Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finding Our Way in a Digital World


In one week recently, I did not leave the house for four days, but I was connected with people in multiple ways. I led a coaching group composed of people in three states. I taught an online class with students in Tennessee and Missouri. I participated in a seminary faculty meeting with colleagues in Shawnee, Kansas, by video link while wearing my sweats. I coached three individuals by telephone. I listened in on an online conference of church leaders from across the nation. I accessed any number of websites, downloaded music from the iTunes Store, and watched a couple of TV shows on Hulu.com. And, of course, I answered e-mail daily, checked in with friends on Facebook, and posted three blogs.

Quite honestly, I am the target audience for Peggy Kendall’s new book, Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World. I can spend a busy and productive week without leaving the house and only spending face time with family members, but are there drawbacks to that kind of life? Kendall would say, "Yes." Her goal is to challenge Christians to consider how they are using technology and to use it well.

Kendall is a wife, busy mother, college professor, and active church person. She brings training as an educator, counselor, and communications professor to her consideration of the impact of technology on our values, relationships, and faith. Her basic theme is as old as the Book of Genesis—life involves choices.

Kendall credits media theorist Neil Postman with the statement that “for everything that we gain with technology, we give up something.” Life is always a trade off. By gaining speed and efficiency, we may sacrifice patience and quality. By expanding our network of relationships, we may lose intimacy. By immersing ourselves in powerful media experiences, we may lose an appreciation for the real.

The author is not negative toward technology. She simply emphasizes the choices that it calls upon us to make. She not only identifies the sacrifices that we may make through the use of these new tools, she also suggests ways that they can augment our relationships and enrich our lives. Her primary point is that believers must be intentional in the way they use the media. We must not lose sight of the fact that each time we use a bit of technology we are making a statement about what is really important to us.

The title of the book suggests that we should “reboot” from time to time and “refresh our systems.” In other words, we should stop and assess how intentional we are in the use of our high-tech gadgets. This provides a clearer focus for our relationships, values, and faith.

Although written in an accessible style, the ideas presented are neither simple nor unimportant. Given the biblical, philosophical, and relational issues that Kendall raises, the book would be a good resource for Christian education classes or study groups.

(In interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher, Judson Press.)


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