Growing up in Christian circles there was a subtle stigma against the evils of “technology.” It was a distraction from God, prayer, serving your neighbor, etc. Cell phones, iPods, etc are prohibited from retreats and pastors often encourage the congregation to “unplug” in order to hear the voice of God.
Let me be the first to say “Yes, Yes!” to any pastor who encourages his congregation to look for God and separate themselves from distractions. We as humans tend to walk through life looking at the dirt, at whatever is on the ground right in front of us. Sometimes God lets us walk into things which hurts for the time being but is no more evil when their child runs into a lamppost because he is bent over texting a cute girl. In both cases, we tend to look up and take stock of our surroundings (sometimes discovering that God or that cute girl is within sight and we never would have known). But to say it is entirely technology’s fault is ignoring the fact that there is a girl on the other end of the phone and a drive inside of that child to be attractive to her.
Technology is merely a means to our own ends. It enables us to purse our own various passions. When an unfaithful man neglected his family two hundred years ago, to pursue his own passions or interests, he went from work to the racetrack, or the pub, or the theater. Today, he will come home after work. But he won’t really be at home. You will still find his heart at the racetrack, or the pub, or the theater as he vegges in front of the TV, or computer, or Xbox. In the former case, would you blame the man or the places where he frequented? Is his unfaithfulness to his family the theater’s fault? No, of course not! You would blame man for being too caught up in what does not matter and hope that he would learn choose what matters more. So, too, with the latter. It is a character flaw.
What we have run into is not technology’s inherent ability to distract from focus on our Lord. What we have run into is our inherent desire for things that aren’t Him.
The reason behind its absolute propensity to take over peoples’ lives is two-fold. First, our individualistic society allows people to make their own decisions. Not a bad idea in its own right, but when obsession is being manifest in a person their friends and family (namely parents) either just do not possess the moral hutzpa to prevent it or they themselves are too distracted by their obsessions to prevent that in their children. A practical example of the sins of fathers resting on their children. The second reason is like the first, and that is we have been taught that the pursuit of our passions is rightly placed as the first priority in our lives because that will make us most happy. Consumer technology is merely a means to our happiness, and a particularity attainable means to that end, so why change our behavior?
The very reason why we have improved our ability to do tasks (i.e. Technology) is so that we can accomplish what we want to do more easily, or to fulfill the dreams our imagination, things that were previously impossible to do. Technology exists to accomplish man’s goals. If our goals are to talk to a pretty girl, follow the latest sports news, do business, or learn more about our Christ, technology makes it easier to do so and to do so more efficiently.
“The Devil is not in our books! He’s in our hearts!”
(Reverend Moore, Footloose)
The Devil is not in the theater, not in the pub, not in the races. He is not in our TV, our internet, or our games. The Devil is not in our phones. He is in us, turning our focus away from those we should love and towards useless pursuits. If we find ourselves running into lampposts, we can hardly blame the phone in our hands.
So let us go forward in the freedom of Christ, to avoid whatever leads us to sin and strike a blow to our bodies in discipline so as to render us more perfect servants of Christ.