The Eleventh Day of Great Lent. Being Separate in a Connected World…a Digital Lenten Message
By Fr. Christopher Makiej
Beloved in Christ, we have to see ourselves as being different than the world around us! As Christians we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” (John 15:19). The Scripture says “come out and be separate….” (2 Cor. 6:17)
Yet this can be very difficult in a world that pressures us to conform to its ways and to be connected to it at all times. We live in this age of the 24hr news cycle, which most of the time is not really “news,” but entertainment, shock factor, blog/twitter commentary of usually trivial information. We live in the age of text, twitter, snap chat, Facebook, etc., etc. and we’re pressured to feel we have to be connected constantly or we’ll miss something.
And yes, we are missing something, Jesus, and relationship with Him. We’re missing quietness, prayer, stillness, reflection. And instead, we’ve become impersonal, impatient, addicted, nervous if we don’t have our iPhone “on us” at all times. Is this human advancement? Is this progress of civilization?
Simply because Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs say this is the way we should live, think, interact, then must it be so? Who are they anyway – Prophets, Saints? Meanwhile, like the national heroin epidemic, we have the smart phone/screen addiction epidemic. Yet people are in denial as their texting thumbs ache from carpel tunnel. Is all this natural? We’re all high on information overload and our minds are not wired to handle it.
In his book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr explores the impact that our perpetual internet connection is on the way we think. Numerous studies point to the same conclusion, he writes: “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. We’ve grown quite adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation and reflection.”
Yes, we need the technology to function, but how much have we allowed it to control us? Are we able to take breaks, step away and be separate – and make a connection with God without a screen in front of us?
Now more than ever, Lent is a great way to feel that separation during these 40 days of prayer and fasting; to feel that things are different; to slow down, put the phone aside, and be within ourselves and in God’s presence.
Beloved, don’t let trendy modern gadgetry rule and ruin your life! Use moderation and self-discipline. Take breaks from your home/office computer and smart phone. Get some exercise; take a walk; communicate face to face with your spouse and children; come to church more often to pray and get connected with the “spiritual network,” not just the social network. Rather than constantly gaze at the icon apps on your computer screen at home, come to Sunday Liturgies and the Lenten services and gaze at the Iconostasion icon screen and enter into true connection and real prayer.
I certainly realize the importance of networking and messaging, etc. But I also believe that as modern Orthodox Christians we have a responsibility, whether it’s through banners on our texts, tweets, emails, websites, etc., to not only spread the truth of Christ and the Gospel, but to communicate the message to use less technology, in order to remind people to take significant breaks from “the screen.”
LESS IS MORE
Less is more. Less screen means more worship time; it means more time alone reading Bible, in prayer, in reflection, without all the beeps and buzzing. It means more quality family time, more time in communication and interaction with your spouse; more real conversations and human interaction with real people; more eyes off the screen and contemplating the beauty of nature and God’s presence in all things with our natural eyes.
Do not conform to this world, but be transformed (Romans 12:2). Social media has a highly addictive and time consuming effect which can negatively affect our marriages, families and relationships. Therefore, we should not feel pressured to conform to all the slang of the technology lingo. Certainly its fine to do so in moderation, but I submit that it’s also ok if you do not choose to like us or friend us or follow us….and it doesn’t mean that you’re not hip or cool. And, though it may be a bit extreme, I declare it’s also ok if you want to throw your phone out the window and say enough!
I believe that we are way beyond society simply “adjusting” to the new technology, as we have in the past to the advent of radio, television or the remote control. We’re in a spiritual and contemplative free fall. Just google “screen addiction” and read for yourself. Yes, we live in a digital world, but it is also a demonic world (Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31) in which I believe the enemy is heavily involved in the modern addictive evil of the undisciplined use of the screen.
I also think it’s fascinating that as we “advance” with the larger Ultra HD 3D TV’s and ever more vivid imagery on “the screen,” we have very little that is good (noble, just, pure, lovely) to display. (Philippians 4:8). Most modern movies and TV shows lack creativity, art, joy and beauty. Without God, is that not the result? We have fantastic screens, but terrible entertainment. It seems modern man has lost his soul as fast as the speed of technology advances.
And so therefore beloved in Christ, during this beautiful Lenten season, may we “consider our ways.” (Haggai 1:7). Let us come out and be separate – not conforming to the world but transforming the times. And let us consider some serious fasting from the gadgetry that controls us, and focus on disconnecting…… so that we may truly connect, and “commit ourselves, and one another, and our whole life, to Christ our God.”
~Fr. Christopher Makiej, Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Andover, MA, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, OUTREACHCLERGY@LISTSERV.GOARCH.ORG