is technology draining your soul?

It has been awhile since I’ve posted one of my devotionals for Our Daily Journey, which means either that they have been so good that I didn’t need your feedback or so bad that I was too embarrassed to show you.  Here is one I just wrote about technology—there is a lot I had to leave out to make the 300 word limit—but I wonder if there is enough here to merit posting in a series whose target demographic is twenty and thirtysomethings.  Any suggestions or changes that you would make?  I am aware of the irony of posting these Luddite thoughts on a blog.

read > Psalm 23:1-2

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

If our technology had existed in Jesus’ day, our Bibles might read:  “Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’, but they were checking their email and missed the question.” Or “A third time he asked him, ‘Simon…do you love me?’  Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time, but then his cell phone rang and he replied, ‘I’m sorry, Lord, I’ve got to take this.’”  Or on Pentecost “Peter continued preaching for a long time, and a handful of people believed and were baptized while thousands more texted, twittered, and live blogged his sermon.”

Technology can stifle our spiritual growth in subtle ways.  The first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer” (Acts 2:42), none of which come easily in our wired world.

Who has the time or discipline to study the apostles’ teaching and pray when cable television and the Internet jangle with unimportant yet interesting diversions?  Most of what we see on TV or surf on the Web does not directly affect us.  Our lives would be little changed if we missed that score, review, or celebrity gossip.  Yet filling our minds with such minutiae comes at some cost, for we may unknowingly project our reading of the ephemeral virtual world upon the eternal truths of God’s Word.  When everything is trivial then anything is trivial.

Fellowship and community are thought to be the strengths of our new media, but furtive texters ignore us and intrusive phone calls interrupt us.  We often sit in the presence of bodies whose minds are elsewhere.

Lest you think I’m a Luddite, ask yourself this:  When the Good Shepherd leads you beside “peaceful streams”, do you “rest in green meadows” or reach for your iphone?

more > Are you using technology or is technology using you?  How might the constant diversions of our media influence your ability to think deeply in a single direction, and how might this impact your walk with Christ?

7 Comments

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  1. “When everything is trivial then anything is trivial.”

    That seems incredibly obvious – everything generally includes anything. I think it would have more emphasis if you reversed it: When anything can be trivialized, everything becomes trivial.

    Otherwise, excellent thoughts as usual.

  2. Funny, how I wanted to respond to this just as my kids came in to show me something – and I wanted to get back to this instead of listening to them! Just another example of how media can hurt true community.

    Jonathan, I think the point was that when all our media (everything) deals in the trivial we take that idea to the Bible (anything). Switching it around changes the point.

    Mike, I have been wrestling with this very thing lately, and even preached a sermon on it. Based on the response I received, it must have struck a chord with people. I think this is a real issue for people today. (Pitiful moment of self-promotion – excerpt of the sermon at my blog.)

    Guess I better get off this media and spend some time with my family!

  3. I’ve wasted too much time the past week battling a Windows Police Pro virus on my desktop.

    I still remember how concerned I was when I first heard about virtual church – “…no two services the same, over 365 billion possibilities”. It is sad how senses can become dulled with the passing of time.

  4. Hi Mike: I heard a certain professor of ours (Dr. Grier) once say, “Technology is value laden.” Your devo scratches at that itch. I tend to take a de minimus approach to technology in order to have a life. It’s a huge challenge when convenience ranks so high if not first among our cultural values. So there’s my two cents and worth every penny.😉

  5. You said you’re thinking about turning this into a series, and I’d be interested in reading that.

    I’m especially interested in hearing more on the topic in your final paragraph: “How might the constant diversions of our media influence your ability to think deeply in a single direction, and how might this impact your walk with Christ?” Yes, and how might the modern media affect our ability to read and reflect on the Bible — or anything?

    In other words, this issue of technology and media makes me wonder how education and discipleship will change.

  6. One more (esoteric) thing, Doc:

    I’ve been thinking about digitization as the future of literature, about how the digital consumption of writing is already changing literature’s composition. This scares me.

    But I’m also looking into Dark Ages history, so I’ve been thinking about the dissemination of books. I was reminded me that the book itself is technology, and that its design mediated the gospel in a certain way. But the technology of the book seems to influence my style of thinking and communicating, and I don’t feel threatened by this. But I do feel threatened when I imagine most written matter becoming digitized — so am I just culturally biased? Or is something about today’s technology conditioning our thought and communication patterns in ways that are, cross-culturally bad?

    Are there notable Christian voices who opposed the book/codex, opting for scrolls instead? Or factions that opposed the Gutenberg Bible merely because it wasn’t hand-written?

  7. Adam:

    Good thoughts. I’m not too worried about the digital format, but more about the incessant onslaught of ephemeral information and the scattered, fragmented method in which it comes. I think we may be losing our ability to think.

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