Monday, October 20, 2014

Techno-Phobia and the Ministry

  I have been saved, and in church  for a little over 19 years now, and in that time, I have noticed, among my particular flavor of Christianity an ever-shifting hostility towards technology.  I really do think it is, for the most apart, based off a  distrust of modernism in general, and as such this aversion has my sympathies. I am ,after all,  a self-confessed techno-hermit.  But unless you hold that position indefinitely as a movement, you wind up being really embarrassed by some of your predecessors when that tech becomes more readily accepted a few years later. Truth doesn’t  change, and truth doesn’t have to be updated every couple of years to stay relevant and avoid embarrassment, but tech hostility does.  I’ll give you an example.
  Back in the 1800’s it was very common to hear sermons directed against theatre attendance.  The general  notion was that it caused your mind to  be overly occupied with illusion and caused you to become  emotionally manipulated.  It was also cited as a poor use of the  few days that a man has on  Earth in which to live for God.   Those are all perfectly valid points, by the way, but nobody preaches against plays anymore.  In fact, the more modernistic  church assemblies will use plays or drama presentations as an 'outreach'.
  Having surrendered the high ground against  theaters, the whipping boy of the 1930's was the relatively new telephone.  Ministers warned their congregation that it enabled you to gossip without ever leaving your house and gobbled up time that could be spent better.  It was the tool of busybodies, people were warned.  Once again, all perfectly valid points, but time moved on and  eventually most people  had at least one telephone. Nobody preaches that you shouldn’t have a telephone now.  If your church doesn't have a telephone, you are regarded as some sort of  backwards weirdo.
  In the 1960’s  , television was the new culprit. Lester Roloff hammered on it incessantly, calling it "the enemy of all righteousness".  It was called an "open sewer line" into your living room and  would lead to the corruption of morals, and the collapse of the family.  I think the argument could be made that they were exactly right, but either way,   not only do most church members have a television, most preachers have one. Somebody somewhere decided that it was OK, and now if you preach against television, you  have to preach against the content, not the mere ownership of one.  Some churches broadcast their services on television, and nobody even raises an eyebrow.
  In the 1980’s and 90's there were still a handful  of guys preaching against going to the movies, but even by then those were considered the fringe element, and an embarrassment to everyone else.  I personally know of a church where you could not teach Sunday school if you were a  movie attendee. Now some of those guys had no problem going to blockbuster or watching the same movie on the television that previous generations railed against, which I always thought was sort of hypocritical.
   In the early 90’s everybody beat up on the internet. Now if a church doesn’t have a website, it’s backwards and not trying to reach the community.
  In the late 1990’s it was the internet, especially Myspace.  Myspace would  wreck your home,  dissolve your marriage and  poison your soul. I heard probably 20 or 25 messages against Myspace in the first   10 years I was saved.  I don’t know of any churches that had a Myspace page off hand, but I'm sure they are out there.
  The mid 2000’s brought us the evils of Facebook, until almost every preacher we know had one, and the ones that don’t have on use it to  spy on their congregation through other people’s accounts (while preaching against it. don't even get me started on how crazy that is). Churches now have FB pages.
  I have heard  pulpit warnings about texting, that is until a lot of preachers realized they were too busy to answer the phones their ancestors preached against, and  texting  was deemed convenient and good stewardship of one’s time.
  These different shifts in  mindset from one generation to the next seem to all follow the same pattern.  At first, the  technology is evil or corrupt or worldly, and generally a waste of time.  Later on it is  determined that 'some people' can use it without it destroying them ( I am currently hearing this argument  advanced  in regards to FB).  Once the technology  has mass acceptance, it becomes harder to oppose it and be taken seriously, so the  shift is that 'lots of people in our church use it' and that it's OK as long as it's used correctly.  within a few years, someone who tries to revisit the previous hostility is told  to not be so  uptight. After all everybody goes to the theater/owns a telephone/has the internet/has a FB page, right?  And after all, we can use this for the ministry, and that somehow makes null and void all previous arguments.  The last stage is the polar opposite of the first; people will look at you askew if you don't avail yourself of the latest technology.
  The  appearance from the outside looking in is  that the world is winning and the church is constantly getting pushed backwards, constantly drawing new lines of defense in the sand. That seems quite sad if it’s the case.
   So was it right to be opposed to all those things? And if it was, why is it acceptable now?  If it was wrong to be opposed to all those things, then who’s to say the next thing everybody gets vexed about won’t be just as silly a few years later?
  Here’s what I think.  I think all the warnings of previous generations are valid, and have borne themselves out to various degrees, but not for the reasons that are usually cited.  Theaters, movie houses,  Myspace, FB, the telephone are all amoral devices, but people are not.  People are rotten and prone to find newer and better ways to satisfy the lusts of their flesh. TV enabled the slothful to be slothful.  Telephones enabled the  gossiper to  gossip more effectively.  The internet  put a world of pornography at the fingertips of people who already wanted to look at it.  The problem isn’t the tech, the problem is the lust of your flesh. So if you want something to rally against, rally against that.
  As it turns out, that’s exactly where the Bible places the emphasis. That means, to quote the great Danny DiLeo, "The Bible is the most up to date technology existing in the world today" in that long before Shakespeare  wrote his first play or  Zuckerberg and his CIA handlers came up with FB, the Bible discerned the thoughts and intents of the hearts in mankind and pronounced judgement not on the 'how', but on the 'why'.  If you want to preach timeless messages that won't embarrass  everybody  a few years later, leave the hobby horses and  buzzwords aside, and proclaim the word of God. 
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