Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: social media

Is technology dehumanizing us?

The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster depicts a future age in which technology is able to supply all our needs. People live in individual underground compartments, all their needs are supplied by the all-encompassing machine at the push of a button. Direct person to person contact is unheard of, having been replaced by electronic means and that permit one to see and speak to any one of his or her thousands of contacts at will.

Wars, conflicts, and crime have ceased, weather on the surface of the planet is of no consequence, thus there is no news. New ideas are to be feared, but events of history and nature are discussed endlessly and third or fourth hand ideas about those events are deemed to be the most trustworthy. The population never changes. Births and deaths are by permission of the machine; permission to die is only given when there is a birth. A mother’s responsibility ends when a child is born.

One person finds a way to get outside the machine to the surface of the earth. Before he is dragged back below ground by the repair mechanism of the machine, he realizes there still are a few people living out there. His longing for freedom is unfulfilled and eventually the all powerful, self repairing machine breaks down and everyone living in their individual cell of underground paradise dies.

A chilling forecast of where our society is headed? Perhaps. The story was written in 1908 and is a short novella with three chapters.

There is a lot of hand-wringing in our day about the influence and effects of technology. After reading this book I began to wonder if we might have things backwards. Is technology dehumanizing us? Or are we willingly surrendering our birthright of being fully human? Is our desire for convenience and security just a camouflage for the repugnance we feel at the inconvenience of having to interact with other people?

What about those of us who call ourselves Christians? We all give verbal support to the goal of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. At the same time, some of us are repelled by cities because of all the people. We would prefer to live in an isolated rural setting and be as self-sufficient as possible. Which of these conflicting ideas is the true expression of our heart’s deepest desire? What does that say about our faith?

The Jews of Jesus’ day despised the Samaritans, to the point of considering anything touched by a Samaritan to be defiled. Jesus used all sort of creative ways to try and jar people out of that rut.

For those of us who are members, or who attend, the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, the Sunday School lesson for the coming Sunday looks helpful. It is based on Hebrews 13 and has a lot to say about hospitality, including to strangers. It says: “The love of Christ will move us to enlarge our circle of friends.”

The best way to avoid becoming dehumanized is by frequent face to face contact with other humans. Technology offers us a way to maintain an appearance of a wide circle of friends without really having to listen to them. It is that unwillingness to listen to others, the desire to avoid admitting there might be anything valid about their point of view, that is dehumanizing. Technology is the enabler, but not the real problem.

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He gave his life for others

Last Friday a young Muslim in France, inspired by jihadist propaganda on social media, was moved to action that he thought would glorify Allah. He hijacked a car, killing one man in the process, drove to Trèbes, a town of 5,000 in the south of France and ran into a supermarket shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great). He killed two more men in the supermarket and took a woman hostage.

The police were soon on the scene, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame. Colonel Beltrame left his weapons behind and entered the supermarket alone, determined to save lives by whatever means he could. He encountered the hostage taker, persuaded him to let the woman go with the promise that he would take her place. The woman, who was completely unknown to Colonel Beltrame, was released and then the attacker shot Colonel Beltrame. The police then rushed in and shot the attacker.

The parish priest of Arnaud Beltrame says that he was an irreligious man until he experienced a conversion seven years ago, His wife, now his widow, says that his devotion to his country and his fellow citizens cannot be separated from his devotion to God.

Arnaud Beltrame was given a state funeral on Wednesday in the courtyard of the cathedral of Les Invalides in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron delivered the eulogy, recounting the events of last Friday in order and saying the Arnaud Beltrame knew exactly what he was doing when he went calmly into the supermarket to face the attacker. He placed him in a long line of heros who have placed the lives and well-being of others ahead of their own and conferred on him the designation of Commander of the Legion of Honour. A religious funeral was held yesterday at Carcassone.

President Macron repeatedly referred to the clandestine threat posed by djihadist propaganda that circulates on social media and acts on the minds of the weak and unstable. Some of these who feel marginalized believe they can attain some sort of honour and glory by killing others in the name of Allah.

Colonel Beltrame was not seeking honour or glory, but acted with the intention of serving God and his fellow citizens by offering his life as a ransom for others. He will be remembered and perhaps his actions will inspire others.

This Good Friday, as we remember how our Saviour offered His life as a ransom for us all, may we contemplate the implications for ourselves of taking the way of the Cross.

No comment needed

And man, this clever fellow, seems to have become sleepless in order to invent ever new instruments to increase noise, to spread noise and insignificance with the greatest possible haste and on the greatest possible scale. Yet everything is soon turned upside down: communication is indeed soon brought to its lowest point with regard to meaning, and simultaneously the means of communication are indeed brought to their highest with regard to speedy and overall circulation; for what is publicized with such hot haste and, on the other hand, what has greater circulation than — rubbish!

Søren Kierkegaard, first published in 1851

The pursuit of happiness

Times are tough for writers today. Every writers’ group and every writers’ conference tells us that no publisher will even look at a book manuscript unless the author has an impressive “writer’s platform.” That would consist of a blog with at least 10,000 followers and a similar presence on Facebook and Twitter. And then there are experts who will explain how to promote your book on Amazon.

I just don’t want to go there. If the underlying purpose of my writing is to exalt the One who said “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” how can I put that together with going on Facebook and Twitter every morning and finding some new way to call out “Hey everybody! Look at me!”?

I guess that means I’m not going to be rich or famous. I’m OK with that. But at least I can be happy. I don’t think our me-first world today even knows what happiness means. True happiness has no connection to hilarity and thrills, it comes from a holy life, lived in service to God and to our fellow men.

The beatitudes are a description of true happiness. The AV translation uses the word “blessed,” but the original Greek word means happy and is translated that way in other passages. The beatitudes tell us that true happiness is found in being poor in spirit, meek, merciful and pure in heart; to hunger and thirst after righteousness,to be peacemakers. Jesus ends the beatitudes with this astounding statement:

Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus is not telling us to provoke people into reviling and persecuting us, but there is nothing anywhere in His teachings to indicate that we should carefully court the approval of the world. We should rather seek to serve others in whatever way we can, without expecting or begging their approval.

Writing is one way in which we can serve others. But no one will appreciate our attempts to serve if we come across as feeling superior, or try to impress by pompous words and a bombastic writing style. The apostle Paul wasn’t exalting himself when he said “Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ.” We can say the same thing, but only if we can attain to his level of humility in following Christ. That is where we will find true happiness.

Social media vs girlfriend

We had been shopping in the city and our last stop was Walmart. By the time we were done there it was almost supper time. If we drove home, unloaded and put away the groceries and made supper it would be an hour and a half before we could eat. Not to mention that the cook was weary. So we decided to eat there. Chris went to McDonald’s and I went to the other end of Walmart to get my meal at Tim Horton’s, carried it back to McDonald’s and we sat down to eat together.

I noticed a young man at another table with an attractive young lady sitting across from him. Evidently they had finished eating and his attention was now fully engaged by electronic interaction with phantom people via words on a small screen, probably via Facebook or Twitter. He would type something, press send, then read something else and start typing again. This continued all the time that we sat there.

Meanwhile, the young lady was trying to engage him in conversation. He would look up,give a one word answer and return to his social media conversations. She got up and left for a few minutes, then returned. He was still completely engrossed in communication with people in cyberspace. She made a few more attempts to get his attention, then stood up, kissed him on the cheek and left.

All this time I am thinking, “What is wrong with this guy? Here is an attractive young lady just across the table from him who wants to get his attention — and he is more interested in engaging with people in  cyberspace that he might not even know.”

So who was the loser in this competition between the girlfriend and social media? I would have to say that it was the young man.

Changes, changes

I was maybe eight years old when Dad bought me a bicycle. He knew that he was only going to be able to buy me one bike, so he bought a sturdy full size bike and fastened blocks  to the pedals so I could reach them. It was too big for me to mount in the ordinary way; I would lean the bike up against the corral fence, climb the wooden rails to get on and go riding around the farmyard, and before long down the road. When I was done, I would ride my bike back the the corral fence, stop and get down the way I got up. I had my share of spills and scrapes with that bike, but before long I was riding no hands. I put many miles on that bike, rode it until I got a driver’s license.

Now I have a 21 speed mountain bike, it needs to be in the lowest gear to get up a small hill, but I can get up to the top gear going down. Both hands stay on the handlebars, and I wear a helmet.

This morning, Michelle and the grandchildren came to clean up Grandma’s garden plot. Grandma isn’t up to doing much gardening this year, but the weeds grow anyway. The first thing Evan, three and ond half years old, said was “I can ride my bike.” He just started riding his little two wheeler last night and brought it along to demonstrate. He hasn’t really figured out how to stop, but doesn’t go very fast yet anyway. And he’s pretty close to the ground if he does fall. This is just the beginning, pretty soon he’ll leave Grandpa in the dust.

You may have noticed a couple of changes in this blog. It is now simply flatlanderfaith.com. I have registered that as a domain name and wordpress is now dropped from the web address. It is still hosted by WordPress and works exactly the same as before.

I have also added buttons for a bunch of social media apps, which appear at the bottom of each post under the share button. I don’t use any of those apps myself, except LinkedIn, and have no plans to open accounts with any of them. My thinking is that there may be folks out there who would appreciate having those buttons to share content from this blog. We’ll see what happens.

LinkeIn is a different kind of beast, a business networking app. I belong to several LinkedIn discussion groups dealing with bookkeeping, taxes and writing and find them informative.

There is also a button for Pocket. This is not a media sharing app. It originally went by the name of Read it Later, and that describes what it is all about. I have the Pocket symbol on my web browser and whenever I see an interesting article on the web and don’t want to take the time to read it right away, I hit the pocket button and it puts  the content into my Pocket for reading at a more convenient time. It is linked to my Android phone, so I can read it there if I wish.

I’m still not quite willing to cough up the $30.00 per year to make this an ad free site. WordPress sells ads in order to provide free hosting. I don’t know how often ads appear on my blog, I don’t see them on my computer. If anyone is seeing ads that they find objectionable, please let me know. That could make it a little easier for me to spend the money.

 

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