thinking out loud

…things that are on my mind, heart, and soul

Q: The Spirituality of the Cell Phone

Qlogo When was the last time you turned off your cell phone? Confession time – my cell phone is on  24/7 (during daylight hours my phone is set to vibrate and the ringer is on during the night). Now I do have a a very good reason why I do not turn off my phone. I am a pastor and keeping my cell phone on provides my congregation 24/7 access to me; and isn’t that what being a pastor is all about?

The last time I turned my cell phone off and disconnected from the technology was during our Tuesday night session at Q. Shane Hipps was presenting that evening on “The Spirituality of the Cell Phone” and the organizers asked us to leave our technology behind for a few hours. Being the dutiful ISTJ that I am, I left my cellphone and computer behind in my hotel room. When I arrived at the venue that evening it was interesting to discover that the organizers had placed some “accountability partners” at the doors and they asked each of us upon entering if we had left our technology behind. Just in case we slipped up, they even had a check-in system in place where you could leave your phone or computer for the evening – nice touch! And I have to admit that other than experiencing a few phantom vibrations (am I the only one who has these?) in my pocket, my sensitivities that evening were heightened and I felt more present to the moment.

Here are a few questions that Shane raised for me that evening:

  • What does it mean to be God-like (created in the imago dei)?
  • What is desire and motivation behind the impulse to text, tweet and continually update our Facebook status?
  • How can I become more fully present to the people in my world?
  • What does it mean to incarnate Christ in a discarnate world?

Shane suggested that part of bearing the imago dei is the capacity to create. He told a great story about the invention of the mechanical clock (hopefully a true one). According to Hipps, a group of monks invented the mechanical clock as a means to more faithful and regularly “pray the hours.” The advancement of technology was designed to serve their life of prayer and faith. And yet have you ever stopped to consider what happens when the technology reverses itself on us? Instead of “praying the hours” do we now “punch the clock?” Or view “time as money?”

What is up with all the texting, tweeting and moment by moment updates on Facebook? What is the motivation behind this impulse (or perhaps compulsion)? Personally, I have come to realize part of my own motivation has to do with the shadow side of one of my StrengthFinders themes of significance. People strong in the significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent, want to be recognized and have a strong desire to make a difference in their world. Does my significance somehow increase with every text, tweet or Facebook update? Is my own capacity to make the world a different place somehow measured by how many friends I have on Facebook (and who those friends are)?

In his book, Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, Hipps writes: “Christianity is fundamentally a communication event. The religion is predicated on God revealing Himself to humanity. God has a habit of letting His people know something about His thoughts, feelings, and intentions. God wants to communicate with us and His media are many: angels, burning bushes, stone tablets, scrolls, donkeys, prophets, mighty voices, still whispers, and shapes traced in the dirt (13).” I would add that the strongest communication event is the incarnation. Eugene Peterson translates John 1:18 as follows: “No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.”

Shane provoked some thinking on my part on the difference between mediated interaction and face to face interaction. Is one to be preferred? Is face to face always the best way to communicate? How can I leverage technology to enhance and strengthen my relationships? Can a text, tweet or status update on Facebook draw us deeper into the risk and reality of our common life in Jesus Christ? Later today I am going to do a little Facebook experiment. Of my current 358 friends, how many of these friendships are actually grounded in a face to face relationship and encounter? should I have two categories of friends – mediated and face to face?

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of this. There is a ton more I could write about this session, but I have to run – my cellphone is buzzing.

Stay connected…

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Filed under: Q

One Response

  1. Dianne says:

    it occurred to me that FB allows connection without commitment. we can peek into other people’s lives without any obligation to make meaningful connections. i think that’s mostly the case with connecting with people from the past – HS, college, etc. on the other hand, i think my FB connections with a few friends from cccsh and elsewhere have been very meaningful and helpful.

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have the peace that passes understanding at the heart of yourself, but do not be at peace with the world. for the world is more malleable than we think and we must wrestle it from fools. (bono)
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