The average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.19. The President of the United States was Bill Clinton. The twin towers of the World Trade Center stood above the New York City skyline. A new Internet search engine company founded by two college students celebrated its first birthday by moving the headquarters of the business, Google Inc., from the garage to an actual office building. Cell phones were in their infancy, with black-and-white screens and limited service areas, although for the first time text messages could now be exchanged between the different cell phone networks in the United States.
The year was 1999. But while the United States economy was roaring, with unemployment at its lowest level in decades and consumer confidence at a record high, there was deep worry as the coming new millennium approached. A problem in the software code of computers was projected to create massive problems in computer networks of banks, utilities, government offices, and airlines at the turn of the century. This problem was dubbed the Y2K or Year 2000 Bug, and many people were consumed with fear. The Los Angeles Times reported in December that folks were stockpiling canned food and bottled water. The front cover of Time magazine boldly asked, “The END of the WORLD!?!”
Only fifteen years have elapsed since the dawn of the new millennium. But oh, so much has changed. The Y2K Bug did not cause as many problems as initially feared. Gasoline prices have settled to an average of $2.75 a gallon after skyrocketing higher for a number of years. The World Trade Center towers were collapsed by terrorism, bringing the USA into war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Google, the little company running out of a garage, is now a 373-billion-dollar company with over 53,000 employees. Technology has changed at a blistering pace. Cell phones have morphed into miniature computers with full-color, high resolution displays and fast anywhere Internet access. The Internet has become almost ubiquitous, with Internet connected vehicles, home thermostats, tractors, refrigerators, and much, much more.
The sheer number of technological advancements coupled with the fast pace of change can be disconcerting. How should Christians relate to these changes and technology in general? How can fathers safely guide to adulthood their children who are being inundated with technology from all sides? While there are no easy answers, and sometimes the more we dig into this subject the more questions we have, it is important that we study diligently the path for our feet and attempt to make wise decisions that will help those that follow in our footsteps. What follows is a series of thoughts that we hope will be of value as we consider this important subject.
· We must protect our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Many verses in the Bible speak to guarding our hearts from the filth of the world. The Psalmist so succinctly stated, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” This must be the foundational principle in every decision we make in life and especially as we navigate the waters of modern technology. Satan would love to steal our hearts to fulfill his vile purposes, and he often will use ordinary tools of this life such as our occupation, our money, or our technology in his attempts. We must never let him gain an entrance into our hearts.
· We must guide the hearts of our children. The Proverb writer implored: “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.” As parents we are called to train up our children in the way they should go, and today that includes teaching and training on the proper uses of modern technology. This will involve taking an active role in safeguarding and understanding the capabilities of what we currently possess as well as new devices we may acquire in the future. It is very important that fathers take the responsibility seriously to be proactive and set guidelines for acceptable use in our homes. If we don’t teach our children the correct uses of modern technologies, they will often quickly learn incorrectly from others or by innate curiosity. Most parents have some kind of accountability with their children about where they are or have been that evening, whether it’s simply being at church or at the youth volleyball game. This accountability often extends to the type of friends our children associate with. How are our children using their mobile devices? How much time are they spending with them? Who are they communicating with on a regular basis? What capabilities do their devices have? Do we know?
· Technology and all its effects must not be a master in our life. While we enjoy the many conveniences that modern technology has brought, we must not allow them to become a master of our lives. Technology such as cell phones, computers, etc., can easily save us hours and hours and make us much more efficient, and yet at times it can be so easy to quickly squander our time by casual texting, reading the news, browsing the internet, or playing a game. In January of 2011, American teenagers were sending and receiving an average of 3,705 text messages per month. With all the additional communication methods of today like Voxer and Whatsapp, that average must be much higher. How are we using our time? A favorite quote of mine says: “Time = Life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” We must bring technology into our subjection, or it will master us. “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1Cor 9:25-27).
· A new generation is here and modern technology is normal for them. Author Douglas Adams said this: “I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
While his theory may be overstated, there is quite a bit of truth to it. Most teenagers today would not remember a bag phone in the car, or even a time when cell phones did not exist. While this may be hard to believe for older generations, cell phones (and soon the Internet) are as normal to most teenagers today as a car or electricity were to those born 35+ years ago. It’s important to remember this truth whenever we look at the topic of modern technology, as sometimes what we as older ones believe is against the natural order of things seems normal and ordinary for the younger ones.
· Technology is still rapidly advancing and changing. While it’s difficult to predict what will happen in the future, it appears we are on the verge of huge transportation changes, from all-electric cars to self-driving vehicles to semi-affordable space travel. Within the year, you will be able to buy a cell phone that when plugged into a docking station at your desk will automatically convert to a traditional computer interface, enabling one device to function as your cell phone and computer. These and many more inventions that we can’t currently imagine will continue to arrive. We must always be alert and watchful, making wise decisions while keeping the future of our children in mind.
· It's difficult for the church to legislate technology. Most in the Anabaptist community are struggling with finding the proper balance in technology. If the past fifty years are an indication, the next fifty will bring swift technological advances that will outpace the church’s ability to legislate. As in many practical issues, there are many varied opinions on how and to what degree the church should be involved. And although that is a discussion outside the scope of this article, we believe that the church groups who will be effective in the modern era of changing technology and communication will be ones who have succeeded in training and teaching their members to be aware of this one truth: I will be personally responsible to God for how I use or misuse technology regardless of whether the church has spoken to it or not. Just because the church has not created a rule about some new invention doesn’t mean I can quickly run out and purchase it. And just because the church has given its stamp of approval on something doesn’t necessarily indicate that it is right for me to use personally. We need to take personal responsibility and make calculated decisions on how this will affect me or my family now and in the future.
· Accessing immoral content on any device or application is always wrong. Purity is the quality or state of being pure. Pure means to be free from moral fault or guilt. Immorality and impurity have been a problem since the beginning of time. However, technology has enabled immoral content such as pornography to be accessed easier and quicker than ever before. Anonymous access to such content anywhere at any time, coupled with 24x7 instant communications, has contributed to the moral decay of our nation. Addictions are formed and relationships are fractured, some never to be repaired. It is so important that we drill this point into our minds and those of our children. It doesn’t matter if I’m using someone else’s device, or if the Internet filter left it through, or if I’m alone in my car, there’s no discussion to be had here. It’s a sin in God’s eyes and always will be.
In the last decades, technology has brought many changes to our culture. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16).
~ Carlisle, PA