When tools morph into something else
The online tech world has become a necessary tool to help us navigate communication during a time of social distancing. I am fascinated by the ability of technology to bring people together around a common kitchen table, so to speak. All over the world we have laughed at the same toilet paper memes (remember those?) and baked the same breads which led to mass shortages of yeast and watched as people in high rise cities united to sing common songs around the world. We have also seen the dark side – the rise of nefarious conspiracy theories, the intentional stoking and flaming of tempers around political and other ideologies, the endless echo-chambers of daily news feeds. Being a contemplative person, I wonder about the role that followers of Christ have in this online world. Surely it is not to simply follow the culture of the day. Sure, there is the funny side and the innocent cute-cat-photos side and the productive side. There is also the devious side and it is this insidious culture-forming side that deeply troubles me. The message of Christ has always been counter cultural. In a harsh and violent Roman society, Jesus modelled immense kindness. In a culture where an eye-for-an-eye was normal, Jesus taught restraint. In a world where the rich rulers lorded it over others, Jesus demanded servanthood. At a time where indecent sums of money are spent on “likes” and applause and the desire to be an influencer, I genuinely wonder what Jesus is teaching. At Orchard: Africa, over the past six months, we have used technology every day to reach the communities we serve and it has been a life-line and a comfort to many. We have used technology with much acclaim in the United States through our Virtual Mission Trips. We give thanks for this. The online world has certainly provided beneficial tools for us to use. Troubling has been the amount of fear and alarmism that has been flamed up in these same communities via this same technology. We are in the end times! We have been “left behind!” The anti-Christ is that guy or that one! Governments are taking control of our bodies and the aliens have landed! Instead of following the click-bait of the day, perhaps we would be better served taking a walk and thinking on timeless truths such as humility and restraint and the Christian virtues of compassion and forgiveness. Technology used as a submissive tool can be beneficial. We can use it to help grow our faith or to serve others across the world or to learn a new skill.
I do suspect that it also, too easily, can become our master and Jesus had something to say about masters. He taught that it is outside of human capacity to serve two masters. He warned us that we will be devoted to one and despise the other. It would be wise for us to daily check what and who we are devoted to.
May we think on these things!