Magazine article The Christian Century

Blessed Technology

Magazine article The Christian Century

Blessed Technology

Article excerpt

I work remotely, out of my home office. As such I am dependent on the smooth and ready operation of computer equipment. Recently I encountered some hitches. My VPN (virtual private network) signal was being easily interrupted, bumping me off my connection to the headquarters office in Eugene, Oregon.

Various fixes were tried. A new router was installed. My Internet service provider diagnosed signal connection and strength. None of these maneuvers worked. Eventually, and thankfully, the techies in Oregon devised some work-arounds that allow me to download material onto my desktop and avoid the need for long and steady connections, With this arrangement, my work is no longer interrupted or lost.

But for a week or two I worked in terror of an alert of doom telling me that the connection had been lost and with it an hour or two of labor. I read and typed hurriedly, under a sense of apprehension. When the signal indeed was dropped, I found myself blurting out, "Oh, no, Lord!" or "God, help me!" These interjections were not curses or curse words so much as they were prayers of desperation. Once I settled down from an episode (and had finished redoing the work lost), the comic side of my situation struck me. And I began to wonder about the propriety of praying for help with high technology.

I remembered a situation from early in my journalism career. I was acquainted with a printer who ran a small press out of his home. Occasionally he would encounter intractable mechanical problems, and he was prone to complaining, with all seriousness, about "demons" that occupied his press. Only after the demons were exorcised would his machinery again operate properly.

I don't think demons commandeered my computer or VPN connection. I have wondered about my computer prayers in light of biblical technology. Perhaps the single most famous use of technology in the Bible occurs in Genesis 11. There we find the "whole earth" speaking the same language. The earth's inhabitants decide to build a tower on the plains of Shinar. They make bricks and bitumen mortar. They intend to build a tower "with its top in the heavens" and break into the very realm of God. We know how the story ends. God interrupts the building of the Tower of Babel, scatters the people and confuses their one language into many.

This story stands as a warning about using technology to attempt godlike control of human circumstances and destiny. Indeed, something like it seems to be mimicked with computer technology. …

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