I love pulling out my iPhone – which I got just after my son was born – to show people pictures of my new little son. And I love a lot of the other things it does well like email, music, web browsing, and so on. At the same time, the recent ads for iPhone apps tell a lot about what we as a society think about our problems and the solutions to those problems.
Here’s how the ad ends,
That’s the iPhone, solving life’s dilemmas, one app at a time.
The iPhone is in fact amazingly good at solving certain kinds of problems, and it does so in really a really fun, slick way.
So What’s Missing?
While there are a lot of cool apps out there, I checked the iTunes store and I couldn’t find a single app that would solve any of the deepest “dilemmas” of human life such as piecing together a shattered marriage, making an ethical business decision, or stopping a bloody conflict between an Arab and Western country.
That doesn’t mean the iPhone is morally useless, but it does mean that the iPhone is limited to only solving certain “problems” and most of those problems are not terribly significant. Yet, the iPhone advertisers would have us believe otherwise by connecting the language of significance (“life’s dilemmas”) to what primarily amounts to consumerism (buying more songs).
Over time, if we’re not careful, we can start redefining what we think of as “problems” and “solutions” on the basis of what is advertised to us. It reminds me of a something Andy Crouch said in his book Culture Making:
The record of technology as science – relieving human beings of specific burdens and disease – is splendid. The record of technology as a metaphor for being human is disastrous…. The biggest cultural mistake we can indulge in is to yearn for technological “solutions” to our deepest cultural “problems.” – Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p. 60.
What Do We Have to Show for It?
Christians must not forget that we alone have something unique that cannot be bought, sold, packaged, or marketed – and that it is the only thing that can solve the deepest of “life’s dilemmas.”
Certainly medicine, projectors, and air conditioning help with certain human ailments, and they can be used in the mission of the church. But as we use these tools, we must resist the message that holding devices and pressing buttons is what ultimately makes the world a more redeemed, tender, or loving place.