Many, many moons ago when I was a lot younger and my family would go on holiday, the maps would come out and be spread across the dining room table. Routes would then be meticulously planned along with little detours if there was a place we wanted to visit, okay that should be if my parents wanted to visit. But it was a skill that we were pretty good at, thinking about and planning out which way to go so we got to where we were going on time. Of course times have changed and whilst my parents still use maps most people will use the systems in their cars or on their phones, following the instructions of a device which tells them what is best instead of thinking about their route for themselves.
Jump from my childhood to my 20s and I got a job working in the I.T. department of an insurance company where I learned core programming skills and went on to become a web developer. Those web development skills have stayed with me like those map reading skills and whilst for slanting-n I use a content management system I am more than happy when I am knee deep in writing back end code, thinking about what I need to do. The thing is that these days there are a lot of people who have websites which they fill with articles but have no idea how the code of the site works. If they need their site to do something they look for a quick fix, a ready made plugin which will do what they want without them having to think about how to do it.
I could go on because the world is changing from the way we travel to the way we shop and some times I wonder if some of the ways it is changing is for the better as everything seems to now focus on convenience, speed, instant gratification and removing the need to think for ourselves.
Take for example the internet. You go on Google and you do a search for a specific question and you are presented with what the system thinks are the best pages. You click on the first result on the page and if the answer to what you are looking for is not there right in front of you how long do you stay on that page looking for what you wanted before going to the next site in the list. How about when you go shopping, you go to your supermarket, get everything you need and pay for the goods with out having to talk to anyone as you go through a self serve checkout and pay with your contactless card. It just feels like everything in this world is becoming all about speed, convenience, instant gratification and increasingly not requiring us to think for ourselves and in some cases interact with each other.
My biggest fear though is that with each passing year as technology makes things easier and more convenient we will have a generation who lose out on some core skills especially when it comes to the Bible. Now look I am not against technology, I rely on it for work so how can I be, but I do wonder if in some cases it can hinder our relationship with God. And I don’t just mean that having the internet on our phones in our pockets means we can be looking at dubious sites with ease or spending time thinking we need to look and act like the latest celebrity who is famous seemingly for being famous.
So let me ask some questions?
If you have an hour free on a Saturday morning and you pick up your phone are you more likely to use it to read a chapter or two with your bible app or are you more likely to go on youtube or play a game even though you have the Bible app at hand?
When you get your daily devotional through on your phone and you read the scripture and what the writer has said about it, do you really take time to really contemplate those words and what they mean to you or do you find yourself then checking twitter, facebook or your messages?
In church on a Sunday when the pastor starts preaching and you pull out your phone to look up the verses on your bible app, do you really take them in, do you sneak a look at your email and do you go back to those verses later in the day to read them again?
You see what I am getting at here is that modern technology such as a smart phone is geared up to convenience, ease of use, and quick answers but also offering up things to keep hold of your attention to the point I honestly believe that smart phones are causing ADHD like symptoms in some and also addiction symptoms in others. And that is because whether originally intended or not smart phones and modern technology breeds dependency, you reach for your phone when you want to be entertained or need an answer to the point that in some ways they discourage you from thinking for yourself, it’s easy to just press the button and when you are done just tap the next button. Heck you can just ask Alexa these days, you don’t even have to type and press a button anymore. Sadly the smart phone has gone from something to make life easier to some thing which controls some people.
What technology isn’t geared up for, and this is just my opinion, is quiet contemplation, spending time really reading the words and thinking about them. Maybe it is me but when ever I have looked at a scripture on my phone I tend to read the scripture and that it is, I don’t feel encouraged to read around it, read a whole chapter and really think about what those words mean because I close the app and there is a tweet, a message or something else trying to steal my attention because it is all there in the palm of your hand, you don’t need to leave your seat.
It is no different when I am on my computer as when I close my browser I have my email there waiting for me, I have twitter open, I have the list of tasks I need to do, I have icons on my screen offering me plenty of distraction. But put a physical bible in my hands and I will become immersed in the text, really thinking about what these words mean in context of the chapter but also to me right now, whilst the events depicted in the text come to life. And all of this with out the temptation of looking at that text message which just came through as there is no notification at the top of the page trying to distract me.
Maybe as I grow older I am becoming more and more of a techno-phobe or maybe I have realised the pure joy that comes from spending time reading the bible and traversing my way across the pages for the stories to come to life, the words to speak to me and the wisdom to be revealed. But I do really fear that unless we encourage people to put down their phones, pick up their bibles and think for themselves they will not only miss out on that joy of the word but become incapable of really letting the word speak to them without someone telling them in a quick way what they need to know. I know I get so much more out of my bible time when I pick up my bible, go in to a room with no distractions and just sit there reading, thinking about what I read and praying on it.
Trust me, I know this is not the last time I will bring this subject up because it is some thing I have come to realise I am passionate about, we need to pick up our physical bibles more and really spend time in the word away from distractions that this world offers us. We need to start thinking about the Word for ourselves and stop relying on a quick fix of thought from someone else, sent to our phones each day.