Friday, February 10, 2006

Abraham and Cell Phones

I just found out Lauren Winners has a website. It is here. I read a little of her first book, Girl Meets God a few years back--well about five years back. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was my introduction to the Emerging Church movement. Her book predates Blue Like Jazz, but they are both coming to faith books for the Gen X and younger crowd. Anyway, she has an interesting article on cell phone use.

She writes: "What I'm getting at is this: cell phones, for all their benefits, have distorted both how we inhabit time and how we go about being embodied people." By being embodied I guess she means being a person in the present environment. Um, maybe cell phones are just changing how we are being people. Or perhaps, how we are being human. Then she gave the following illustration:

About a year ago, I was standing in line at the drugstore. The gal in front of
me was talking on her cell phone. I (naively) assumed that when she got to the
front of the line, she would hang up, or at least put her cell phone down. I was
wrong. Where her turn came, Cell Phone Gal stayed stuck to her cell phone,
paying for her gum, magazines, and lip gloss without so much as a hello to the
cashier. It occurred to me that our gal was treating the person, the cashier,
like a machine, and treating the machine like a person.

Cell phones have there place now in our society. But they have become so much more. Like an answering machine bursting with messages after a weekend away, the cell phone tells us that people want to talk to us. With every ring we are told that we are not forgotten. But how many of us have ever felt slightly slighted when a friend, upon hearing her cell phone and viewing the call, says, "Oh, this is so-and-so. Just a minute."

So I ask: Does the cell phone disembody us? Does it transport a part of us from the place and time God has for us right now? God gives us an intellect, a soul, a body, and a task. At any moment should we try to divide those "parts" (and even now I ask myself if they should really be considered parts) to answer a cell phone? When God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, God at first called to him and Abraham answered, "Here I am." The Hebrew is Hineni and it means I am here with all of my being, physically and spiritually, ready to do what I need to do and fully present in the moment. Abraham made that statement three times throughout that ordeal. Hineni. Hineni. Hineni. I doubt that if Abraham's cell phone went off, Abraham would have picked up. And if he had, he might have missed the part where the Angel of the Lord said, "Stop!"

And now this brings me to another part of the Bible that I've wrestled with. In the Old Testament the Bible tells us to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and strength. But this idea is not always expressed in this manner. Sometimes it is heart, soul, strength and mind. The organized part of me (which is a small part to begin with) wants to make this into a chart where at the end of the day I award myself stars if I have loved adequately in all categories. But the matter is not about division but wholeness. I am to love God and others with all the totality of my being. Somewhere in there I hear the word hineni and I sense that my cell phone may help me foster a myth that I can somehow stroll through the check out counter at Wal-Mart, make eye contact with no one, say not a word to the person who happens to also work as a cashier, pacify my whining kid, chat with my friend three counties away, and consider my frantic activity being about my Father's business. Whew! Jesus (who took 40 days off to walk alone in the desert with only the devil to bother him) said life would be difficult, but is this why?

Obviously the issue is larger than cell phones. There are a myriad of ways to disengage from the moment--to multitask ourselves into oblivion. We kid ourselves if we think that TV time is family time. Or that blogging on its own can equal the kind of personal relationships God intends us to have with those in the communities in which we are called to be his witnesses.

In the end, I am left to think. I know I am called to be salt and light. To stand against culture's sway. Sadly, to many who proclaim Christ being salt and light is reduced to forwarding e-mails about abortion bills in congress. But being salt and light, perhaps it is just that: A person that chooses to invigorate a real place--the one they inhabit at that time--with the embodiment of Christ.

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