Category: Christ & Culture (page 1 of 27)

Praying for Israel

I’m not concerned about the politics of the U.S. president’s speech yesterday related to moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declaring that city the eternal capitol of that nation. Frankly, I don’t understand the politics. Why does the U.S. insist on being so tangled up with Israel? Is it oil interests in the Middle East? Is it the money from Jewish-Americans who bankroll the re-election campaigns of the politicians? I don’t get it and it’s not my concern.

I’m also not concerned about the distorted theologies out there claiming that if the U.S. looks out for Israel and protects Israel and pursues the political purposes of Israel, then somehow God above will smile on America and we’ll all prosper and maybe Jesus will return. I don’t get it. The promise in the Torah is clear, from Genesis 12 on, that God’s salvation is for all nations, that the Lord is interested in rescuing all peoples. The New Testament tells us over and over again that the Church is Israel, we’re grafted in. It’s bigger than man-made boundaries and worldly politics and armies. The Church is the political entity; our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. Our Lord is gathering all people to himself in Christ Jesus. He doesn’t love or favor any one nation or people any more or any less than he does the people of Israel.

My concern today is with the people I know and love in that great land.

I emailed Anton Farah yesterday, a little ahead of the anticipated violence that has resulted from the U.S. government’s move. Anton is our faithful guide when we take our every-other-year trips to Israel. Anton led 15 of Bill Humble’s 20 trips to the Holy Land and blessed me by introducing me to his dear friend and guide. Anton was born and raised in Nazareth, a Palestinian and a Christian; a wise and humble man, full of grace and dry humor, brimming with knowledge and strength, full of God’s Holy Word and God’s Holy Spirit. I love Anton and his wife and sons.

I told him yesterday I was thinking about him and praying for him in advance of what’s going to be a rough few days. I was praying that God will bless him and the people he loves with peace and protection. I was praying that there would be no violence (D’oh!). I was praying that he and his family would be safe.

He emailed back that he’s in the middle of a seven day tour and is scheduled over the next four days to be in the West Bank, Jericho, Hebron, Arad, and Shechem. He expressed gratitude for the prayers and well wishes and told me he is also praying that there will be safety and no troubles. He’s not scared. He’s been through much worse. He thinks and reacts on a much higher plane.

I’ve been checking in on the violence and protests throughout the day. The pictures and videos of protestors starting fires and throwing rocks and the Israeli police answering with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades are unnerving. It’s so sad. And dark. I don’t have a full grasp of the complicated politics — I’m not sure anyone does. I don’t understand the misguided theology — it’s wrong. But I do know some of the people in Israel — people on both sides of the ancient conflict — and I love them. And God loves them. All of them.

We’re scheduled to take a group of 32 to Israel the first week of June this coming year, the largest group I’ve ever led to the Holy Land! My middle daughter, Valerie, is making her first trip with us to Israel and I can’t wait for her to meet Anton and Kando and Shipley and all the beautiful men and women and children of that country. I can’t wait for her to see and experience all that our God has done and is doing there.

I’m a little concerned that the date for the next signing of the waiver that keeps the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is scheduled for that same June. Whether the American president signs the waiver at that time or chooses to actually move the embassy — either way — I’m worried that it’ll spark more violence and our trip will be in jeopardy. I hope not.

In the meantime, I would ask you to pray for the people of Israel. Don’t spend a lot of time praying and talking and tweeting and texting and forwarding emails about the politics or the theology of the current situation over there. Pray for the people. Think holy thoughts about the men, women, and children in Israel.

Pray for peace — not peace on U.S. terms, not peace according to your political party’s definition, not peace that’s brought about by threat and force. Pray for the eternal peace of Jesus Christ, his will, in his way, in his timing, to his glory.



Where He Leads

For the past several years it’s become clear that the word “evangelical” has very little, if anything, to do with Christianity or religion. It’s not a Christian term anymore. It’s been misused and redefined by the politicians and media in the United States for so long now that it’s become a purely secular word. A national political term.

One of the more obvious manifestations of this is in the way African Americans are left out. Have you noticed that the media will not refer to African Americans as “evangelicals?” Christians of color may have a high regard for the Bible, they may focus on the atonement of Christ through the cross, they may be committed to proclaiming the Gospel, they may believe the Gospel changes lives and changes the world — they may embody every facet of the classic definition of “evangelical.” But because African Americans vote heavily for Democratic candidates, the media will not call them “evangelicals.” The term is strictly political now. “Evangelical” means Republican. “Evangelical” means guns and lower taxes and immigration reform and repealing Obamacare.

There are a lot of reasons this matters so much. One of the main reasons is that our young people now identify traditional Christianity with right wing American politics. This development has been analyzed and discussed in every “unchristian” and “You Lost Me” type of book that’s been written in the past twenty years. Young people are not leaving the Church because they reject Christ Jesus as Lord, they’re leaving the Church because they reject the national politics that appear to go with it.

That’s a problem for all of us. Whatever our national political beliefs and practices — left or right, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal — they shouldn’t be wrapped up in God’s Church because they all eventually come into conflict with God’s ways. And our young people see right through it.

I was privileged to be in attendance at Hope Network’s Preacher Initiative in Dallas last month when Dr. Mallory Wyckoff delivered a powerful sermon on the disconnect between what we teach our young people in our churches and what they actually experience in and through us who do the teaching. Her sermon was gut-level honest and penetrating. Eye-opening. Inspiring. The language soared and the message cut straight to the heart of the Gospel.

Mallory has graciously provided me with a manuscript of her sermon, “Where You Lead I Will Follow” from Matthew 23. You can find the entire sermon posted to her website here. But I’d like to share a couple of excerpts in this space.

Mallory began by praising the church and the church people who raised her in the faith. She expressed her admiration and love for those men and women who shaped her as a child of God.

“To be sure, I was loved. I was loved really well. I was made to believe that I had worth, that I could pursue the dreams that surged within, that God would guide me as I took each clumsy step. I was nurtured in the Christian faith from the womb, loved and cared on by my community, educated in their schools, formed in their churches. I attended their youth groups and summer camps, wore their T-shirts and sang their songs. These people invested in me, gave of their time and resources to help me grow into the woman I am now. For all of this and for more, I am grateful.”

Mallory then moved to unashamedly hold the mirror up to the troubling inconsistencies she noticed when she actually began to read the Bible her church told her to read and follow the Christ her church told her to follow.

“[I] observed that Jesus seemed to care an awful lot about the poor and marginalized, giving them food and dignity, binding their wounds and healing their bodies. But when I named the gross inequities between the rich and poor in our country and asked what we might do to overcome this, they called me a socialist…

They told me about the cross of Christ and insisted this was a central feature of our faith. So I spent time reflecting on the cross and observed it as the culmination of Jesus’ consistent refusal to employ violent means. I took to heart his teachings that the swords we live by surely are the ones by which we will die, that we are to love our enemies and, perhaps, this might mean to not kill them. I wondered how I could follow this Christ with any integrity in my heart if I also carried a gun in my hand or on my hip. But when I asked my church about these things, they told me this was unrealistic, that Jesus’ teachings are for individuals but have nothing to say to nation-states, and that I should fear the nation-state taking from me the very weapons Jesus warned against.

They took me to the baptismal font and buried me with Christ beneath the waters, calling on me to live into the newness of life in Christ, proclaiming that my identity is found therein, and I swore my allegiance to Christ. But when I began asking about all of the myriad allegiances we seem to hold in conflict with the lordship of Christ, that perhaps nationalism is the most dangerous kind of idolatry, they told me I was not a good patriot.

They taught me about the early church, a marginalized sect seeking to live into the Kingdom in the midst of empire. They told me stories of the church’s courage, even in the face of persecution and death, and of their commitment to the way of Christ. But when I began wondering about how the empire in which we find ourselves dehumanizes black and brown bodies, they told me I didn’t show enough respect for the flag and for country and for every other symbol that bears Caesar’s image even while the body count for image bearers of God keeps climbing…”

Mallory’s critique comes straight out of Scripture, directly out of the prophets’ mouths and our Savior’s heart. She articulates so well what stirs my own soul and what burdens my shoulders and my mind, but what I have such difficulty describing. She perfectly says what I’m thinking.

Our priorities are out of whack. Our identities are compromised. We’re seeing issues to be argued instead of people to be loved. We think first as Republicans or Democrats, as political conservatives or liberals, and not first as disciples of Jesus. Our positions are solidified and our decisions are made through the lenses of our race, our zip code, our political affiliations, and not first and foremost by our identity as baptized followers of the Christ.

The younger generations coming up behind us see it. And they feel it.

You already know my position on all this. The United States is not going to be changed by votes or parties. It’s not going to be saved by force of numbers or force of rhetoric. It’s going to be saved, along with the rest of the world, by Christ Jesus. And his way is about love and forgiveness, sacrifice and service. And peace. Our Christianity should be defined by those things. Our congregations should be characterized by those things. Our young people need to see that in us first. And last. And every place in between.

Mallory ends her sermon with a genuine humility and grace that are sometimes missing from mine. She expresses her deep love for the ones who’ve gone before and she confesses that she is no better. She sees the hypocrisy and duplicity in her elders, but is self-aware enough to know she’s capable of the same missteps.

“I am neither different from nor better than the ones who taught me to follow Christ and dismissed the places he took me. Like them, I say one thing and do another, unaware of the ones who suffer because of my ignorance. I tell [my daughter] to follow Jesus no matter where he takes her, even and especially when it’s a path I reject or dismiss. I tell her that she will have to differentiate between the heart of God and the ways I do or do not reflect this God. I tell her to follow Christ, wherever he may lead. May we have the courage to follow him, too.”

Thank you, Mallory, for these challenging words. Thank you for your boldness and your grace. May our God bless us all to see more clearly and to follow more faithfully.



What If It Happened Here?

“My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my Kingdom is from another place.” ~Jesus

The headline on the front page of today’s Amarillo Globe-News asks the question in bold print: “What if it happened here?” with the subheading: “Local churches eye security measures in wake of massacre.”

The paper quotes a couple of local pastors who are considering changes to their church’s security plans in light of last Sunday’s horrible shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. One of the pastors is hiring an armed Amarillo Police Department officer to be present during their worship services, claiming it will put the members of his church “at ease to see a uniformed officer” and that he wants his people to “feel safe and secure.” This pastor is also considering hosting an active shooter seminar for his congregation. Another pastor expresses the need for an active shooter seminar at his church “as soon as possible.” All of the pastors in the story have some type of armed security personnel in and around their buildings during services. We do, too, here at Central.

The headline asks a question the story never answers: What if it happened here? Maybe the reporter never asked the question and the headline writer was having a rough night. It’s a good question. What happens in your church building if — God forbid — an active shooter begins opening fire? What happens at Central?

If the Church of Jesus is established by God to serve as a light to the world, as an alternative community in contrast to the values and priorities of society, as a scandalous counter to the ways and means of our culture, then we would all keep our guns in our holsters. If God’s Church is established to witness to the “other” way, to proclaim and live out the teachings of Jesus, the true interpreter of God’s Law, then the shooter would not be shot — at least not by a Christian.

Which serves as the more powerful witness to the world: a Christian blowing away a non-Christian in the middle of a worship assembly inside a church building in the name of self defense or Christians praying for and forgiving the one who is shooting them, refusing to kill him, asking God to, instead, have mercy on him, in the name of Jesus? I know the world will laud the Christian who kills in the name of self defense. That same world will lament the misguided Christian sap who refused to meet violence with violence in the name of Jesus.

What if it happened here?

Nearly two years ago The Christian Chronicle published a front page story about church shootings, quoting a dozen ministers from a dozen different congregations in several states who believe and, apparently, teach that carrying a gun and being prepared to use it against another human being is a good thing to do.

Those preachers were asked the question, “What if it happened here?” A minister in Florida said, “walking in with the intent to harm our congregation would be like walking in to harm someone at an NRA rally or gun show.” A minister of another church told the Chronicle that lots of people in his congregation are packing and “someone would be sorry to try anything here.” Some of the preachers interviewed even attempted to say that shooting a criminal inside the church building is the “Christian” thing to do. One preacher from Houston said, “There is a world of difference in being ready to die for your faith than to die at the hands of a crazy man simply because he’s crazy. I believe God would permit me to protect myself and my family in cases such as that.”

A minister in Kentucky went so far as to claim that Christians are required to shoot when he said, “We believe theologically we have an obligation to protect and defend our church membership, especially children, against a stranger or angry member who was to come in and begin shooting.”

A preacher in Alabama who admits to bringing his own Ruger .380 to the church building on Sundays invoked the name of Jesus in justifying the use of deadly force by a Christian: “I do not believe that Jesus — or even the old law — taught members to cower in the face of danger. It was Jesus who told his apostles to take a sword in Luke 22.”

OK. Stop right there.

Two things.

One, you cannot use the name of our Lord to justify the killing of anyone under any circumstances. Ever. Yes, Jesus moves to protect those under attack, not by killing the attacker but by stepping in front of the bullet. And he would forgive the attacker and pray for him while he was dying. I’m always surprised to hear Christians say, “Jesus would not allow himself to be a victim.” Actually, our Lord willingly left his home in glory, put all of his trust in the One who judges justly, and purposefully submitted to being the worst kind of victim. He blessed those who attacked him, he loved those who hated him, he forgave those who killed him, and never lifted a finger against any of them in self defense. I’ve heard other Christians acknowledge that truth about our Lord and then add, “Well, Jesus wouldn’t shoot anybody, but I would.” That actually makes you, by definition, not a Christian.

Two, Jesus’ words in Luke 22 do not authorize the use of gun violence in any way. Jesus is telling his disciples that things have changed. The first time they went out, they were all welcomed with goodwill and hospitality. But now, when they are scattered, they are going to face opposition. They’re going to be ridiculed, rejected, and maybe even killed. Now, Jesus says, you’re on your own out there. Don’t count on other people to help you. You’re going to need a purse, a bag, a sword, whatever. He’s speaking figuratively. He doesn’t discount in this moment every word out of his mouth for the past three-plus years against violence. He’s not saying the opposite now of his every teaching against violence. He’s speaking symbolically. How do we know? Because when the disciples reply, “Look, Lord, we’ve got two swords right here,” Jesus rebukes them. “Enough, already! Stop!”

Yes, Jesus says, you’re going to face intense opposition to me and my message, your very lives are going to be endangered. But you don’t respond with self-defense and violence. Enough! You’re missing the point! Jesus will have nothing to do with swords, even for defense. How do we know? Because later in this same chapter, in the very next scene when Jesus is being arrested, one of the disciples asks him, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And Jesus says emphatically, “No!”

One of the Christ-followers uses his sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. And Jesus sharply rebukes him. “No more of this! Stop!” And he heals the injured attacker. He ministers to and heals the one who came to harm him. In Luke 22, literal armed resistance as self-defense is exposed as a foolish misunderstanding of Jesus’ message.

Of all the ministers quoted in the Christian Chronicle article, only one expressed a theological and scriptural objection to the use of gun violence by Christians in self-defense. Tyler Jarvis, the student and family minister for the Oak Ridge Church of Christ in Willow Park, Texas, said, “I think that the church should trust in the protection and mercy of God, even if it means not being able to defend against an attacker or intruder. The church ought to be able to extend love and forgiveness to those who wish them harm, even if it costs them their lives in the process.”

There are many reasons Christians in the U.S. believe it’s OK to kill people in self-defense. Culture plays a role, society has something to do with it, fear informs our understandings, and there appears to be a general unwillingness to carefully think things through and reflect. Gun violence is normalized as if there’s no choice. We accept the culture’s position and then approve it for God’s Church. There’s no theological challenge, just an out-of-context proof text.

Since when is showing unconditional mercy and love and grace and forgiveness in the face of danger and death labeled as cowardly and weak? Since when is praying for our enemies and refusing to repay evil for evil and sacrificing self preservation for the sake of the sinner viewed as unrealistic? Our Lord was not cowardly in the Garden of Gethsemane that night. And he wasn’t weak when he willingly submitted to the cruelty of the cross. Neither are Christians who reject the use of violence to get their way. They are courageous and brave, faithful and true.

Christians, leave your guns at home this Sunday. Practice prayer. Practice forgiveness and mercy. Practice discipleship and obedience to The Way. Pray to God that nobody with violent intent ever attacks your church family in the sanctuary. But also pray to God for the courage and strength, should it ever happen, to respond in ways that will honor our Lord, the Prince of Peace.



Putting It On the Line

“Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” ~Hebrews 13:13-14

In this world, just about all we have as Christians is faith, hope, and love. That’s it. As followers of Jesus, we really don’t have much status or security. We don’t mean a whole lot in the eyes of this world. We know as disciples of Christ we’re going to face opposition and accusation and persecution. That’s where we live. All we have is faith, hope, and love. And we put those things on the line every day.

We put our faith on the line every day. Think about it. We’ve never seen God. We live in a world where everything can be seen and studied and weighed and measured and explained and subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control. But we insist on making the center of our lives a God we can’t see or touch. That’s risky.

We put our hope on the line every day. We don’t know one thing about the future. We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen between now and tomorrow morning — we’re not guaranteed there will be a tomorrow morning. We don’t know about future sickness or pain in store for us, loss or rejection we might or might not experience. Still, despite our total ignorance about the future, we say with confidence that God will accomplish his will and nothing can ever separate us from his love and promises. That’s dangerous.

We put our love on the line every day. There’s nothing we’re less good at than love. We’re much better at competition. We’re better at responding by instinct and ambition and selfishness than at trying to figure out how to love people. We’re trained to go our own way. Our culture — the whole world! — rewards us for trying to get our own way. Yet, we make the decision every day to put aside what we do best and try to do what we’re not very good at: loving other people. And we open ourselves wide to hurt and frustration and rejection and failure. That’s tough, huh?

We declare our words of faith in an unbelieving world. We sing our songs of victory in a city where things get messy. We live our joy among a people who don’t understand us or encourage us. But this isn’t our home. Not this current city with the current structures and current methods of doing things and current ways of judging failure and success.

We have been made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ. We belong to God in Christ — where there’s a whole lot more happening than meets the eye.



Love First

We all know what’s happening in our world, in this country. It’s not new. It’s just amped up to eleven on the ten-point scale and it’s louder than normal and it’s all around us all the time. There is division and strife and conflict. You can’t get away from it. Black and white, left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative — it’s splashed across every screen and blaring from every set of speakers. You can’t eat a Twix bar without being forced to choose left or right. And you can’t turn on a football game on Sunday afternoon to escape from it.

And we’re all experiencing this together — all of God’s children, all of Christ’s disciples, all asking the same questions.

How do we handle this? What are we supposed to do? How do Christians engage this volatile culture? What do we say? How do we act?

I think most of us wish there was a third option, a different way, a way to be above all the conflict but still engage what’s happening in ways that matter.

May I suggest love?

Completely love. Love completely. Sharing the immeasurable love of God with others lifts us above the strife.

The world is squeezing us to make a choice between two options and we get in trouble when we don’t recognize that third way, that third and very different option that takes us high above anything else being offered: Love. Committing to love as our guiding principle, as our continuous posture, actually fulfills or completes God’s purposes for the love he’s lavished on us.

The Bible says we love because he first loved us. We love completely because we are so completely loved.



Enslaved by Our Phones

Quick story before we jump into the final installment of this four part look at our phones: There were more than a hundred people downstairs in Sneed Hall last night listening to Aleisha and our Central youth group give a report on their recent mission trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil. About halfway through the report, right in the middle of Aleisha explaining in great detail the marvelous things our God is doing in South America, she was interrupted by the sound of at least 90 smartphones going off at the same time with a flash flood warning for Randall County. It was a loud and obnoxious alarm — you know the sound — that took a full 90-seconds or more to shut off. Some people in the room didn’t know how to turn it off and it took a while. Others received the warning a minute or two later. The alert was still sounding on various phones throughout the room for a full six or seven minutes. Of course, nobody just turned off their phones. Some people went outside to look at the clouds. Others texted their friends, others checked the radar, others sent and received pictures from family members who were not at church. For at least the next ten minutes, most everybody in the room was on their phones, heads down, engaging something or somebody else who was not in the room. These phones are not neutral. They are designed to distract. Mission accomplished.

Wait. One more quick story. After the mission report, I went to my office where our management cluster was meeting. I pulled out my phone — my slider — to text a deacon to make sure he was coming. And all three of the other men in the room — all elders of our Lord’s Holy Church! — made fun of my phone. They expressed disbelief and reacted with laughter at the ridiculousness of anyone owning such a phone. Fascinating, right? Who cares? It’s a phone. Again, this goes back to my question on Tuesday: Why are people so compelled to judge and/or make fun of those who don’t use smartphones? Why all the hate? It’s a phone!

Actually, that leads us pretty well into today’s final topic.

It seems to me we are working on the premise that all people are slaves to their phones. We not only live in a world where everybody is expected to have a smartphone, we also live in a world where it is impossible to even imagine anybody not having one all the time and using it for everything.

I’ll use a line or two from Dr. Keith Stanglin’s essay and a recent experience with Dr. John Weaver, the director of technology for Abilene Christian University, as talking points here. First, Keith:

“Our modern world is in bondage, in a way that no other era has been, to a consumerism that touches rich and poor alike… Keeping up with the Joneses has never been as important as it is now, where your status is determined by the kind of phone you carry and vehicle you drive. This is not the pursuit of the good life, but of the “goods” life. As a society, we are not freer, but more enslaved. Nowhere is this self-imposed slavery more evident than with smartphones.

If this seems like an exaggeration, then call to mind the lines that stretch for city blocks when each new iPhone is released, an event that has taken place every year since 2007. The thing that people couldn’t wait to have eleven months ago is now obsolete. Why, they wouldn’t be caught dead with an iPhone 6! Making us discontent with our present possessions is the fuel that drives this part of the economy. And such lack of contentment is directly opposed to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles.

We have to hand it to the marketing and advertising departments. If the goal is to make people desire today something they had no idea they even wanted yesterday, and, by tomorrow, turn that want into a perceived necessity that they cannot live without, then the marketers have been wildly successful. If you resist this consumerist cycle and don’t drink the Kool-Aid, you will be mocked by the cultured despisers. Trust me.”

John Weaver was one of the speakers at last May’s annual Sermon Seminar at Austin Graduate School of Theology. While sitting in on his sessions — Christian Ministry in a Digital Culture — I was struck by how much he assumes this slavery or addiction to phones. He claims that our phones are doing our work for us, thus making us lazy. He asserts that our phones are doing our thinking for us, thus making us dumb. He affirms that our phones are disabling us spiritually, driving us away from our God and from one another. But then he spent the better part of two days telling us how we should use our phones to be more like Christ.

The guiding question for his sessions was “How do we grow / mature / be faithful in the digital world?” His answer was to not reject the technology and the phones, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Use the technology in a way that’s helpful. His main directive on this point was that we should turn off our devices but, because that’s impossible, try to use them in a responsible way.

The whole thing was very enlightening for me. He cited study after study, all the research, that says reading your Bible on a screen is not the best way to read your Bible. It’s impossible to engage the text on your iPhone — all the sidebars and pop-ups and other apps that are native to the design of the device. He acknowledges that it’s hard to concentrate on a passage of Scripture when he sees out of the corner of his eye that he just received an email from his wife. He knows and preaches that reading the Bible on a phone relegates God’s Word to just another story or tweet or video that is quickly consumed and then discarded and makes it much harder to remember. Yet his great advice is to use a Bible app that will schedule your reading for you and will disable the pop-ups and emails while you read. On your phone.

He never once suggested putting the phone down, picking up a print Bible, walking out of the room, and spending 30-minutes in reading and meditation. It appeared as if the thought never occurs to him.

Weaver talks about the ways our technology and phones distract us from important things, how they keep us from doing what we know we should be doing. We should turn our devices off, he says. We should plan time to be alone with God without the distractions from our phones. The phones are a barrier between us and our relationships with Christ and one another. So, what’s his life-changing suggestion? Program your phone to alert you to turn it off.

If the phones have to tell us when to turn them off, who’s in charge here?

This well-meaning man never once let on that he understood the irony of his presentations. Since we’re on our phones and laptops so much it’s harming our relationships and forming our brains and habits in undesirable ways, you should use a screensaver with a Bible verse. You should use a background to remind you about God’s presence.

It’s outside the realm of possibility and even imagination to suggest not using a smartphone for every single waking and some sleeping moments of the day and night — even as we know the harm we’re doing to ourselves.

That’s the very definition of addiction, right? That’s slavery, yes?

Can you leave your phone in the car to go into a restaurant for an hour-and-a-half and eat dinner with a friend? Are you able to leave your phone in the office while you go down the hall to talk to a co-worker? Can you go 30-minutes without checking your phone to see if you’ve received a text or a Facebook alert? Would you be able to go to Bible class or a worship assembly without your phone? If any of those scenarios cause your heart to beat faster or your forehead to sweat, if the very thought gives you anxiety, is that a problem? That seems like a problem.

When you’re talking to somebody in person, do you take your eyes off of them to check your phone? Do you interrupt a face-to-face conversation to read a text or to answer a call or to fact-check your friend? Do you spend more time on your phone, swiping and clicking and scrolling, than you do in real talking and listening to your family and friends? Or to God? Is that a problem? Seems like a problem.

From Keith:

“The reality is that we are in a new situation that will not soon be reversed. It is a situation analogous to that of Moses, who tried to regulate divorce for the hard-hearted. It is like the challenge facing the apostle Paul, who tried to regulate the conduct of slave-masters in a society that assumed the practice. We must start with and accommodate the premise that almost everyone is already enslaved to their electronic devices.

The question we must ask, then, reflects the challenge faced also by Moses and Paul: how can we infuse into this less than ideal situation a measure of perspective and good sense?

We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that our justifications or solutions — for instance, ‘I can read my Bible on my phone!’ — are ideal. They are terrible accommodations, and we should rather be clear-eyed about the extent of the enslavement. How can we pull ourselves up a level or two on the continuum of human flourishing that smartphones threaten to drag us down?”

Again, my concern is not that you agree with me. My concern is that we “think” and not just “do.” My concern is that God’s Word and the teachings of Jesus have a prominent place at the table during any conversations about technology and phones. Our beliefs and our behaviors about our phones should be informed by Scripture and by the life and death of our Lord.

Leave it in the car.



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