My Phone & St. Basil

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Things of Faith
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Basil the Great, father of the church

Image via Wikipedia

In the past I have complained and warned about the shortcomings and dangers of relying too much upon technology, especially in terms of modernism’s claim that social and technological evolution will solve the world’s problems. With that being said, yesterday I came across a wonderful little app for my droid phone. It’s titled, “A Year with the Church Fathers.” What a pleasant surprise it was. I began this morning with a reading from St. Basil, who reminds believers from all ages that regardless of the advancement in scientific knowledge, unless we understand God as the beginning of it all that it is wasted knowledge. That of course is my reflection upon his writing.

I know that I could just as easily pull out a printed copy of Basil’s writings and have read the same passage. In fact, I have often objected when friends have commented on how we are on the verge of the death of print books. I truly enjoy opening a new book and smelling the ink on the page and feeling the texture of the paper. Perhaps it’s my age (though I’m not that old), or my rebellious resistance of the capitalistic mechanism’s intentions of changing all that I know and appreciate to suit the market place. Maybe it’s just me. However, this morning I found myself enjoying the convenience of reading this passage of Basil on my smart (dumb) phone. While I didn’t turn a page or sniff the ink (:-)) I did find myself appreciating the convenience of being able to pull out my phone and read this passage. More surprising than that was I enjoyed it and found it edifying.

Change is never easy. It always leads us toward uncharted waters where fear bubbles under the surface. Sometimes I feel like a living paradox. I have a fondness of technological gadgets, and yet I find myself resisting the changes they bring. I’m not sure what to do with that. But I am certain that Basil is correct that regardless of the claims and intentions that science and technology make. They are meaningless without God at the beginning. “In the beginning God created.” Every creative action that humans make are extensions of God’s initial creative act regardless of how distorted some may be.

I suppose then, it is not the creative processes or its product (technological advancement) that I resist, but the power structures that governs them. There is something deeply disturbing about our technology moving to a point where a young man can sit in the safety of a Nevada military base operating a drone in Afghanistan as if playing a video game all the while killing real people on the ground. The market and the government are powerful forces able to manipulate the smallest advancements for self-preservation and accumulation of power and wealth. Technology in and of itself, however, is not an evil, but the use and application of it certainly can be.

When we follow Basil’s reminder we are suddenly and traumatically faced with the ethics of the cross as it begins in God’s creative processes. We are reminded that there is a structure and ethic in place established by God. Its application finds fulfillment in the cross and resurrection. It is this context that causes a believer to appreciate the conveniences of technology while resisting the power structures that manipulate them. Personally, I enjoyed reading Basil on my phone, but shutter at the thought of what this same technology is doing to the communal nature of our society. In any case I will continue enjoying the occasions where I leave my phone behind for the fiber and ink of a book. In the midst of this I am still reminded that “In the beginning God created.”

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