I’ve been thinking about our connected age in which we live. The advent of the internet has been helpful. I’ve been able to reconnect with, see and speak online with precious people I met in Canada over 10 years ago. An 84 year old praying friend of mine was able to see a new born grandchild before she died because of FaceTime. Today, we are connecting here. We don’t know each other but are making the simple beginnings of a relationship at some level. The use of technology to report news around the world has shrunk what was already a small world into a micro—world and has helped injustices to be overcome.
Yet, there is another side to technology. As tenderhearted as it may seem—when I walk along the sidewalk and see people’s heads, my heart breaks a little. I’ve done it too. You know. We are walking head down looking at our phone—texting someone—missing the beautiful face of the person in front of us. I’ve been told poles are being padded in London because people were walking into them while using their smartphones to connect with others?
I’m not a Luddite. I appreciate technology. I jones a bit when something new comes out. But, I wonder how our soul care is being effected. I wonder the way Eliot did in Choruses from The Rock, “Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.” A friend recently was telling me about a Time Magazine article, which reported that more data is put on the internet every two days than the entirety of data that has been put on the internet from the dawn of creation to the year 2000.
What will humanity look like 50 years from now? How do our efforts in soul care benefit from technology and where do we need to offer a prophetic word to those who create and implement technology? How is our capacity being affected to be in person with a person? Research is beginning to be done on internet addiction. Internet Gaming Disorder is already being identified in Section III of the DSM-5 as warranting more research in its consideration of being a formal disorder within the manual. Can we pause and reflect on our technology for a moment?
How does the pace of change in technology affect the way we see our relationships? A culture of comparison has been inherent in the United States (e.g. Madison Ave., conservative/liberal, etc.) but how does technologies’ primary selling point (being increased convenience, faster processing and better features) diminish our ability to be in our relationships without constantly subconsciously comparing/judging it for better/worse? The advent of the internet has made more available to us in a less personal way. The illusion of autonomy and a false sense of intimacy is a dangerous combination correlating to real-time behaviors destructive to relationships (c.f. Dr. David N. Greenfield’s article Virtual Addiction: Sometimes New Technology Can Create New Problems http://virtual-addiction.com).
If our soul care efforts are to help people know an embodied God in them (i.e. the exclamation point to the sentence we call the Incarnation), then how is technology influencing an embodied spirituality? In more recent years, I’ve been increasingly convinced God is more and more interested in this physical world. The Spirit is poured out on all flesh (c.f. Joel 2). God becomes a human being (c.f. John 1) Pentecost happened with tongues of fire just above their heads (c.f. Acts 2). There will be a new heaven and earth (c.f. Rev. 21). How might technology be contributing to a Doctrine of Dis-Incarnation? What will the future Christian look like, who exists increasingly in relationships with others only by technology? What’s the cost of not including technology in our spiritual formation? What would a year without technology look like in a local, contemporary or emerging, vibrant, evangelically oriented and missionally driven congregation? Just how important is the human touch in our soul care?
Duke Walker is a regular contributor to the Soul Care Collective.