wires and lights in a box
remember life without mobile phones? this past xmas my father-in-law gave me an iphone 3g and tho its already outdated it is a significant advance over my motorola razor v3xx flip. they call it a phone and it is in some ways but its also a pocket sized pc of sorts. its a web browser and mp3 player and camera along with every current means of connecting with the people in my sphere of influence from email to facebook to instant msg. and it has games.
this is so much more than a phone.
and as i marvel at the touch-screen technology im reminded of several things. i remember having a rotary phone on the wall in our kitchen when i was growing up. i believe it was our only phone at the time and i remember the sound of the dialer as it whirred from the number back to its starting point.
i also remember when we got our first push button phone and our first cassette tape answering machine. i remember when everything went digital and we got caller id. and i remember getting my first mobile phone…10 years ago. its astounding just how much daily life has changed.
i did a google search before i began writing my thots down on this and found that people have written extensively on the various ways technology shapes different aspects of our lives. everything from business to communication and networking to faith and sermons. what i didnt find was anything relating to how technology shapes god.
and i thot this was strange.
lets go back in time for a few moments. when johnny gutenberg developed the printing press it revolutionized everything including the church and played a significant role in the protestant reformation and shaping of theology from that point forward. simply put, it was technology shaping events in the life of the church. but did it also somehow shape god?
im thinking it did.
so wot changed when bibles became more accessible? many things to be certain but a few things in particular.
access – within a century printed bibles and gospels became much more commonplace. one no longer had to be clergy or nobility to have easy access to the scriptures.
authority – when the scriptures were brot to the people the authority of the church lost its strangle-hold on interpretation which began to revert to the public forum.
structure – as more and more people broke away from the RCC many met in smaller numbers with pastors far more accessible and down to earth than the priests and bishops of the high church. liturgy was altered or removed altogether.
these changes were not simply cosmetic. they changed ecclesiology and ultimately they changed god – at least in the minds of the people. he wasnt so far away anymore. as with scripture so with god. the technological advance made him far more accessible and much easier to understand removed from all that latin chanting.*
likewise im thinking that mobile technology has dramatically changed god in some distinct ways.
consider this: what would god look like in the mind of an average person without things such as mobile phones? now stop and realize that there are people alive today who will never know the reality behind that question. my children have all been born since the mobile revolution and will never really understand the meaning of a busy signal. they will never really grasp the concept of a switchboard. a wireless world has always existed for them and understanding god may end up being quite a challenge in a world where anything they want to know is a simple matter of googling on their iphone.
this brings up some questions.
in a world where everyone we currently know is only a small flick of our thumbs away wot does god look like when he doesnt answer immediately? wot impression might we draw if his timing is not wot we expected? in a world this connected how can patience and endurance be valuable commodities?
think of the significant impact of trying to make plans when the person you are calling and texting and facebooking doesnt answer or reply. everyone is attached to their mobile media devices – how could this person not be receiving the messages? wot if we really need an answer quick before its too late?!
this may very easily translate in our relationship with god. when we want guidance and direction or an answer to prayers for healing or a job or mended relationships how might we understand him when his answer is not obvious or immediate? how might it affect our understanding of god if his lack of adherence to our time table results in missed opportunities or regrets? wot happens to my faith if god never returns my calls?
recently ive caught myself expecting god to work on a mobile phone basis – to answer my calls & texts within seconds – and the more i think about it the more i think theres something askew. not that technology is bad – we dont have to be amish. but technology is so pervasive in our lives that if we arent extremely careful it can become a terrible hermeneutic.
its been said (more than a few times) that jeremiah 33:3 is gods phone number.
call to me and i will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
so much violence is done to this statement ripped from its context i doubt seriously that very many who have heard it preached know the situation in the passage surrounding it or the length of time it took for the promise made to be realized.
this passage is about messiah and the inauguration of gods kingdom on earth. its a promise that took several hundred years to bear fruit. hows that for instant messaging? wot would be my reaction to dialing “gods phone number” and getting his voicemail saying:
leave ur msg & ill get back to you in a few hundred years.
our technology breeds impatience and our impatience destroys any chance we have at really understanding god. this is wot i have begun to grasp in the past few weeks as i continue to struggle with not hearing from god during this difficult time. the whole “his ways are not as our ways” thing comes crashing home with force as i open my eyes to the reality of a god who is off the grid and even tho this notion bothers me i would rather know god in truth than comfort even if he stays mostly quiet.
i cant live in a world with no technology and i dont know if i would want to but i need to remember that technology cannot be the lens by which i understand god. it can assist my understanding of him via video and other advances but i cant afford to allow its convenience and connectivity to form my thinking.
theres more i want to say about this but its a long read already so ill take a break for now and try to deliver part 2 shortly. as always i am looking forward to your thots.
*let it be known im a huge fan of gregorian chants. this isnt a slam on latin or chanting – its a recognition of how both made the notion of understanding or having a relationship with god difficult if not impossible for the commoner.