The Modern Matrix

By: Jason Wermuth
Friday, October 22nd, 2010

This past Wednesday, Apple released and previewed another host of new and amazing products: a new flatter MacBook Air (thinner than an axe blade), a new OS, a new iLife and more… Soon Microsoft will release the Windows Phone 7, and Google will probably release 1000 more Android based phones that can be used as remote controls for their new Google TV. All this new stuff got me to thinking about what it all has to do with the church. In the past 20 years we have seen the church transformed by technology and media. From the introduction of electric guitars and rock themed worship music to the addition of PowerPoint slides to just about every sermon on earth these days (except perhaps the Pope), things change with technology.

With the invention of the iPod, Apple changed how we listen to worship music. With the invention of the iPhone, Apple changed how we read the Bible, watch sermons and even participate in a church service. Perhaps you even own an iPad and do something fancy and exciting with it as well. What is wonderful about all of these new and exciting technological advancements is that they give us more options. Now, with an iPhone I am never without a Bible or access to my favorite pastors or worship music. I can even use my Bible on my iPhone to link what I am reading to my Facebook account so that everyone will know what I am reading at that very moment. And, Facebook will now even tell you where I’m doing that reading. The question I have, though, is: Does all this technology actual help the church?

In the end, as much as I enjoy my iPhone and MacBook Pro, they don’t make me a more Jesus-like Christian. You see, the proximity to a Bible doesn’t mean I am going to read it. In fact, I rarely read the Bible on my iPhone. Furthermore, the capability to watch sermons on my phone doesn’t mean I do it all that often. In the same way that PowerPoint presentations have not helped us American Christians to understand more about scripture and the Christ-life we are called to live, all of these new technological advancements are wasted if they fail to draw us closer to Jesus and one another. In some ways, Facebook has been a blessing for helping us to reconnect with people we may have lost contact with, but does it actually help us build community, or does it give us one more reason not to see people face to face. With Apple’s new video conferencing technology called Face Time, which allows users of iPhones, iPods and Macs to talk to one another through video chat, we have another way of connecting with those who are distant from us. But will we also allow that technology to increase the gap between ourselves and those who are near to us?

While all of these technological advancements hold great promise for the future and open up infinite possibilities, I fear that they will also continue to divide us. By slowly allowing us to become complacent about meeting together face-to-face, I believe we may see a generation 10-15 years from now who knows little about what it means to interact with someone in person. It started in my generation with online gaming which kept me and many of my friends enclosed in our bedrooms for years. It happens today to married couples who spend more time online than with one another. It happens to young people who spend more time dating people online and chatting on Facebook than they spend out with friends at a movie or the beach. Dare I say, it happens in universities where convenience can be prioritized over interpersonal connections. I am concerned that without balance, today’s technology will draw us closer to those who are far from us, but farther from those who are close to us. With some healthy boundaries and a proactive approach to fostering real community, I think there is hope that all is not lost. Without balance and guidance, however, social technologies such as iPhones, Facebook, MySpace and the like can and will create a culture that is awkward and incapable of real, healthy interpersonal connections. The question I suppose is, are we going to eat the red pill or the blue? Are we satisfied to live our lives connected to “The Matrix?”

What do you think? What implications do social media and other advancements have for what we call community? Is gathering face-to-face even that important anymore?

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Jason Wermuth
This entry was posted by on Friday, October 22nd, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Faith & Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “The Modern Matrix”

  1. Ken says:

    “In some ways, Facebook has been a blessing for helping us to reconnect with people we may have lost contact with, but does it actually help us build community, or does it give us one more reason not to see people face to face.”

    You hit the nail on the head. I have thought the same thing for a while and you just put into words!