I have reviewed a couple of books on the subject of technology recently (Hamlet’s Blackberry and The Shallows), but I’m not growing tired of them (you, readers, may get tired of reading the reviews, though).
For those not familiar with the author, Tim Challies is a prolific Christian blogger at www.challies.com. His is one of only a handful of must-read sites that I visit. When I saw that he had a book about the effects of technology, I wanted to read it. What would a man who makes his living from technology have to say about technology?
The Next Story doesn’t offer much different from the other two books I mentioned, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. Rather, it shows that many people from different walks and faiths come to the same conclusion: our immersion in technology is changing us. Anyone who disagrees with this premise should reconsider and take a longer look at his own life. Challies’s book is part computer history, part social commentary, and part Christian living. All together, this offers a more complete picture of how we ought to live our lives while surrounded by iPhones, Internet, wi-fi, email, Facebook, and digital clouds.
I discovered a curious response when I discuss technology with people: there is a quick reaction against any criticism. This comes from both Christians and non-Christians alike. People seem quick to defend/explain their own technology use and how it is not that bad. I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce when the Angel confronts the man with a lizard of lust on his shoulder. The Angel asks, “Would you like me to make him quiet?” but the man has lots of excuses as to why the lizard is not that bad, and that any action will result in pain.
The Angel asks, “Don’t you want him killed?”
“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”
“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”
“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here — well, it’s so damned embarrassing.”
“May I kill it?”
“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please — really — don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”
“May I kill it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”
“The gradual process is of no use at all.”
“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very careful. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”
While the other books discuss how overdosing on technology saps our human interaction, The Next Story adds an added loss, our time and relationship with the God of the Universe. If my texting at dinner pulls me away from my wife and son, what does checking Facebook in the morning or playing Angry Birds before bed do to my relationship with the One who has created me to enjoy the Creator supremely over the creation? When God asks, “May I kill it?” may my response never be, “I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”