Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

June 26, 2014

Digital faith

By Bill Tinsley
Corsicana Daily Sun

— I am a digital immigrant. I was born into a world of rotary dial telephones and slide rules, cash registers that resembled slot machines, schools without air conditioning, encyclopedias that occupied an entire shelf in the book case and paper maps that unfolded to fill the entire front seat of the car.   

I started my immigration to the digital world about 30 years ago when I walked into Toys ‘R Us with sweaty palms and bought my first computer, a Commodore 64. It had 64k of memory and a floppy disk. You can still find Commodore 64s in abandoned attics, basements and museums.

My oldest son is also a digital immigrant, though he was only 8 years old when he started his digital journey. After he grew up he started his own computer company and now works in Information technology for an energy company.  

My grandchildren are digital natives. They were born into the digital world and have never known anything else. My 3-year-old granddaughter was scanning photos on an iPhone when she was 2 and has already mastered video games. She reads and watches children stories on her iPad.   

I like the digital world. I would not want to go back. I live with my iPhone and PC. I can browse the web and check email anywhere in the world, conduct my business and manage my bank account on the go. I can text friends and family to stay connected and can go anywhere with my GPS. I felt a little sacrilegious when I started reading my Bible on my iPhone and my Kindle. It seemed like it wasn’t really a Bible if I couldn’t flip the pages and smell the ink. I had to remind myself that the first Scriptures were hand written on scrolls and that books came centuries later.  

But there are dangers in the digital world that did not exist before.

The world of virtual reality can undermine relationships in the real world robbing us of time, energy and emotional maturity. The new world of social networking can foster affairs with remote “lovers” who carry none of the day-to-day difficulties that come with marriage. More than one career has been destroyed by inappropriate posts on Facebook and Twitter. Pornography is at your fingertips.

The book Digital Invasion quotes one youth pastor: “I see young people losing the interpersonal skills it takes to function in relationships, in a family and in the church.”

Craig Detweiler writes in his book, iGods, “The iMac begat the IPhone and the iPad, and each one starts with me — or rather ‘i.’ They enhance our ability to connect and to serve, but they can also create an inflated sense of self, believing the entire world revolves around ‘me’ … In an age of status updates, personalized shopping, and lists of followers, we are experiencing the rush of becoming iGods of our own making.” All this sounds strangely like the first temptation, “When you eat of it you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5).

The digital world brings digital pitfalls and temptations as well as opportunities. Our challenge is to incorporate the timeless and eternal truths that never change into our digital world, a digital faith that connects us with God and with one another. The greatest commandment remains:  “Love God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

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Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. He may be reached by email at bill@tinsleycenter.com