As I write, the worries surrounding the coronavirus fill our media, lifting our levels of anxiety to fever pitch by regular updates sent straight to our smartphones. Though I am a fan of my iphone (other brands are available) it can dominate my thinking if I’m not careful.
There is a new movement in the church which is encouraging people to rethink their use of technology and the influence of the wider media. Many Christians this Lent are giving up social media and putting aside their smart phones. People, have discovered that their anxiety is heightened by a persistent use of technology, taking our attention off of the important to the temporary — living outside of the moment, rather than in it.
In the past people have suggested that Christianity is a form of brainwashing — of course if it were, our churches might be fuller! But Brainwashing generally means the persistent influence of an idealogy — day and night. Well, we are being influenced, but it’s not by Christianity — we are being manipulated by the media and it’s culture. Years ago this would have sounded like the worst sort of conspiracy theory, but it doesn’t take long if we look with open eyes to see how big media organisations are using modern technology to convince us how to think, to do or to buy. John Mark Comer in his book ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ says: ‘Your phone doesn’t actually work for you. You pay for it, yes. But it works for a multibillion-dollar corporation in California, not for you. You’re not the customer; you’re the product. It’s your attention that’s for sale, along with your peace of mind.’ Look at the superpowers in the world, both media and political, see how much time and money they are investing and realise that it’s not just a hobby for them — it works.
‘Are you tired? Worn out? … Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.’ Jesus’
So what are we to do? Well, there is a solution — it’s Jesus. (‘Well you would say that’, you might be thinking), but see how his words echo with the deep longing of our inner life. Maybe the thing that you have been told by the media outlets is out of date and out of touch, is actually the very thing that is needed in this age of anxiety? Maybe the solution begins just a prayer away. Maybe a visit to your local church, finding others who are seeking the same answers will help? So, in this age of anxiety I pray for you and your family: May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace …
Rev Matt Taylor