How To Handle Luddites In The Church

A few months ago I wrote an article for COLLIDE magazine called, “How To Handle Luddites In The Church,” and it just appeared online. In it, I tell the story of the original Luddites and attempt to argue that their reaction to technological change is not too different to how people in our churches react today. Here’s a preview:

As the story is told, during the Industrial Revolution all kinds of new machines were invented that could perform tasks more efficiently than individual workers. Business owners could earn a ton of money by replacing 10 laborers with a single person who pushed a button on a machine. The problem was that the other nine men lost their jobs.

With no way to earn money for their families, many fell into poverty and despair. According to legend, in 1779 a man named Ned Ludd was fed up with the takeover of the machines and went all Sarah Connor on two knitting frames. The news of Ned’s rage against the machine spread quickly, and groups of masked men started breaking into factories all over England. Whenever a machine was found destroyed, people would say in spooky voice, “Ned Ludd did it.” But did the masked men hate technology or were they targeting something else?

Go read the whole thing: How to Handle Luddites in the Church

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

2 thoughts on “How To Handle Luddites In The Church”

  1. I think there is more to Luddism than mourning the loss of a job, though you touched on it briefly in the article. Besides depriving people of their jobs through efficiency increases, technology can decrease the value and dignity of human labor. A button-pusher is not a skilled craftsman nor artist, and is paid accordingly less.

    There is also I think a dangerous side to ever increasing worker productivity and efficiency. The implication of higher productivity and total employment is that the economy must continue to grow at a rate greater than the population. This brings with it the risks of resource depletion and pollution, to say nothing of the rather useless and potentially harmful fruits of our expanding economy.

    That being said, I think technology is pretty great. Between my hobbies and my career, I spend a huge portion of my time using computers and the internet. But when I read Ellul and Berry, I pause and wonder
    whether we are truly making our lives better with each and every innovation.

    I should say, however, that I view most technological advancements within the church positively, especially as they relate to the scriptures. It seems silly to me that church members should need the excuse of menial labor to have fellowship – let them take up prayer-shawl knitting in place of bulletin folding and call it good!

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