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    Distracted From What?

    Andrew Sullivan's "My Distraction Sickness--and Yours" has been widely noted this week on social media, though I haven't seen an abundance of comments. The most frequent response I have seen is an amen. The essay is lengthy and worth the time and attention it requires. Read it in one sitting, with no breaks for checking Facebook. Sullivan examines the consequences of life "in the internet," which includes the prospect of losing one's soul. (I think Sullivan means that metaphorically; I do not.)

    In one notable passage Sullivan turns his attention to churches. He has keenly observed that Christian communities have been eager adopters of the various forms of technology that have fueled our constant state of distraction. I would add that evangelical communities, because of their commitments to evangelism and outreach, are representative poster children. Pragmatic concerns have driven decision making in evangelical communities rather than sustained and principled conviction, particularly regarding technology, and the tools have remade the user in their own image. Sullivan says churches would have been better off by remaining committed to quiet places, silence, and contemplative prayer. He writes:

    If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.

    I agree, if only in part. I am one of the web-weary and digitally frazzled, and I have worked with those who are either fragmented because of their technological addictions or who are well on their way. I do think silence, meditation, and prayer are curative. But the effects of those practices must manifest themselves in the lives of disciples of Jesus. We need souls that are quiet and still, not just church buildings or meditative liturgies.

    We do have a distraction problem, and Sullivan is right to say that our souls suffer. But if we are distracted, we must answer from what, and the corrective must be both practical and curative. It must be restorative for the soul, not as metaphorical construct or literary referent for a scientific understanding of the self, but as a spiritual reality, classically understood. Christians have a robust theological tradition that suggests the self is willfully distracted from God because of sin, and therefore modern technology is only the latest avenue by which our hearts and minds are so easily seduced. Stated differently, this is an old problem in new packaging. Thankfully, there is an old solution that can be freshly applied: renewed attention to God that is passionate, thoughtful, and sustained. In Jesus, we find rest for our souls.

    Some might dismiss that as platitudinous and simplistic. I do not mean it that way. I understand that abstaining from social media, implementing wise practices in order to be present with friends and family, and giving time and focus to prayer, Bible reading, or Christian fellowship requires discipline. The present distractions are not small and seldom, they are immense and pervasive. To acknowledge they exist, however, is a turning point and a beginning, just as repentance is both a first and an ongoing step on the path of discipleship.


    The Menagerie :: Around the Web 03.05.15

    Star Wars Battle Pod


    My brother brought this to my attention: "It might make me visit Dave & Buster's for the first time."

    Happens in Our Youth Room All the Time.


    "Finish him!"

    HT: Digg

    Russell Brand on Pornography



    Put a shirt on, please. Thanks. Otherwise, keep talking.

    HT: To Save a Life

    Did You Hear the One About the Resuscitated Priest Claiming God Was Female?

    This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitorpicked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

    Aside from the clear misunderstandings of how Christians understand God and the constraints of language, this article clarifies why misinformation abounds on the web.

    The story, celebrated by those scornful toward the Catholic Church and those utilizing classical Trinitarian language, was a hoax.

    HT: Digg

    60% Off Books By Dallas Willard

    Thanks, News & Pews. While the deals last. 


    Easing the Conscience :: Social Media Time Wasters and Knowledge Work

    If you're like me, you've worried that you spend too much time on social media procrastinating. You check Facebook, Twitter, or some other social network as a way to hit pause on a current project. You flit back and forth from website to document to spreadsheet to inbox. And you beat yourself up over it.

    This week I've been reading Matt Perman's What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. A review is in the works. I really like productivity tips, and subscribe to blogs or follow experts in the field. Perman's book is really good, and I'd recommend it to anyone, not just Christians. But Christians have the most to gain from the wisdom he offers in this book, because his approach to productivity is centered on the gospel and driven by adherence to the principle of blessing. Perman understands that God has called us to steward our lives well, and to use our gifts and talents in our various vocations in service to the world.

    One passage in What's Best Next really captured my interest, and I wanted to share it. It has to do with social networking and the kind of time wasting described above. Here's what he writes:

    Many companies restrict employee access to social networks, personal email, and other sites, thinking that they are distractions that waste time.

    This is a classic case of not trusting people and failing to treat them as adults. It also reflects an outdated notion of work. For knowledge workers, work is not just something you do nine to five. Email keeps coming long after you leave work, and good ideas come at 8:00 at night just as easily as 10:00 in the morning. Spending fifteen minutes on Facebook at 3:00 in the afternoon is not a big deal given the new nature of work as something that can happen anywhere, at any time, and when our most productive asset is now our minds rather than an ongoing willingness to create widgets.

    But more than that, this attitude fails to realize that, when people are self-motivated (as the people you hire ought to be), you don't have to worry about their wasting time. They love what they do and are driven to do it. They don't want to sabotage themselves. They know the right time to take breaks--when it will actually benefit their overall energy and productivity rather than compromise it.

    For self-motivated people, time spent on Facebook is actually productive. It is productive for building networks and spreading truth. Both of these build people up, and thus increase productive capacity.

    Perman goes on to explain that research supports that those with the most extensive personal online networks are more productive. He writes, "Facebook and other online networks and interaction help us refine, spread, and gain ideas." Believe it or not, social media can be good for our work life.

    So ease that conscience. But use your time well. If you clearly understand your role and are focused on your God-given mission, an occasional break won't sink you.

    Check out Matt Perman's blog, or follow him on Twitter.


    A Social Network Christmas

    Considering this has received over one million views, I'm late to the party. But this video has set the tone for our look at the Christmas story in the Student Ministry at UBC, and is incredibly well done. Take a look.


    Around the Web :: Lutheran Insulter, Lent, and the Pope

    I can't help but laugh at Luther.  Perhaps spendings some time with the Lutheran Insulter will help me be more bold when challenging others.

    Gizmodo deemed the Pope's Twitter handle spam-like, bizzarre, and "the worst of all time."  I tend to agree.

    And finally, Christianity Today posted an analysis of what people gave up for Lent in 2012, according to Twitter.