This week Fishing for Leviathan welcomes a guest blogger from sunny Southern California, Tiffany Oesch. She’s a dedicated health enthusiast, mother of three, and wife to the very lucky editor of this blog. Enjoy her unique take on contemporary culture! -jco
I’m certainly not the first person to recognize technology as a potential idol, but in many of the current critiques, an essential point is missed. Our culture is obsessed with new advances, sure. We crave The New, we sacrifice for it, and we patiently and eagerly spend time understanding its workings and dream about the possibilities each new gadget affords us.
But the technology itself is not the problem. Not exactly.
With every cultural advance, two options open up for the user: We can either use the technology to love our neighbor in better way or use it as another tool to destroy him. In this sense, I’m speaking of digital technologies as tools. A hammer is not a moral evil. But you know all that. So what is the problem?
The Apostle Paul’s battle with the sin of the flesh, that internal ego that seeks to satisfy one’s innermost desires, is the very same stomach we have for ourselves. The insatiable ego yields poor answers to some of our most pressing questions. Man wants to be known? He creates something that can know his interests and predict his needs. He wants to be served? He creates something to serve him. He wants to have command of information? He becomes master of something that knows everything.
We’re stuck in the strange place of worshipping both our self-designed image and our real selves, side-by-side! We are making an idol of our own avatar, falling madly in love with the image in the mirror. Oh the irony! Phones, computers, Google, they’re all part of the choir that sings our praises and gives us what we want.
We are in danger when we sail cultural waters without knowing where lie the reefs. We are in danger not because of the devices themselves, but because of the lie they consistently, even urgently, tell us: You have power! Even activity that looks productive or positive may be a smokescreen that obscures where our hearts really reside. Can not the heart deceive the mind? Jesus himself said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” (Mt 15:8) Therefore, “Let us test and examine our ways,” as Jeremiah said (Lam 3:40). Or, as Paul admonishes in 2 Cor 13, “Examine and test yourself.” Even Solomon warns: “Guard your heart for everything you do flows from it” (Pr 4:23).
Ultimately, the problem isn’t how we’ve dealt with things (social media, smartphones, interactive technology). The problem is how we’ve dealt with God. This is crucial because Christians confess that God is fount of all good things. The outward profession of religion, however remarkable, is not enough. The heart must turn from inward addiction of pleasing itself to a spiritual desire to please God. God’s first commandment is to have no other gods before Him. He knows it’s our #1 battle.
We were created to worship. Yet often, when we read that commandment, we check it off our list because our culture has moved beyond the sun god and stone figurines. We deceive ourselves that idols don’t exist, and we are even greater fools if we fail to recognize that we are usually our most cherished idol – American or not.
Idolatry doesn’t happen because we think we are the best, it comes because we think we are the Total. In other words, the life of idolatry is the inward obsession with ourselves, believing that the world exists for our own happiness. Such belief turns us into gods of destruction, dependent on no one and irresponsible toward everyone. Devices and social media serve this narrative.
“Ultimately, the problem isn’t how we’ve dealt with things (social media, smartphones, interactive technology). The problem is how we’ve dealt with God. “
Therefore, Christians are better served by evaluating the condition of their own heart rather than fretting over the goods or evils of a social technology. Christian freedom isn’t the freedom to serve oneself, it is the freedom to deny oneself and serve God. Christian freedom is the ultimate breaking of the ego.
One of my greatest hopes is found in 1 John 1, that when I confess my sin, He who is faithful and just will forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). He creates in me a pure heart. He turns my heart’s orientation to its proper North Pole. When I see my sin the way He does and submit to His truth, I become more receptive of His great work.
The beautiful thing about embodied Christian community is that you can’t hide behind an avatar. You are confronted to claim the avatar idol or humble yourself as a broken vessel. Either way, you are loved for the raw being that you are; you are challenged to grow from what you were; and you can reflect the love of God by being the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Born and raised in the great State of Texas, Tiffany studied at Concordia Texas and Concordia Chicago, respectively, graduating with a BA in Religious Studies. She’s worked at various educational institutions, including a facility for troubled youth in New Braunfels, TX, and Yale University in New Haven, CT. In 2009, she received her Masters degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Currently, she is a dedicated full-time mom of three children and is a Young Living consultant. She’s been married to her husband, Joel, for eleven years. She loves smoked meats, puns, and Pitch Perfect (1 and 2). -jco
© Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Oesch and Fishing for Leviathan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.