Saturday, April 26, 2008

Screwtape Writes Again: The Luciferian Laptop

My Dear Wormwood:

Your new charge is a seminary student, a young man of twenty-eight years of age, with plenty of idealism, but little experience or knowledge of the Bible or of his own soul. Make note of that! You know how our Father Below loves ignorance and reckless enthusiasm. The propaganda on the other side says that "fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." So, we must be on our guard not to let these pious pussy cats get too much of it. Better to give them "blind faith," which we can spin as the deeper spirituality. Since we love darkness, the "blind" part fits us so well.

I'll have much more to say to you about tempting this miserable creature, but let's start with a blind spot that we get so much mileage out of with so many: technology. Yes, yes, I know we have experienced some losses to the subterranean cause at the hand of technology: the Utopian and unrealistic Christian message has gotten around the world through technology. But let your man think only about the reach of technology, not its subtler effects. Your man has been accustomed since his earliest youth to have it dancing around him and dancing within him. He never gives it a second (or even first) thought--except on how to use it. Oh, how he can use it! He got an iPod as soon as he could afford one. He "traded" music files before it became illegal. I must add, in my sublime humility, that I myself invented that term for theft--"trade." Oh, how the suckers ate it up.

Well, back to business. He was raised in front of the television, never drives without music or the radio on (and got satellite radio as soon as it came out), he takes his laptop everywhere and has been known to sit for hours with his friends while playing on it (while they play with theirs). I once spied him with his iPod blasting in his ears while he was looking at his lap top and talking on his cell phone! It made my week. He seldom reads, but was able to get a 3.5 GPA at the university by his native smarts, a lot of BS, and plenty of easy classes filled with PowerPoint graphics, film clips, and so on. And he thanks God for all of it. How I love this kind of faith. It is positively contagious in America: so much money, so much freedom, so little knowledge. We are doing well here, Wormwood.

Now, here is your plan. This seminary (as they call them) can give him seminal thoughts about the enemy--you know, all that rot about his holiness, power, love, wisdom... I just cannot go on. He will have entire classes on theology (but none, thank darkness, on demonology), the Bible, and apologetics (the thing we hate the most; rational thought in service of Christianity is just too dangerous). It could truly be harmful for our Luciferian cause if that young man realizes the possibilities these years could afford him. He could become a person of knowledge and wisdom--or at least be well on the way. If so, he might even make our Top Ten Hit List in his town when he takes a church.

But do not fear, we have an ally: technology. These besotted earthlings love their gizmos. In fact, they often worship them. (Really, they do. They are transfixed by them, amazed in the presence of a new one, and heartsick when one of them fails to satisfy.) They think these devices are neutral tools, and they always need more tools. They have become "tools of their tools," just as Thoreau said before we even invented television. They never apply any of their precious theology to how or whether they use technologies. Even in all their precious prattle about "mentoring" and "spiritual formation," they never think of how technologies might affect their souls. And, oh, how I love this ignorance! It befits them, the slimy believers.

So, here are the specifics. I get bat-bumps just thinking about it! Tell your charge that he must do as much as he can while in seminary. He must multitask. Why stop now?! He must bring his laptop into the classroom and never be far from it. Tell him that he needs not to only take notes on it, but to scan the Internet for related articles, stories, photographs, and more. Then tempt him to send emails, check his E-Harmony page (more on the possibilities of postmodern, digital romance in another letter), to shop, and to play video games. Any twinge of conscience that he is not fully attending to the professor or that he is not being respectful can be blasted in a moment by telling him the following:

"You are young. You are a digital native. You know how to use all these devices and you can do them all well all the time. The old professor can be interesting, but he is tethered to the past. He is a digital immigrant. He doesn't get it. He doesn't even send text-messages and hasn't figured out his cell phone. In fact, the cell looks like a pet rock it is so primitive. So, pick up the highlights of the lecture (especially when he starts yelling), but keep exploring the gigantic world of the Internet. You can do it all, be everywhere all the time."

There it is, Wormwood. You may be surprised just how effective (and humorous, at least to us) this strategy is in keeping knowledge and sobriety away from your charge. And, for hell's sake, do not let him read Jacques Ellul or Neil Postman.

Your affectionate uncle,


Mark O. said...

Good work... though convicting too, as I use my laptop and the internet to read it...

Susan said...

This might be my most favorite post of yours to date, Dr. G.

Of all the courses I took in seminary, yours would be the last I'd consider surfing through, and not because you'd yell at me but because your courses actually have content.

nblaw said...

Lewis lives! Extremely well-written and thought out.
Thank you for the effort and contribution.

The Scottish Reslers said...

I appreciate your creativity and candor Dr. Groothuis. I do have a question though for any who choose to engage: One of the challenges in the text is that Christians do not theologically think about how to use technology appropriately or well. My question is, what would a "theology of technology" look like?

thank you to any who choose to respond or simply choose to think about it.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Dear Scottish:

I wrote a book on that, one that "fell still born from the press," to quote another Scot, David Hume, who was referring to his first book (which is still in print). My book is "The Soul in Cyberspace" (Wipf and Stock reprint; orig pub. 1997).

See also Quentin Schultz, "Habits of the High Tech Heart" and Jacques Ellul, "The Humiliation of the Word."

Sarah Geis said...

To echo Susan...

This is possibly one of my favorite posts so far. Thank you for writing this!

The Scottish Reslers said...

Thank you Dr. Groothuis.

Yossman said...

One of your best posts to date in terms of both form and content. I'm going to buy (; sorry) and read your 'The Soul in Cyberspace'.

Adam said...

oh the irony of blogging about the pitfalls of technology

Philip Pawlett Jackson said...

I heard Shane Hipps speak on this a few weeks ago on the 'Spirituality of the Cell Phone' making some similar points. It is such a difficult line to tread, using without becoming the tool of those devices..

And beyond the simple sins of contempt for the technological immigrants and overtly sinful online content, online existence leaves open a whole warren of deceits, addictions and illusions which are so popularly considered morally neutral..

The internet, for all that is proclaimed as bringing people together is a singularly centrifugal device, and it worries me.

I wrote with humour and some truth:

Thanks for an amusing and provoking blog.

qaswedfr said...

While not Christian, Neil Postman has some very relevant thoughts on this topic in "Amusing Ourselves To Death" and " Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology".

The destruction of human interaction, or the replacement of it with a false digital mannequin, is a bad thing for a group of people who believe that relationships and true service to one another is important.

jc said...

Dear Scottish,
I suggest Dr Gene Edward Veith's Christians in a .Com World.


Unknown said...

Dr. G.
My dad sent this to me, though without the author name attached. I thought of you immediately and was about to send it to you when I googled it to find out the author... then I realized that you have probably already read it. Hope you are well.