Today's Religions: Technology

Maybe you know someone who still only uses a flip-phone. Or maybe you’ve gone on a retreat that included a digital sabbath (no emails, no smartphone).

In his book, Seculosity, David Zahl cuts to the heart of the matter: “We have always sought to distract ourselves from pain and guilt; what’s changed is the ease with which we can now do so.” I envy the people who have blockaded themselves from smartphone distractions because I fear that I’m filling multiple voids each day which were better off left as, well, voids. Dare I say, sacred voids? The kind of void if you were in on a wilderness journey.

How many notifications do you get in a day? More importantly, what’s the cumulative spiritual weight of those notifications? You can wiggle out of the question if you stick to a 10-minute slot each day designated for swiping, checking, updating, posting, and messaging. But the rest of us can’t get around it. Technology is creating dynamics in our lives that trap and control us, and make us into people vastly different than we would be without them. I would even suspect the change cuts as deep as anything else can, effecting the kind of people we have become at the deepest level.

In the Bible and in the world of Christian church history, the wilderness is a recurring experience — both real and metaphorical — where humans are confronted with their weakness, and find transformation in new depths of being in the presence of a dependable God.

Here’s a deep thought: none of those wilderness pilgrims brought their smartphone. Not Moses, not the Israelites, not Jesus, not Amma Syncletica of Alexandria.