Last month I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Kelly, co-founder of the tech magazine, Wired, speak on the intersection of technology and spirituality. I walked away with a new perspective on the role tech does and could play in our spiritual growth or demise.
His first point was that God, the ultimate Creator, made us in His image, which means that we have the same creative force within us. The cool thing about technology is that it allows us to create in our own way and live out the image of God even more fully.
Well, if you reacted to this as I did, you may have thought of a million examples of technology that are not reflective of the image of God. Kelly’s response to this was that, while technology has the capacity for both good and evil, it is primarily up to the user to determines which – not the nature of the tech itself. The underlying technology itself isn’t good or evil, it’s how we use it and interact with it.
Take, for instance, the chemical DDT. Initially sprayed on plantations, DDT proved to be a severe health concern and could have easily been written off as an evil innovation. However, as Kelly pointed out, it was later discovered that when used in small doses in areas susceptible to malaria, it can be used safely to save millions of lives.
This extends to the technology that has become so ingrained in our daily lives: computers, televisions, and, of course, smart phones. I’m afraid that, in most cases today, technology is used in a way that pulls us away from God. Beyond the explicitly harmful ways to use a computer or phone, there is also the subtler danger of constant distraction. I struggle with this as much as anyone. It can be so easy to get caught up in emails, on Facebook, or to fall into the crazy YouTube spiral of related videos. Consequently, it is not uncommon for us at Hallow to be asked “Shouldn’t we be trying to pull people away from their phones, instead of encouraging them to use them even more? How will another app help?”
I believe the answer lies in the DDT analogy. Technology is a tool. We can either use it for harm or for good. We can use technology to video call an out-of-town friend and strengthen a relationship, or social media to find a community where we truly feel supported. In fact, I wouldn’t have even heard Kevin Kelly’s talk without technology, nor could I be sharing these thoughts with you now. With Hallow, we hope to provide a way to use our phones for growth with God. Ironically, we’re trying to use our phones as a way to step away from our phones and step towards God. You open the app, press play, put your phone aside, close your eyes, and fully and completely focus on God.
For better or worse, technology isn’t going anywhere. I’d be shocked if people spend any less time on a computer or a phone 50 years from now. So, if we can’t get rid of technology, let’s see if we can take some small steps to change the way we interact with it. I look forward to the day that the instinct is to look at technology and see, first and foremost, an aid to spirituality and human growth.