August 21, 2011

Spiritually Severed

Content Warning: Graphic analogy or literary illustrations...and I mean it folks, this one is really hard to read and will be hard to stomach. I'm trying to raise the bar here without being overtly/fradulently legalistic or unnecessarily illustrative but still try and get the impact of my point across.

No matter how many telecommunications companies market cellphones to keep people "connected", the farther away and more disconnected people are growing from other people. No matter how many ethereal Internet connections we have access to, America and the world at large is becoming exponentially impersonal and disengaged from people and their surroundings. This is the paradox of the world we currently live in. We now live in 2011 and have more points of contact at our disposal than at any time and history...and we couldn't be farther apart. Separated at a time when we are desperately in need of others for our well-being and/or survival. Neighbors we live next to for years are complete strangers. In many cases some of us have had more words with our enemies rather than a next door neighbor.

Here's a scenario: We sit in conversation with people face-to-face. Someone gets texted or the cellphone rings and the owner answers. The phone owner then disengages from the present conversation and proceeds with his own distant conversation yet physically is still sitting across from me...yet a 1000 miles away. People cannot even focus on those physical things that are directly adjacent to them yet the duty of the evangelist and the preacher of the Word needs to engage them with a God they cannot see. A God that is most readily seen through other people. Some of the very people they ignore. To prove a point, how many stories have we heard about someone driving while either talking on the cellphone or texting only to end up as a rear bumper ornament on the car in front of them or as an extra limb on a tree through sheer kinetic force? If we cannot apply ourselves to the immediate task at hand, how can we possibly expect to concentrate on a God that expects our undivided attention when having a relationship with Him? God wants our focused attention and we have whittled ours down to approximately 10-15 second blips. How do you have a relationship with anyone in 15 second windows.

People are over busy and over-stimulated. Sometimes hurrying around to do absolutely nothing. We are some of the busiest people in history that have nothing to do in terms of necessity. It is something I have referred to as neurotic self-importance. We work insanely hard to sit around and do nothing. We work so we can be payed to have time off. We are totally jacked visually, sexually, audibly, mentally and so on. It is an pandemic of disconnection because of tools that allow us to connect. We create humanless networks that have no life and neglect and ignore those within a close proximity physically. Strange. God has told us to do just the opposite when companionship is available to us.

Hebrews 10:25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Psalm 133:1 "A song of ascents. Of David. "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!"

The idea of unity is embedded in Christianity and in the Trinity as the two are inseparable. It is reflected in a happy marriage. Studies show that happily married couples generally live longer lives. When dealing with stress or trauma, these situations are easier dealt with in groups than individually. What may sink one doesn't necessarily sink a couple or group. In God's math their is definitely strength in numbers. Today's technology and the way it is being used is blowing God's pattern asunder and Christians, of all people, need to recognize this and deal or address it properly. We need to realize that (1) we are not that important that we need to have our cellphones or electronic gadgets on all the time. (2) Yes it is possible a loved one may be trying to contact you in an emergency but the possibility that it will be every day all day long is highly unlikely. What happened to consideration for those that are right in front of you? What happened to having relationships, families and friendships? Why can't people turn the toys off? Why can't they at least set it to vibrate mode and ignore it when it goes off? If it absolutely has to be answered tell them you will call them back. It wasn't more than ten years ago that I did not even have a cellphone or Internet connection. Even now my cellphone is a $9.99 pay as you go from Dollar General and everyone I have given the number to know it is only for emergencies. I rarely ever answer it, I usually let it ring out and then take down the number to use on a land line. 

Some people's phones are now literal handheld computers that appear to have been surgically implanted into the end of their arm. These toys have driven a wedge between people through cognitive dissonance....they're totally distracted from immediate tasks. Always turning your attention away from someone used to be considered blatantly ignorant. Now even some of the nicest people including pastors do it. I don't get it. Nor will I ever. I cannot believe at 42 I have become thoroughly old-fashioned. Called me insane but when I am not studying or researching I am usually quite happy to be completely disconnect from the technology and connected to people in the real world. I am generally oblivious to WIFI and enjoy speaking with people eye-to-eye and face to face.

When we fail to make the personal connection and instead do it in an informal manner through cellular technology we begin to breakdown and destroy a basic need of humanity which is close relation and some cases the visual communication of body language and for intimates the communication of a touch. We see prolific communication in places like Jesus and the Trinity. We see it with Jesus and His disciples. They walked together, ate together, talked together and even fought and argued together...but at least they interacted. Today we have literally (and in some case inadvertently) embodied Timothy Leary's drug induced mantra: "Turn on, tune in, drop out". Sadly, what Leary was talking about was inherently selfish and ungodly. The statement that led to this manta actually went like this:
"Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out"
Leary was speaking of and condoning a form of pantheistic and syncretistic self-worship fueled by drugs. Leary said we need to turn within. This is a thoroughly eastern philosophy. Christianity tells us to turn outwards to find diversity and divinity. This mantra to "tune out" is inherently unbibical. Yet, because of our technology and how it has become ubiquitous in our culture it has subconsciously crept into our everyday behavior (minus the drugs, unless of course you consider addiction to electronic toys a drug) and soceity has effectively "dropped out" in most cases. We focus on the technology and it takes away from gathering together with others. Hebrews 10:25 specifically calls us to be together to worship God...not answer our phones or fidget with "toys" during services. I have seen this happen. Someone will whip out their iPhone4 with the NIV in it and subsequently get distracted and start tinkering with another application---during the service! That ain't right people! We need to consciously recognize this unbiblical behavior. Unbiblical actions because of unconscious behavior is still sin...albeit a sin of omission in many is still sin!

We have people right in front of us and we are omitting them from our lives when we are called to unite with them as Christian. To purposely detach a piece of the a body (a person) like a hand, foot, eye, ear from the body as a whole (the Church) is to effectively perform an amputation. I believe we are seeing a misappropriation of grace here. Technology when used for good purposes is a Godly thing but to use technology for disobedience is sin, I don't care how many free minutes you get. I am literally raising the level of expectation with this post. If you do not have to...don't, tell them you'll get back to them. Talk to the people that are right in front of you. If you do take a call you may still be there physically but mentally you are cognitively dissonant. The truth is really are not there...regardless of what you say. This amounts to separation from others. We really need to see how commands from 2000+ years ago still apply in light of a rapidly expanding plethora of technological advances. We need to determine what the implications of the text in the Bible are. I didn't say contemporize the authors intent or take God's intent out of context, I said figure out how the statues and the commands of the Bible still apply today without being legalistic now that this technology has arrived.

How about if I take these thoughts up one more level? What happens if you have turned the phone to vibrate and it vibrates in you pocket but you decide to continue to focus on the sermon, fellowship, Bible study or what-have-you? Can you focus on the teaching at hand? Do you really end up focusing on what the people are saying or doing or is your attention or focus on the phone in your pocket and who might have been on the other end? This too is congnitive dissonence if only for a few minutes. It is time that could've or should've been spent meditating on God's network not Verizon's or AT&T's network. If it gets to this point it literally becomes a tempation to distract you from your worship, fellowship or meditation on God which should be priority.

In the end we need to realize severing anything from the body for an extented period of time separates that unit or appendage from the very things it needs to stay alive and exist: the heart, the mind and the soul. Anything separated from the body (God, Church) that needs to be attached to the body whether it be a heart, mind and soul will eventually die physically, mentally and spiritually if it is kept seperated. When we do it to ourselves volitionally it is considered suicide.

It is up to God and you to determine how much is too much. What I do know is that many flirt with being over the line or are over the line by being on the line all the time.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15

"...a time to be silent and a time to speak" ~Ecclesiastes 3:7

There is a time to have your toys on but there is definitely a time to turn your toys off too. There is nothing that important that requires that you have your gadgets on all the time. Please tune back in...there is a lot of your life that you are missing if you continue to bury your head in an impersonal dehumanized cube or flatscreen. Its like talking to or staring at a brick when others/Others directly in your presence would like to fellowship with you.

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