This post is the first in a series of “Media Ecology Experiments” which is about using media and technology in a different way to help understand how it affects us and our faith.
The Flower Fades and so Does the Word of God
A few months ago, I found myself in church without a Bible. In the rush to get the family out the door, I didn’t want to make us any later by hunting for my Bible – plus our church gave us handouts with the sermon passage anyway.
This backfired when our church decided to save money and stop printing the handouts. Thankfully, they still put the Bible text on screen whenever the pastor referred to it.
Sadly, I noticed that when the words were on screen my eyes just bounced from word to word acknowledging that the words the pastor spoke matched the words on screen. When the words faded from the screen, they faded from my mind as well. I would try to remember, but my mind was so used to having the text available, it just refused to memorize it. I tried bringing my Bible again, but the same thing happened. My eyes would flit about the page, but the words would not penetrate my mind, much less my heart.
An Experiment That Was Really an Exercise
So I decided to do an experiment. I intentionally left my Bible at home and when the pastor began to read from the Scripture, I would – get this – close my eyes and just listen. I was joining my ancient Christian brothers who, for centuries without printed Bibles and projectors, only accessed the precious Words of God through their ears.
Without printed words to guide me, I felt a bit helpless at first, like a kid’s first attempt at riding a bike without training wheels. But after a few tries, my mind seemed to put back online a tool it hadn’t used since I was a kid – my imagination.
The picture was a bit dim at first, but the harder I worked the more brilliant and lifelike it became. I started to picture a house with people eating inside. The house’s owner was a man named Simon the Leper. Jesus and the disciples were there fellowshipping together. And then, in came Mary with her alabaster jar. It reminded me of the powerful and vivid scenes from the land of Narnia that my mind created before the films came out.
Kill the Easy Button
As a web developer my job is to make websites so clear and easy that people don’t have to think to use it. The problem is that much of our lives are spent using devices that make things so easy, parts of ourselves begin to atrophy.
We see this clearly in the effect that fast food and desk jobs make have on our bodies. An entire industry now exists that machines that are the opposite of easy (weight machines, treadmills, etc.) to help us exercise and rebuild our bodies.
However, it’s harder for us to see how “easy buttons” affect our mind and soul. That’s its important for us to occasionally try using our technology in different ways to see how it affects us and our minds. After experimenting for a few weeks, I’ve begun bringing my Bible again. But sometimes I decide not to, and someone might see me at church without a Bible and think that I don’t care about the Scriptures. But in fact, the reason I don’t always bring my printed Bible is that I care so deeply about God’s word that I don’t want it to remain trapped in the technology of the page or the screen. I want it to penetrate so deeply into my mind that it changes me from the inside out.
Give it a shot this weekend and share your experience.
(more on reading the Bible in church)
Update: Please don’t take this post as a literal recommendation that you should never bring a printed Bible to church or that bringing or not bringing a printed Bible is good or bad, better or worse. The point is to encourage us all to temporarily experiment with using media and technology in different ways to see how they affect us and how dependent we are on them. Most of us only label something “technology” if it is less than 2 years old. However, printing, even though it is over 500 years old, whether we realize it or not is a technology which profoundly influences our thinking and behavior. Likewise, TVs and projectors though several decades old also affect us significantly. My encouragement is to try using these tools in ways different from their prescribed uses in an attempt to better understand them, yourself, and the Words of God.