I just started reading another book by Tom Brokaw. My brother gave me this one for Christmas. I had read his book, The Greatest Generation, a few years ago. In The Greatest Generation, he chronicles the stories of the World War II generation which is fast leaving the earth. So, he wanted their stories told, his father’s and mine’s generation.
In this book, The Time of Our Lives, he begins to explore the ideas which have changed rapidly and asks poignant questions regarding our country and our culture. Such questions as, “Have we lost our way?” And, “Who are we now as a nation?”
As I was reading the preface and the introductory questions were being asked, I thought to myself that the church and Christianity ought to be asking the same questions. One of the real questions for thought is the technological breakthroughs and inventions and how cyberspace is changing us, in fact, dramatically.
We are radically changing the way life is lived. When I first saw “texting” being advertised for cell phones, I thought, “Why text when you could just call?” But, it caught on and now we live in a texting world. We gave up writing letters and started using e-mail and now we have given up talking for texting.
What is amazing is that you can make a call to a person, particularly younger ones, and get no response. But, if in the next minute, you text; you will get a reply shortly. I think it has come to the place that we do not want to talk. The culture has dismissed civility and dispensed with the hello’s and how are you’s to cut directly to the terse point and counter point. We have further reduced the joy of the language to cryptic phonics to convey our message in as few key strokes or taps as possible. Yet, the communication has increased to the point that no one in the room is really connected to the folks in front of them; they are connected to anyone who texts them from anywhere in the world.
The ubiquitous smartphone lives in the hands of people. I know some that never put it down. They nap with phone in hand so the slightest vibration alerts them to the demand of the text. Young people and adults live hunched over their phones as they punch out cryptic messages oblivious to their surroundings. The attention span of most people has been reduced to 160 characters.
Now, while saying all of this, I am one who enjoys the technology and uses it. However, my life is not a Facebook expose’. There are people who have ruined their lives thinking Facebook is a good forum to vent their feelings on or show pictures that may be compromising. Really!? Cyperbullies? Turn your computer off.
At Christmas, all the kids came in with their newest tablets, electronic I mean, and they were enjoying all the new apps and movies. I commented to them that this could be the first Christmas when the family gets together and no one talks to each other because they are engrossed in their own little cyber world. Well, they did not continue and we had a great time, but that one moment when I walked into the room, it was everyone hunched over their device in the own world while all were around.
“Techiness” is fun but not at the expense of human interaction, I mean a real human, flesh and blood. Avatars, screen names, fake personas, all are fantasies that mean a person never learns how to be anyone; they are adrift in a sea of zeros and ones.
The whole culture will have to re-discover the arts of human civility, privacy, diplomacy of conversation. The very fruit of the Holy Spirit is the essence of human interaction that appreciates and honors and builds the community.
As a church or Christianity, I think our challenge is a communal one. Will we continue to extol relationship where one faces the reality of sin, the reality of grace, and the transforming power of God? Can we use technologies in a way that is godly rather than ungodly. Each new thing comes to us in a fairly moral neutrality, but man perverts it and many times makes it’s use immoral.
The church is challenged to be a place where people can still relate human to human and human to God. We must not lose our way, lose focus, or fail to tell the age old story of redemption. We still have to touch people. The Gospel is not the cyber message; it is a message of human pathos as one human touches another with redemptive grace, making room for the Holy Spirit to bring new life through a new birth.