In her article* “God in the Age of Twitter,” Wendy Zierler asks the following provocative questions:
“Where [do] religion and God intersect with our media-saturated existence? Where is our godly text in our world of texting, tweeting, YouTubing, and downloading? What structures in our lives allow us to identify the godliness or eternal significance of language, learning, human conversation, and relationship? And how can we fill our time not with noisy verbiage, but with the language of transcendence?”
During Easter Sunday services, in the row in front of me, an elementary-school-aged child played a car racing game on her dad’s cell phone. In the row behind, a woman had her cell phone to her ear during the recessional song. More than 2,000 people were gathered together, so odds are there were at least a few teens texting, and maybe even an adult or two covertly checking email during the sermon.
Now, I’m not going to rant about cell phone use in church. But these incidents, combined with my reading of Zierler’s article last week, have me wondering, what is sacred?
I have long been fascinated with cultural religion. For example, the ways in which Americans make a religious ritual out of watching the Superbowl or American Idol. In most households, the television features prominently in the family gathering place, reposing on an altar of sorts.
Lately, in my own home, the computer has usurped the television’s dominance (perhaps owing to the new and amazing 21” monitor). Many of my daily rituals revolve around the computer: nearly all of my reading, writing and communicating, both personal and professional, and even some recreation!
So, as I’m increasingly paying homage to the Google gods, where is my “godly text,” “where’s the language of transcendence?”
In answer to Zierler’s first question, about the intersection between religion and God and media, I realize that I try to compartmentalize these things. On the surface, I think of technology as incompatible with faith, and of unplugging as a religious experience. I’m not looking for godly text on my computer screen.
And maybe that’s why I’m not finding any?
I do follow a few religiously themed blogs that inspire me, though I wouldn’t say they employ transcendent language.
But I received a beautiful email from a friend the other day. In her words, I hear God. And this is true of any thoughtful human conversation I have, whether in person, by phone, in a personal letter, or via email. One of my first posts on this blog was about Love Letters and the way a great letter feels like a quality time with a dear friend.
So to Zierler’s questions I add some of my own: is communications technology enhancing the quality of our conversations? What “religious” rituals are revolving around our computers and cell phones? What texts are sacred and, in the Kindle era, how do we read them? What encounters with God via media and technology are people having?
I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this!
*The full text of this article is not presently available online. It is published in the March/April 2010 issue of Tikkun magazine—table of contents for the issue here.