In the fifth chapter of The Next Story Tim addresses the concepts of mediation and identity. His illustration for how digital revolution has shaped our cultures and lives is by comparing and contrasting the two greatest military tragedies of the US - Pearl Harbor and September 11th. Because we are so surrounded by technology, news travels faster, we're able to hear more about an event as it unfolds. Where the people that lived during the Pearl Harbor attacks waited days and even weeks for more detail about the events of that day; the generation that lived in the US during September 11th were not only able to find out something had happened, but were even able to tune in and watch the tragedy unfold.
Tim points out that unless you were near Pearl Harbor on December 7th, you're not likely to remember exactly where you were or what you were doing when the attacks happened. Conversely, because of television millions of people watched as the towers fell and can tell you with amazing detail what they were doing the moment they found out.
Now, as we approach the 10th anniversary of September 11th we're even more inundated with technology. In fact, I'm able to find out breaking news faster than the television can air it because of services like Twitter and Facebook. Osama bin Laden's recent death is the most example of this.
But what is the effect of all this screen time on the Christian? "[At] church we watch our pastors on screens before returning home to watch sermons on the internet. Life is mediated by the screen" (pg 69). In one sense all of human history after the Fall has involved mediation of sorts. Where Adam and Even once walked and talked with the Creator of the universe, because of their sin that communication, that relationship was cut off...disconnected. After the Fall God used mediators to interact with humans, even our way of salvation was through mediation. But we can now "come boldly unto the throne of grace" - why can we as sinners, as those deserving His wrath, come to the Father?
Because of Christ's atoning work on the cross we have a way of approaching...this is not a timid approach, but a bold one! Bold because we've been washed clean by the Lamb and now He sits in heaven interceding for us. So even now, and until we get to heaven, we rely upon a mediator.
In this life, while mediation is good, we know that the spiritual intimacy we long for - the direct presence of God - will be so much better.(pg 94)
Even though we approach God through Someone else we were still created for relationship and this applies to every aspect of our lives. We long to connect, to communicate. Our screens allow us to do that in a much more broad manner than previous generations experienced. More and more we as a culture turn to our screens, and our face to face interactions decrease. The effect is that what was originally a supplement to our lives has become the primary way we get our information - and in some cases, interact with the world.
Today, as we increasingly use e-mail or text messaging as replacements for face-to-face communication, we no longer have access to the signals of voice and body language that are an integral part of oral communication...As a result, the tone of e-mails is misunderstood more than half the time, compared to just a quarter of the time over the phone and even less often face-to-face.(pg 95-96, emphasis mine)
How often do
Some interesting stats
Adults ages fourty-five to fifty-four accumulate the greatest amount of screen time, totaling none hours and thirty-four minutes per day.(pg 90)
About a quarter of that screen time is "combined time," meaning that dduring these periods people are using more than one screen at once.
An involuntary community
My church sets aside a few weeks each year to hone in on different subjects relating to family and the church - everything from budgeting, to lust, to forgiveness, to hospitality, to children's classes on the importance of obedience - it's always very encouraging. It just so happens that I'm reading my way through this book while the church is having the seminars.
I was fortunate enough to sit in on the hospitality session recently (unfortunately I was unable to get it recorded - technology fail whale) and one of the things that was discussed was the fact that God chose us even though we were His enemies, He sent His Son to die for us, and His Son did not fight back or exhibit bitterness as He was brutally murdered. In light of that fact - ought we not love our brethren? Ought we not show love to those who don't love us - even to those who grate our nerves? Tim echoes this call to selfless love in the latter part of the fifth chapter:
"Church" is not an event. It is people - people whom God calls us to love. What is more, it is in a very important sense an involuntary community of people: we don't choose our brothers and sisters - God does. And sometimes (oftentimes) those people are not terribly compatible with us - not the people we would choose to hang out with...It can be difficult to love those who are unlike us, which is exactly why God calls us to do so. And we are to love them as the Bible instructs us to - through real-life situations, in the real world, from house to house, even in the laying down of our lives for one another.(pg 108-109, emphasis mine)
Since we are called to love and to be in each others lives, what will that look like as we communicate? What ought it to look like in our daily habits? What will it look like in terms of my computer usage?
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