iPod and I God?

by Jennie Valentine

            Cell phones, internet, library card catalogs on the computer, computers themselves, digital clocks.  We live in a digital age.  Technology grows and develops at lightning speed – Sprint Speed, or Verizon Fios who claims a unique technology that transmits data through hair-thin strands of glass fiber, using laser-generated pulses of light—and light travels faster than any other wave, 300,000 kilometers per second. The result? Mind-boggling speed…

         We are driven by time.  We want it all, faster, now, at this minute.  Where did that come from?  Here’s the interesting story:   Mechanical clocks were invented in the 12th century.  And if you wonder if technological advances are developed or used by people of faith, get this:  Mechanical clocks were invented by Benedictine monks.  Benedictine monks pray together at various times throughout the day, 8 times per day.  The monks were looking for a way that would improve their group prayer times so that they could build their relationship to God.  So they invented the mechanical clock to help to facilitate their prayer schedule.  But what actually happened?  They became dependent on the clock as they developed the new lifestyle.  The Benedictine prayer life in some ways became time driven, not Relationship-with-God driven.  And later, the industrial revolution happened; we became a non-agrarian society and were no longer following the daily rhythms day and night, sun and moon.  Instead, our days were dependent on the clock, and not on God’s creation.  Our lives began to be clock driven, not relationship-to-God’s-Creation-driven.

         Now we have digital clocks – more precise, more accurate, more glowing.  With technology, our productivity is up.  Smart phones can help us multi-task, stay connected, keep our schedules, and work efficiently.  The digital age is embedded in our culture.  It’s here to stay.  We can’t fight it.  Today information flows like water after a 3-day nor’easter on Cape Cod.  It’s not a trickling brook or a gentle mist – it’s like tidal wave.  And it flows from the almighty, all-knowing, bigger than our human brains can comprehend…world wide web…www.internet.com.  I bet you thought I was going to say God, right? 

         What does God think about all this technology?  First of all let’s remember that God is the creator of the universe and all that’s in it, including people who are made in God’s image. If God is a creator and made us in God’s image, we are creators too.  That makes us part of the grand scheme of God.  God created us to have the ability, the brains, the ingenuity to develop technology.  And God created the materials necessary so that we can develop new technology.  You could say new technology is God-sponsored and if all that God creates is good, so is that technology. 

         Why do we need new technology anyway?  The Bible says “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does the wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”  Our still speaking God brings new insights to us every day.  We must be sure to put those new insights, which previously have been passed orally through generations, and then later written on parchment, and later on the first printing presses, and now are finding their way through hair-thin strands of glass fiber.  We need to accept the glass fibers as the equivalent of new wine skins.

         Next, let’s remember that God wants a relationship with us.  Many would say that our sole purpose on earth is to be in relationship – with God, with others, our surroundings, and with ourselves.  Being in relationship requires presence in order to develop that relationship fully.  Presence is a piece of what makes us human. The fundamental truth of the gospel is that the Word became flesh. God became present. In Jesus, God’s message took on its perfect medium and that was a living, breathing, incarnate being who walked among us, broke bread with us and touched our sick.  It would be really hard to do that through a smart phone.

         There’s more proof that God wants a relationship with us: 

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!" (Psalm 139:17-18b)

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

The relationship we have with God can actually be aided by the technology.  But it depends on how we use it.  Just like life itself, what we do with it is up to us – we can choose to follow path A or path B.  Modern technology keeps us connected 24/7, and we could say that through technology we can be connected to God 24/7, but I don’t really believe that.  It may not be the best way to go.  Here’s why:  If our purpose is to transform, deepen, and expand the human soul so that it is connected to God, we must have methods to do that.  Cultures and religions of all kinds have various forms of prayer and meditation that can help us to know God more deeply.  Meister Eckart, the late-13th century mystic put it this way:  If a soul wants to know God it cannot do so in time for so long as the soul is conscious of time it cannot know God.  Jesus put it this way:  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.  We cannot be tied to the mechanical clock, or the digital clock, or Fios time, or our smart phones.  We must be in God’s time.  God’s time doesn’t operate on the mechanical clock, or the digital clock. 

         Don’t get me wrong.  I will never argue that technology gets in the way of my thinking about God.  I get two daily text messages every day offering a prayer from the United Church of Christ.  It stops me in my tracks, and turns my focus toward God.  The mobile applications we use on our smart phones or computers allow and encourage personal prayer and the study of scripture, or allow for religious observance across the confines of space, accessing holy sites that are otherwise difficult to reach.  The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is one of the examples.  Websites such as sms2wall.com charge $1 per text message to print up your messages and prayers and place them in the cracks of the wall.  It’s a virtual faith experience.  And I think that God doesn’t care how we get there as long as we get there. 

         Still, it’s about the responsibility of how we get there that matters.  Cultural pressures to treat technology as the be-all and end-all is difficult to resist.  Walter Brueggemann says “This unmitigated praise of buoyant cultural religion forces upon us a falseness about which we still know better.”  We know better, deep in our souls that our God is not in that smart phone even though the culture might make it look like a god.   We need to be aware that technological presence can substitute for physical presence, but only as a second-tier alternative.  There’s nothing that can compare to the touch of a mother’s hand, or gazing deeply into another’s eyes, or sharing a smile, or sitting against a tree in the woods and feeling the bark scratch your back.  You can’t do that through glass fibers.  Technology is a second-tier alternative that needs to be used with discretion and self-discipline.  We need to be sure to use technology and not be used by it.  Discretion and self-discipline will help us care for God’s greatest creation, us. 

         So use technology, don’t abuse it.  Use technology, don’t be abused by it.  Honor the God who created us with the ability to develop that which can take us farther away, and did so with enough faith, love, and confidence to know that we would be faithful to God.  May we live up to those expectations and live into that truth.   Amen.

Don’t deprive the world of your fullness

What if we

carried it around in our purses or pockets?

turned back to get it if we forgot it ?

flipped through it several times a day ?

spent an hour or more, using it ?

used it to receive messages from the text ?

treated it like we couldn' t live without it ?

gave it to kids as a gift ?

used it as we travelled ?

used it in case of emergency ?

Oh, and a few more things !

unlike our cell phones.........one plan fits all........unlimited usage........

......no roaming charges.........you always get reception......no weak signals

What would God’s Facebook page look like?