Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Take a Technology Fast

How often do we take technology for granted and just accepted it?  How often do we look past the moment and truly contemplate the impact technology will have in the future?  Do we own technology or does it own us?  These, and more, are questions we need to ask when faced with any new, or for that matter, current, technology.  This is not a matter of seeking to avoid all forms of technology or simply calling all technology bad  as we need to realize technology comes in many forms.  The clothes we wear, the utensils we use and many other things that we utilize in everyday life are all a result of some form of technology.  No, what we need to do is look at all technology with an eye to its impact on us and the world that God has called us to steward and to do so from a Biblical perspective. 

While the Bible does not necessarily speak directly to a particular technology we can ask ourselves how any particular technology will affect our lives in light of how God would have us live and glorify Him.  For example; when we see a technology that will work to divide a family we can know that whatever the technology is it needs to be seriously scrutinized and either minimize in its use or avoided all together.  Also, if a technology will take over ones life, as so many tend to do, and leave little time for God then we need to deal with that so as to avoid its impact of our walk with God.

One book I highly recommend with regards to getting one to think about technology and our interaction with it is Michael Bunker’s book Surviving Off Off-Grid.  Even if you feel you have no desire to live off grid or do not think that society will crumble Bunker asks some probing questions that will make one think about their relationship with technology.  The world puts forth that to question technological advances is somehow being backward and ignorant.  However, the issue is not just about whether one accepts a certain technology or not but whether we have thought through the implications of its use.  These implications are not to be limited to the present but also to its impact on future generations as well.

If we are honest with ourselves we will have to admit that with all the promises of technology saving us time and effort we are as busy as ever, maybe busier.  We have been duped by the allure of what we are told technology can offer and bought into the lie.  A lie that says leisure is just around the next technological corner but what we will find around the corner is another corner and another marvel to buy and consume our time and affections.

 We live in a consumer based economy and thus technology needs to be in a constant state of change so as to always be creating the possibility of selling one more item, one more gadget.  Thus, we need to be vigilant so as not to get caught up in this trap of consumerism and keeping up with technology which will never happen since as soon as you buy the latest wonder it will be obsolete and you will need to buy the next one.

When it comes to any technology what we need to do is to stop, take a breath, and ask if technology is being used by us or are we being used by it.  If tomorrow the Internet was to go down many would be lost.  If we had no electricity for a day, weeks or even months what would we do?  I am not even talking about survival here but what would be our mindset.  Would we sit in front of our TVs or computers pining away for it come back online?  Would we be lost since all our “friends” are on Facebook, Google+ or some other social network and we realize we have no personal contact with “actual” people?  What would we do with all our free time, would we remember how to read, how to talk to family or could we even find the kitchen?

Let me confess; I have made connections with people on Facebook that I do consider friends and I have corresponded with people via my blog and other connections on the Internet.  But in truth it was so much more meaningful when I could actually meet these people face to face or at a minimum was able to at least talk on the phone with them.  Technology has allowed me to learn and share insights that would have taken longer and been more difficult if it had not existed.  I can see the good that has come via technology.  However, I have to admit I have not been as discerning as I should be in monitoring my use of technology as I have, as many of us, been sucked up into the black hole of “technological acceptance.”

As I write this article on my laptop to be posted over the Internet I wonder if I am a hypocrite in questioning technology.  I would say that I would be if I was saying all technology, at anytime, was wrong.  What I want to stress is that we need to seriously ask questions about the technology we use and how we use it.  As I have already said we need to ask what the consequences of any technology could be.  We need to be constantly aware of our reliance, and often total dependence, on technology and work to avoid such dependence.  Of course if you are like me and live in the city or have a job that is technology driven it is difficult.   We do need to ask if we have a plan for what to do if for some reason God decides to pull the plug?  What will we do when He moves to show us that we need to rely more on Him than Microsoft, Mac or Dell.  Most of us do not have any plans and until recently I had not even contemplated such a scenario.  Michael Bunker’s book, and a few others I have read recently, have made me begin to think about these things more deeply.

One example of technology, and its associated mindset, being blindly accepted without much reservation was the Industrial Revolution.  When we entered the Industrial Revolution Christians did not ask the questions they should have and we have thus paid a heavy price.  We as believers did not ask what God would have us do by looking at the affect the Industrial Revolution would have on His people.  The following articles make some very good observations with regards to the impact of technology on mankind:

Reforming the Family – Rev. Brian M. Abshire
Efficiency vs the Family – Scott Terry

This all said what should we do, and thus the reason for the name of this post.  Throughout this article I have mentioned questions we need to ask but we need to go further.  We need to take action so that we do not become more dependent on technology than on God.  To do this my family has decided to challenge ourselves and go on a technology fast for a week, once every 2 months.  During that time we will work to minimize our use of the technology we have come to so rely on.  Apart from work, as I do have to make a living and am sure my employer would not want to go along, there will be no computers, thus no internet.  I think Facebook can live without me.  We will only use our phones for emergencies and with regards to cooking be limited to our stove.  Of course if we lived in a different environment we might be able to limit our use of technology even further, but this is a start.  Actually even making a decision to do this showed some of our over reliance and desire for technology in our family.  There were some in the family that balked a little since until we talk about curtailing our use of technology we did not realize how dependent we had become on it.

In taking part in this “technology fast’ we hope to grow closer to God.  Not necessarily because of the lack of technology but because of the time we will have that is no longer absorbed by the technology we use.  I am hoping and praying that our time in family devotions will grow and our interacting as a family will flourish.  Let me say, if this is done purely to simply say we have avoided technology I think we would miss the point.  No, we want to do this so that we can realize how dependent we have become on technology, often at the cost of our dependence on God, and work by God’s strength to rely on Him as we should.

I encourage you to join us as we seek to set technology aside, as best you can, for a week.  Our first Technology Fast will take place from January 23nd to January 29th.  If you need to start on a different week that is great since it is not the dates that matter but that we seek to do something.  I encourage you to share your thoughts on joining us and after the week, whether it be the same as us or another week, share what God did in the life of your family during the week. 

This, as with all things needs to be done for His glory and that needs to be at the forefront of our minds.  Let us grow closer to Him as we remove those things that often are seemingly good but end up impinging on time with Him, with family and with ones church.

Previous Posts in this Series:
GMOs: An Agricultural Tower of Babel?

Monday, January 02, 2012

GMOs: An Agricultural Tower of Babel?

(Updated with what is now paragraph 6 on 1/7/12)

There are many out there that feel anything we do to increase production and efficiency, thereby apparently reducing price, is a good thing.  Others put forth that the only way we can feed the world and produce enough food is by genetically engineering it.  But is this correct as the true total cost, including subsidies and increased health costs, of the food we eat is yet to be tallied.  Also, from what I can find the issue with food is not a quantity issue but a distribution issue so making more at any cost is not the answer.  However, more importantly we need to ask if the producing of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) pleases God or is it an Agricultural Tower of Babel?

Now I have probably already tipped my hand as to where I stand on this subject but if God’s word is sufficient for all of life, and it is, it must say something about this topic.  Of course you will not find a passage such as 1 Agronomy 1:1 that says “Thou shall not make GMOs” but this does not mean that God does not speak to this area of life, He does.  God speaks to every area of life, either directly or in principle.

I realize that when one speaks to the topic of food there will be those that say that what we eat and what we produce is an area of liberty and we can basically do as we please.  Some may even go to Peter’s vision in Acts  10:9-16 to say that we can eat all things.  Well, first the passage in Acts is not dealing as much with what one has for dinner as dealing with religious preconceptions about what was clean or unclean, to say that Peter can indeed eat and fellowship with the Gentiles who were considered unclean by the Jews.  The “liberty” card is usually used whenever ones toes are being stepped on and one becomes uncomfortable.  While we do have liberty it is all within the confines of God’s order and commands so we need to be careful of where we proclaim liberty.

To see what God’s plan was from the beginning one needs to go back to, well the beginning, Genesis 1:25-27 and Gen 2:5,15 to see that God placed man in a garden to care for what God provided.  God could have easily made the garden to care for itself and produce in abundance all that Adam and Eve required but God decided, in His infinite wisdom, to have man cultivate and till the soil.  He placed man not so much as lord over the land but as a steward of God’s provision, as caretaker and overseer of it.  While this call was prior to the fall it did not change after it.  What changed after the fall was man’s relationship with the soil as it was going to now, in a sense, fight back and not produce as man would have liked.  God did not tell Adam to go out and try and manipulate the ground, the foliage or the animals but to care for it to bring forth what God wanted from the soil even with the curse that was placed on it. 

So what does man do today but try and avoid the curse anyway they can.  I spoke on some of this in my last article on work.  We create food, if you can really call it that, which is modified so as to be able to produce more crops by being pesticide resistant and in the process nutrient deficient.  Man, instead of simply dealing with the various issues created by the curse through hard work and natural methods has tried to be God and create new organisms.   At the heart of much of this is a desire to avoid work and the trials of it and to be as God. 

As I mentioned the Tower of Babel in the title of this article, I should add that it is, among other things, a picture of man seeking to use technology to create their own heaven, their own redemption.  Gen 11:1-5 speaks of the technology used, that of brick and mortar, and the passage even speaks of them being baked.  Now we may not think of bricks and mortar as a technological advance but it truly was.  Man was seeking to use what advances they had before them to make a name for themselves (Gen 11:4) and in a sense find redemption on their own.  They sought to make something of themselves and avoid being scattered.  However, God would put a stop to that and He can do the same with us.  God can bring down the technological tower we have created and rely on.  At issue is not necessarily a matter of avoiding technology, as that is often difficult, but it is a matter of what we do with that technology.  It is a matter of what we rely on, God or self.

But what of those that farm and have worked to make mixed breeds of animals and plants?  Is this a form of genetic manipulation?  This is dealt with in Joel Salatin’s book Folks, This Ain’t Normal (Pg: 225-239) as he shares how genetic engineering deals with manipulating “kinds” whereas the natural mixing of breeds and plants is keeping kinds together.  God created “kinds” (Gen 1:11,12,21,25) and we should not seek to make, to be as God, and create new kinds. 

This tendency to want to be as God is not new as we see it in the Garden, at Babel and we see it still today. When we manufacture, manipulate and modify the natural order that God has provided we in essence seek to be as God.  Being creative is an innate attribute we have as a creation made in the image of God. However we need to realize the limits of that creative desire and understand that simply because we physically can do something that does not mean we should.  Adam and Eve could physically eat of the tree but they were not to so we too need understand our limits and be careful that we do not turn our call to dominion into a call to be as God.  

Does all of this mean we simply need to accept the thorns and thistles that make producing food difficult?  In one sense yes as they will exist in some manner until Christ’s return.  But I think we can, by the sweat of our brow, fight those incursions that make the ground unfruitful.  We need to do so in a manner that aligns with God’s order and in a manner that magnifies Him and not us.  We need to make sure that all we do honors God’s creation and is not in the end simply more of a curse, as we are finding with the genetically engineered food substitutes that have been created.
Let us seek to be reliant on God and what He provides.  One of the results of the curse on the land is to remind us of our reliance on Him for our redemption.   Let us be content with the trials we face due to the curse.  Not that we are to be complacent but understand that we cannot avoid the curse and must work within the confines God has set before us.  God has provided all we need to live for His glory and we need to come to grips with that.  Can we create technology to better glorify God, well that is a topic for another post but in short yes as long as we understand the difference between using technology and being dependent on it. 

So, yes the genetic engineering of our food is indeed an Agricultural Tower of Babel and it will crumble.  The question is how long will it be until God pulls the tower down and how much damage will have been done in the mean time.  Should we not instead work to pull the tower down and thus reveal our reliance on God and not on ourselves? 

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