“The church needs to use technology to save people from their technology”
The universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. Dr. David Christian from San Diego State University, suggests that instead of trying to wrap our minds around 13 billion years, we could instead shrink the time down to 13 years. Then, if you shrink the age of all major events down accordingly, it would look like this: the earth is five years old, seven months ago the first multi-celled organism came into being, three weeks ago the dinosaurs were wiped out, human beings took the stage 53 minutes ago, five minutes ago was the first record of agriculture, three minutes ago the first agrarian society was established and six seconds ago was the start of modern industrial society.
I said all of that because we’ve only had this massive ability to connect globally for 0.1% of our existence. In that .1% of time, we have connected goods and knowledge through printing, trains, telegraph, radio, television, airplanes, computers and smartphones. Every day, billions of connections are made between people from every corner of the world. This instantaneous connection we enjoy today, however, has only been available to us for a fraction of a second using the above scale. Humans didn’t evolve into this place; it happened very suddenly.
Sometimes I wonder if we were ready for it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Luddite. Those of you who know me know that I have a smartphone, laptop, and tablet all working together in beautiful harmony. Still, I want to make a case for peace, quiet and yes, even boredom.
1905 is known as Albert Einstein’s “Miracle Year.” He wrote four papers in 1905 that quite simply laid the foundation for modern physics. These papers changed how we think of space, time, mass and energy. Einstein was working as a patent clerk at the time, and I think it would be safe to say that he must have been quite bored. I would guess that many brilliant ideas come during boring times. To bring it closer to home, July 15, 1940, C.S. Lewis was very bored while listening to what he called a “tedious sermon” in church. His mind started to wander, and by the time he walked home, he had the outline for “The Screwtape Letters” mapped out in his head.
If Einstein and Lewis would have had smartphones to distract them, I wonder if they would have had such prolific and brilliant ideas? I think about this often. When I’m having dinner with someone and they excuse themselves to use the restroom and I pull out my phone rather than sitting there taking in the world around me, I wonder what I’m really missing out on.
Like most things in life, technology has both a positive and a negative side. The printing press can both spread valuable ideas all over the world and make pamphlets of hate propaganda (insert your own “fake news” joke here, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on). Airplanes can take us quickly to our loved ones but they also can drop bombs. Bayer used their research to create both aspirin and the holocaust gas chambers. And now today, we are completely digitally connected. Some use this technology to spread hope, while others are cyber-bullies.
The church has no choice but to embrace technology. Every new person who engages you will have been to your website first. If that person is a Millennial and your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then forget it!
Here’s what I believe is the great irony in all of this – the church needs to use technology to save people from their technology. We can provide solitude, an escape from the noise, and most of all guidance about how to go deep inside yourself and get in touch with God. The kicker is that one of the main ways people will know what we can provide is through – you guessed it – technology.
David Dreisbach serves as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.