Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I’ve heard it more than a few times from more than a few people during this pandemic period.
Individuals forced to remain away from others so that the virus isn’t spread further and faster than it already has.
Families confined to their houses not knowing at all what “virtual education” will look like, let alone feel like.
Partners staring off into the distance at night not knowing what to do to pass the time.
And yet, we, that is most of us in the West, have access to more entertainment than ever before simply because of a device in our pockets, the infinite reaches of YouTube, or the seemingly never ending array of binge-able streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax, etc.
And, the question is, are our lives better?
I, for one, am grateful for the existence of something like Disney+ these days. It has been a joy to go through a number of old Disney films with my kid, films I, myself, watched as a kid. But when I take a step back from the whole thing, it makes me wonder about how connected we are to all things all the time.
Moreover, without the remarkable advancements in technology no one would be able to read this devotional online, we wouldn’t be able to stream worship services from the comfort of our couches, and we wouldn’t be able to video conference with those we love.
But our connections are deceptive.
With the click of a button we can access more information than anyone ever has in human history prior. And, to make it even more complicated, we are creating content at an unfathomable rate – we create as much information every two days now as we did from the dawn of humanity through 2003.
And even though there is all this content, and we have access to it (and to one another), we believe we want to do and accomplish so many things but we’re mostly just spinning our wheels.
We want the newest and the fastest technologies because we want to have and use a power that we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do.
But we can no longer imagine a world without what we have.
Of course, all of this was bound to happen – faster connections to farther ideas and spaces. The power of technology often exceeds our real necessities of life and, in order to continue, technology must forever call forth new problems to fix and solve.
And there was no real way to prevent technology from becoming the crazy thing it is today. It gives us comfort and entertainment all the while providing anxiety and danger.
Yet, we should never accuse technology of “having no soul.” For, it is actually our own irrational desire for unending power that has no soul.
The real problem with modern technology is us.
St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The Christian conviction of non-conformity is rather plain in scripture and is rather missing in our preaching and teaching. Instead of witnessing to the difference that Christ makes, we want to make Christ like us.
Our non-conformist notions do not mean we have to throw away our phones or cancel our Netflix subscriptions, but they do mean we have to be mindful of how we use our technology and how much it shapes our worlds. For, technology is something we will forever consume assuming it will give us life. Technology is a sign to others (and to ourselves) about our status in the world. Technology promises a better world that, upon closer inspection, actually stays largely the same.
God, on the other hand, remains steadfast. God sees our insatiable desire for the next best thing and still chooses to march to the top of Calvary for us anyway. God has already made the world the better place in Christ Jesus.
It’s just that so many of us are so consumed by our technologies that we haven’t bothered to notice.