Technology


The average American family will use more energy created by fossil fuel between the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and dinner time on January 2 than a Tanzanian family will use all year long. (New Economic Foundation, Real World Economic Outlook 2003, p. 61.)

I’m not ok with this…too often we assume that this is simply a right we have because of where we live, but this is an example of economic injustice. The solution isn’t just to increase the quality and standard of living in Tanzania (in this case) but to also decrease our energy consumption so that it is more consistent with the average usage of people in other first world countries (like the United Kingdom which uses less than half the energy per person as the United States does: 166BTUs per person vs. 350 BTUs per person annually).

A failure to do so is arrogant, prideful, selfish and deeply unstewardly.

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Lately I’ve been trying to spend a little more time reading stuff I know that I’ll disagree with or is on the more ‘radical’ side. The hope is to sharpen some of my thinking and help me be more reflective about what I actually think.

Two periodicals that meet this criteria are ‘New Scientist’ (some interesting ideas but tend to ridicule anything that is faith based) and ‘Adbusters’ (more great ideas, but pretty out there). I like reading New Scientist because they have some very progressive ideas of how to deal with ecological degradation creating global warming and I read Adbusters because I think in some ways they are emblamatic of the ‘in the world but not of it’ thinking that Paul emplored Christians to have.

Reading Adbusters the other day in the most recent issue ‘The Virtual adbustersWorld’ I read a quote that made me question my hope for a natural solution to the problem of global warming because of the truth in the statement. The author (not known to me) wrote ‘For all the talk about the environment these days, I don’t think human beings have ever been so distanced from nature. And much as I hate to say it, I don’t think this trend is going to reverse itself. It just seems inevitable that people will continue to live more and more through technology.’ How can we realistically expect people to be committed to finding a solution to the problem of global warming (whether you think it’s real or not) when our culture is relying on advancements that distance ourselves from the problem more and more?

newscientist
If that weren’t enough, in New Scientist magazine James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis and scientist, is quoted as saying, ‘Climate change is happening and will shape the future world. It is unlikely that we will slow the pace of change, mainly because we are too slow and unable to make effective responses in under 20 to 40 years. More than this, the Earth itself will soon be in the driving seat and aiming at a 5C hotter world. I think that our best course of action is to spend as much effort adapting to global heating as in attempts to slow or stop it from happening.’

HUH? Really? Sounds to me like some very forward thinkers believe we can’t get the job done? This isn’t good enough for me and it is theologically unacceptable. Based on Genesis 1 we have a responsibility and simply finding an easier solution to avoid the real problem isn’t an option. If technology is ultimately causing us/me to lose touch with the creation that God made and with each other, then I want less of it (yes, I see the irony in making that statement on a blog on the web).

Rather than taking the same rather pessimistic view of things that these two authors have taken, I prefer to be optimistic, hopeful and action oriented about the problem of global warming and isolation, lonliness due to an over-emphasis on technology.

I like fast food. I like riding my bike really fast. I love a good fast internet connection. I think the movie ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ is hilarious.

But I don’t think everything needs to be fast. There is a new Samsung phone out in the UK called the Jet. samsung-jet The tag-line for this new phone and it’s advertising campaign is ‘Impatience Is A Virtue’. Apparently you can never have a fast enough phone and phones that allow you to do more things faster is best.

At the moment I’m also reading a pretty interesting counter-culture book called In Praise of Slow: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging The Cult Of Speed by Carl Honore. slow I’ve only just started it, but the author is making the point that for the past 150+ years our culture and our way of living has been accelerating in a way that is neither healthy or sustainable. When Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931 he spoke of a world where people complained and moaned about air travels and flights were seconds late…what then must have sounded ludicrous and far-fetched doesn’t seem so distant especially as I sat here this afternoon silently complaining about the lag my computer is experiencing booting up, not responding instantaneously.

I wonder why we settle for living in a culture who says Impatience is not only to be tolerated, but that it is virtuous. Do we really like having to work more, harder and longer to accomplish more in less amount of time to be ‘successful’? Do we like the constant feeling of being in a hurry, rushing from one place to the next, rarely savoring the moment?

I’ll admit I have tech-lust…but do I like that I think I need a cool touch phone? Especially because then I can read the bible on the train on my phone, or even while I walk, get email immediately, respond immediately, or do more things in those rare down moments when I could be…….daydreaming, musing, savoring the moment, or resting? All this to consider and I haven’t even asked what all this hurry, virtuous impatience and busyness does to me spiritually.

Eugene Peterson wrote in one of his books, The Contemplative Pastor, that ‘busyness is laziness’. If there was ever a backwards quote in this world it seems to be this one. But it is a quote that challenges the value system that we build our lives, specifically our spiritual lives, upon. Busyness is a tool that keeps us, willingly, from investing in that which we know to be more important but always seems to take the back seat.

I enjoy being busy sometimes, who doesn’t, it makes us feel important. But do I take joy in it? No. I take joy in the things that really build me up and build up others that I care deeply about.

Is it possible to work harder but to slow some things down like Carl Honore talks about in his book, ‘In Praise of Slow’? I think so…

I think in a world that is consumed with speed and believes efficiency is when something is done as fast as possible I think Christ and the church have an alternative that many would embrace. Have you ever wondered why God took 6 days to create the world (ok, we don’t know if it took 6 24 hour days, but He inspired the human authors to pen it that way) when he could have done it instantly? Have you ever wondered why Jesus only picked 12 disciples to spread the Good News and taught them for three years when he could have done it more quickly and more efficiently?

Emphasizing speed and busyness in so many things can have a serious and unintended impact on our theology and I must take some time to reflect on why I’m always in such a rush, feeling so busy and what it says about my relationship with God and what it communicates to others…and do it slowly.

This past weekend we had a church weekend away. Our guest speaker was Elaine Storkey who used to lead Tearfund. To parallel what she was speaking to the adults about, we took the young people who attended the weekend on a look through the book and story of Jonah as a way of looking at the themes of ‘calling’, ‘mission’, ‘justice’ and ‘compassion’.

The first session we asked our students what they knew about the story of Jonah. Our group had a number of 11-14 year olds…making them born circa 1995 (holy crap do I feel old). They proceeded to regale us with their understanding of Johah. It went a little like this.

‘God told Jonah to go to Nirvana…or something like that…he didn’t noahwant to go…so he got on a boat to run away from God…then God made a huge storm come up and the pirates…’Pirates? What pirates?’…Jonah was on a pirate ship…the pirates decided to throw Jonah overboard to make the storm go away…so he walked the plank and then God brought a big fish come and swallow Jonah…and after a few days God made the fish ‘throw-up’ Jonah through the blow-hole…’

You get the point. After listening to this description of the Jonah story, I was trying to figure out where the ‘pirates’, the ‘gang-plank’ and the ‘blow-hole’ came from. If it was simply a young person’s imagination bringing the story to life, that wouldn’t be bad, it would actually be kind of exciting…a young person spending enough time in the Word to bring it to life in their mind. But no…they told me that was the story of Jonah according to Veggie Tales.

The only problem is that they stated that it was from Veggie Tales as if VT carried the same authority as scripture. One student was prepared to argue that the sailors on the boat that Jonah was on were ‘actually’ pirates. Don’t get me started on the worm that lived on the vine that also sold Ninevah merchandise.

I completely by into the idea of making scripture relevant to young people in a technological culture and making the scripture come alive visually…but at what point are we sacrificing the ‘truth’, ‘sacredness’, the ‘history’ of scripture just to hold the attention of young people? Is a video of a bible story really more powerful than an adult who loves the story conveying it to a young person in a well thought out way, in the context of a loving caring relationship?

I’m a big fan of Douglas Coupland, the author. His books are crazy funny and deeply insightful in regards to culture, technology, relationships and the difference between generations.

I’m re-reading Micro-Serfs, which came out in 1994…a loooooooooooooooong time ago. It’s about a group of friends who all happen to work at Microsoft and idolize Bill Gates while they sort out their lives, make meaning for themselves and try not to self-destruct.

microserfs
Because it’s written in 1994 and deeply steeped in the culture at the time it’s a bit like a walk down memory lane. One paragraph in particular got me reminiscing….and wondering…

‘Then we digressed into a discussion of how the word ‘dialing’ is itself such an anachronism-a holdover from rotary phones. ‘Inputting’ would be more true. And who came up with the word ‘pound’ for the ‘#’ symbol. Wouldn’t ‘grid’ have been easier and more fun? I mean ‘pound’?
Or think of how dumb it is too say, ‘I’m going to the record store.’
Technology!’

It made me start wondering what things technology has made obselete that are still apart of our daily vocabulary?….technology advances far faster than language, we invent new words to keep up with technology but often don’t delete old, obsolete, archaic words from our vocabulary, as evidenced by the fact that in 2009 I still say ‘Awesome’ too much.
Whats the over/under on when Blockbuster video rental places no longer exist?

It also made me realize that I miss the experience of going to the ‘record store’ and flipping through vinyl or even CDs. Especially when the other day I was walking down Berwick Ave in Soho in London and realized that is the street where the cover art for ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ by Oasis is from. Said record shop is the red door on the left by the second street light.

morningglory

kanye-west-spinApparently someone fronting themselves as Kanye West on Twitter had over a 1,000,000 people following his every activity. Kanye apparently found out about it and had the following things to say about it:

“I DON’T HAVE A F**KING TWITTER!”

“Why would I use Twitter? I only blog five percent of what I’m up to in the first place. I’m actually slow delivering content because I’m too busy, actually busy being creative, most of the time – and if I’m not and I’m just laying on a beach I wouldn’t tell the world.”

“Everything that Twitter offers, I need less of,”twitter-logo

First, if you blogged five percent of what you did with your life, how many entries a day would you have? On your blog? On your Twitter, if you have one? I don’t have a Twitter, but can you imagine if you posted, micro-blogged, even 5% of what you do daily on Twitter? Who has time to read that many micro-posts from a person.

Second, it does bring up the issue, with Twitter especially, but with any electronic
form of posting, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, myspace: how do you know the person posting is who they are and what they say they are? There is alot of trust given and freely taken in the electronic world in regards to who people say they are and what they represent.

Third, I for one completely agree with Kanye West about Twitter. I’m online too much, too much of my communication happens via email, gchat messages, or Facebook…the last thing I need is Twitter. I need less of what Twitter offers: communication without investment in the person I am communicating to. Yes, I’m aware of the irony of saying that while posting a note on Facebook or a blog. I need to make a greater commitment to communicating directly to people and recognizing that as an investment not just in our relationship but in them as a person.

Communication without that investment and without emotional commitment at some point will begin to feel very disengenious, inauthentic and selfish.

The question for those of us in youth ministry is not just how can we use these tools to enhance out ministries to young people, but what is the appropriate amount of usage? These tools can be very handy for connecting with very busy kids, but they are no replacement for healthy, caring, Christ centered relationships. It’s why Christ came down to earth, in human form, spoke to people, touched people, loved people instead of just yelling down from heaven, ‘Hey you guys! (think Sloth from the movie ‘Goonies’), I really really really love you. I love you so much I would die for you. Keep that in mind, alright?!’

Read the whole Kanye diatribe here if you want.

This is a question a church in Detroit was posing to some of it’s members and people in the community to create dialogue about Christ’s divinity and humanity. It was also an entry for the ‘ifart’ competition where people were challenged to make the best ifart video utilizing the ifart application for the iphone…the winner won $5000.

I’m not sure I care if Jesus farted or not…but if it creates dialogue about who people think Christ was then I’m for it.

Anyways, this church also made a video for your ‘viewing pleasure’ about ‘Did Jesus Fart’?

Anyways, what do you think? Did Jesus Fart? Or if you’re like me and don’t really care…what other creative questions can we ask to get people interested and or talking about the character and person of Jesus?

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