Dean Murphy's excellent exploration of this topic in "The Christian Century"). The church ought to use extreme restraint with technological tools, particularly in worship. And hurrah to congregations that see themselves as tech-resisters. That’s going to be the next hip thing for the church and society in general. I mean that in a good way.

Third, the church must get its hands in the dirt. Like Bradbury and Judge, I believe that recovering our relationship with the land offers redemptive possibilities for our world. Call me a hippie and then read about the work of Cedar Grove UMC in North Carolina in their Anathoth Community Garden. Paying attention to how our food arrives on our tables, how we eat together, and how we can procure food ourselves through hunting, growing, and maybe even some gathering (thank you, Michael Pollan) is not only important, but an expression of the care we give to the world that God has entrusted to us. When we farm and work together, we talk, face to face. But when we listen to an iPod, we isolate. The church has been given the gift of a grace-filled meal that draws us together and sustains us, with no technology needed.

What gift will we give to the world? A model for faithful eating or fancy electronics? More entertainment or the gospel?

Jenny Williams is pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Kingwood, West Virginia.