Two weeks ago I spent an hour talking to an old friend. She was lamenting the state of the world. She was upset about the ills of the world. And I was too. I wasn’t upset the same way she was. She wasn’t talking about ending poverty, war, genocide, or abolishing nuclear weapons. She was disturbed by the onslaught of technology and screen time invading her life – and the lives of her children. “I’m not a Luddite,” she protested, “but it’s just too much.” Taking her stand, she had recently challenged her son’s high school’s mandate that students do homework, write essays, take tests, and turn in assignments electronically. Her son had to produce a paper entirely researched on the computer and she did not like it.
My friend is partial to the way she was educated – libraries, notecards, essay tests.
I attempted to explain the benefits of technology, especially in the emerging world, a world increasingly technologically driven. She wasn’t buying my argument. By the end of the conversation I wanted to say – in the most pastoral way possible – “Stop wishing the world were different.”
You Can’t Reclaim It
Life is lived through the windshield, not the rearview mirror. There is no way to go back. As much as you like and enjoy your past experiences, there is no retrieving them. Imagine this: Do you want your parent’s life? Some folks do. Most do not! Don’t assume generations behind you want your experiences. Our greatest legacy is for future generations to gain from the learnings of previous lives and integrate them into their own. God has arranged a forward-movement to life. Anything less is settling.
The Good Ole Days Were Terrible
My oldest daughter spent a good bit of her first 3 years sick. She acquired a virus that popped up every three-months. You could set your watch by it. The virus was disgusting. It made her throw-up for days straight. My second daughter never got that virus. By the time she was born, there was an inoculation for it. Progress is good.
I don’t know anyone who has died from Polio or needed an Iron-Lung.
My father grew up in Mississippi. He was legally forced to ride in the back of the bus. I wouldn’t even know how to catch the local bus.
That’s not to say our times don’t have ill’s of their own, but your view is too narrow if you think the old days were the heyday of some great America, some better culture. We should keep that in mind when our cupidity for yesteryear manifests.
Everything Was Once Progressive…For Someone
Everything people complain to me about – translations of Scripture, worship songs, technology, etc… – was an advancement to someone. If you privilege the way it “used to be” or the way you grew up, you are simply a slave to a particular cultural moment. My kids doing homework on an iPad would be as foreign to me as a washing machine would be to Civil War era persons. Our horizons are so limited as to assume our cultural moment, our heyday, is or should be, normative for all time. In this respect, we are like most people who have ever lived.
Culture Can Only Be Made
Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, is convincing, We can lament and bemoan our culture if we choose, but since we can’t get it back, we have to create more of the kind of culture we want! If there is something we want changed, we have to change it. No one wants to hear you complain. We all have enough problems. Yet people are drawn to problem-solvers. If your concern is that we are moving away from one way of life, an alternative existence has to be compellingly articulated. If not, the world will pass by you, your message, and your passions.
One of the great scriptures is 1 Chronicles 12.32 which speaks of David’s mighty men. It says the men of Issachar were “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” If we want to shape our times for God, we too must be people who know the times.
First step: Stop wishing the world were different and start creating the world you want.
How do you think cultural changes, church transitions, and technological advances are shaping our world? Good? Bad?