God and Technology
Back in my Harding days, we had a week every once in a while with the theme: Faith and Technology. It seems like every day was about a different aspect of technology. Monday was the Internet, Tuesday was the iPod, Wednesday was digital cameras or something ridiculous.
The message and the entire week was pretty redundant and really could have been reduced to one day, even one sentence, “(Insert technology) can be used for good in spreading God’s word but it can also be used for porn.” It didn’t matter what the technology was. Digital cameras can be used for porn, the internet can be used for porn, you can listen to pornographic sounds on your iPod. It is for God or porn.
I remember so looking forward to that week, but always left feeling disappointed. I wanted to hear different messages than I was getting.
Here are the lessons I wish I would have heard that I am now having to stumble through on my own:
1) Sabbath. A constant attachment to your technology is a constant detachment from God’s creation, that is other people.
2) Retreat. To be constantly in communication is to constantly live in reaction. The phone rings so I grab it. Someone messages me, I message them back. I am with three friends so I need to take a picture. “Where two or more are gathered, my camera is there.” Put it all down, get away from it and live untied for a while.
3) Denial. Stop using the word “need” in relation to technology. I don’t need an iPhone. In fact, it may be better for myself in the long term to deny myself that gratification in the material. Because, truth be told, my five year old Palm is just fine. I don’t need an iPhone. I never use my Nano, I don’t need an iPod Touch. Buying those things, though they look neat, would only encourage more buying of things that I do not need, and will not use.
4) Connect in other ways. It is amazing how much more meaningful a hand written letter or card is than an email. It is more edifying and is something that a person has to put some thought into.
5) Make community out of it. Instead of sitting alone in your dorm room and watching the office, why don’t you organize watch parties for your favorite TV shows? I will never forget walking through the dorms at night when The Office was on. Everyone was in their own rooms watching the show, but EVERYONE was in their rooms. Why not put a TV in the study room and all come together to watch?
6) Facts. Plenty of studies have shown that the lie of interconnectedness has created the loneliest and saddest culture ever. We are told that choice and multiple connection utilities and outlets are the keys to happiness, but we have measurably fewer friends than ever before. I think laying out facts and studies would have interested me more than the fear of porn.
7) The Middle Path. Full embrace and addiction to technology is unhealthy and creates a dependence that we should only have on God. Complete rejection makes you completely irrelevant to the world you were sent to save. A balance is what needs to be reached, this takes constant re-alignment and re-assessment.
8.) Tradition of rejection. Looking back over history, many of the deepest religious movements have been led by men rejecting the ways of the world. St. Francis kicked off his shoes and said, “There are people living without them, I should too.” St. Anthony said that the world was getting carried away with materialism so he walked off into the mountains to start monastic living (and that was in the 300s!) Much of Luther’s early problems were issues of materialism. Even in our own history, J.N. Armstrong and David Lipscomb advocated a divorce from the conventional love that people had for things unheavenly, in their case it was patriotism. Historical example shows that it is the ones who break from the norm that make a difference, not the ones who live by the norm.