Friday, July 22, 2011

Tweets, YoVille and BFFs and other signs of the End

I watched my ten year old grandson texting on his smart phone the other day. It was amazing. His fingers and thumbs were flying across the keypad on his smart phone typing in messages to his parents, updating them on all the great stuff he was experiencing while with Judy and I on our boats. We had flown him up to spend the week with us and with his cousin Davis, also 10, who had come for a 2 week visit with his parents. Between Sam texting and Davis breaking all my high score records on Angry Birds, I was beginning to feel pretty much like the old fogey I actually am becoming.

But I am not going to succumb. I want to stay right up there with the latest techno-trends and information devices. But it is tough. It took Judy and I 5 days just to figure out how to properly program the points of interest we wanted into the GPS on her new car. Uploading profile pictures to FACEBOOK can be an all evening project. Figuring out all the possible cool things I can do with my 3G phone and my new XOOM tablet takes 10 times longer for me than for most people I am sure.

To top it all off, I decided I would open a TWITTER account this week. Like I need one more obsessive thing to occupy my free time. So far I have posted 7 tweets. As I have posted each one, my thought has been, does anyone really care what random thought is going through my head or what mundane activity I am engaged in at any given moment. Probably not. So far only two people I know are following my tweets and I have gotten no comments back. But, as George Costanza said in one SEINFELD episode "I'm Out There Baby!"

In 1943, Bill Watson, the then chairman of IBM said that he could only imagine a world market for 5 computers. Guys like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen obviously saw something much different. Not counting our phones (Judy has a Blackberry and I have an Adroid 3G)we have 4 operational computers just in our household.

Author Walter Percy (quoted in Dick Staub’s book “THE CULTURALLY SAVVY CHRISTIAN) says, “You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advance, humanity has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” Staub goes on to say, “All humans share a common need and desire for a creative, spiritual, intellectual, moral and relational renaissance, and yet, in today’s polarized culture war, we are not talking to each other.”

Instead, we are posting on each others wall, tweeting, following one anothers blogs and emailing. But are we really connecting? Are we sharing at a deep, intellectual, spiritual and relational level?

We were on vacation on our boat the last two weeks and one would think that the main benefit of such a vacation would be serenity, solitude and freedom from technology and phones. Not true! Cell phones were vibrating and beeping, and now, almost every marina - even those in more remote places - have WiFi available. We were plugged in the entire time. One thing I noticed then (and whenever a group of people have phones or computers with them) is that personal interaction and meaningful verbal conversation was at a minimum because everyone was looking at a screen or typing on their keyboard.

Technology and Social Networking are great. But they also have a downside. On the one hand, we can share information and retrieve information instantaneously. We can carry on business without meeting in person. We can order books, clothes, cars, music and medicine without leaving our home. We can share pictures, videos, and recordings without being there, going to a theater or listening live. Students can gather research (not necessarily accurate)by doing a GOOGLE search or going to Wikipedia.

The downsides however can be pretty scary. Identity theft, unwanted spam emails (some
graphically violent or sexual), depersonalization and social isolation are just a few of the potential negatives.

Of course one of the recent scandals with TWITTER has been the one surrounding Congressman Anthony Weiner and his self-revalatory x-rated pictures he admitted to sending to a Washington State woman.

In our series of sermons this summer on Christ and Culture, we are reminded that Jesus prayed that his followers would not be taken out of the world but be protected from the evil one. In fact, he says, "even as you (God the Father) have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world."

It is true that Christians are to be salt and light in the world. Our lives are to be redemptive and are to reflect the "imago dei" in our spirituality, our relationships and in our creativity and work. Some might suggest that it is wrong for Christians to be so engaged in the world of technology and especially the aspects of it that relate to social networking. "It is too dangerous or there are too many bad things" associated with it. Of course that is not true. Technology and communication are amoral. That is to say, in and of themselves, there is no evil or inherently bad values attached to the technology.

But as with all things, moral value comes from how we use technology. Christ calls us to redeem the world and to bring all things under his Lordship. We are also called to be discerning and wise.

A couple of verses from the Bible have struck me as I have thought about this subject:
2 Corinthians 10:5 - with respect to the Christian's relation to the world Paul says,
"Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does....we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Philippians 1:10 - "...that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."

Colossians 3;17 - "Whatever you do in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Ephesians 5:15ff - "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

Its probably impossible to say for a fact - its a moot point. But I have wondered if Jesus would have used - or encouraged his disciples to use Facebook or Twitter as means of spreading the good news. I think so. At any rate, I think that with discernment as to the amount of time spent, the content and words we use, we can, and should use the tools available for building up the kingdom and the body of Christ.

So what do I do with this? What is my response? Maybe I should get an armband that says WWJT (What would Jesus Tweet) so that I think about the ways I use the internet and social networking in a way that is redemptive, creative, and helpful. I cam up with these questions. Maybe they'd be helpful for you too.

* How much time do I spend in comparison to the amount of time I spend with God?
* Am I using technology and networking to build my faith, relationships, encourage others?
* Am I making the most of my time or redeeming the time?
* Am I being discerning?
* Do people see the light of Christ in my online activity?

I'd like to hear your responses so I'll tell you what. Why not post something on my Facebook Wall or send me a Tweet this week (RevFred3). Or if you are still living in the 2005s, call or text me on my cell. I'll be logging in to check.