Friday, September 4, 2015

Screen Life: An Ancient Wall & a Call to Arms

The lights shine brightly. I can hardly see in fact. The window is in front of me, pouring light. But I can't see. My mind is infatuated, obsessed. A kind of dementia overcomes me. I can't help but look. I try to look away, but it recaptures my attention. I know there is a real world out there. But I don't care. It's like a dream world. It just brings me in, and I can't let go. It's the glare of all glares. It's the glare of the television screen. It's the glare of the smart phone screen. It's the glare of the Ipad. It's the glare of the laptop.

Something like 50% of the day of the average young adult today is spent in front of one of these devices. I can relate. Though I read a lot, I spend a great deal more time on the laptop at home. While working at the shelter I would simply transfer from the screen at home to the screen at work. No big deal. And in between, the smart phone screen. 

It seems like too many screens.  Sometimes I feel like I'm hardly living, just watching movies or shows.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a cyber world.  What did people do before the internet?  They watched TV.  What did people do before TV?  I suppose they read books and newspapers.  

Human interaction can be tedious.  Maybe it's an anachronism.  But I don't think it is.   But it certainly seems like an agenda is smuggled through the middle of all this noise.  It does seem that way.  Maybe Herman and Chomsky (1988) were right when they wrote, "the mass media of the USA are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion."

Can we slow down?  Can we put it down if we want to?  Can we slow down and think?  Can we stop clicking?  Is there any room for the gospel?  And what do all the screens do to the minds of young people?

Anathematized to life.   Apathy, the prevailing motif.  "I don't care today, I don't care tomorrow, and next week is looking doubtful." To be fair it isn't easy.  Most people have to work 40+ hours a week doing mind numbing tasks endlessly, facing mounting bills, increasing food prices, and decreasing wages and benefits.  It's a nightmare.  Let's just be real.  The 9 to 5 grind is quite often very awful.  I'm fortunate to have a job I enjoy.  People work for years spinning their wheels because the amount of income can never match the monthly bills and random break downs and surprise costs of life.  People today are working more hours to afford less.  

We end up with too little time after all those job hours.  Everything on the screen conspires to take what little extra money we have.  There isn't any time.  There isn't any money.  Credit card debts are climbing, and given enough pictures of decadent chocolate or juicy burgers, I'm bound to be hungry too much.  An assault on the senses by way the eyes and ears, into the mind, designed by teams of experts to trigger notions that bring in cash flow.  Consumer society, as they say.  Or as the big credit card companies think of us: "eaters."  Useless eaters, as a whistleblower revealed not so long ago.  

In western civilization it's all about money.  It's all about the money.  Even when they say it's not about the money, that's when it's really about the money.  I tend to approach any gimic very skeptically.  Eventually the other shoe is going to drop.  Eventually the catch will be revealed.  Eventually they want me to cough up the money. 

I think young people are just disgusted.  They are downright sick of it.  Or they are caught up in it, trying to squeeze some kind of satisfaction.  And there is none to be had.  

Walking up the steps of the apartment building where I dwell, I could smell the unmistakable scent of marijuana.  I had to shake my head.  And I had to smile.  I know how it feels to look for a good time in a substance.  It's such a cunning and deceptive little trap for the mind.  In the end, whether a terrible evil or a passive substance, it was true for me; there was nothing there.  

I picture the tattooed, pierced college playboy with the popped collar laying on a couch after an all nighter, next to a girl he doesn't like, feeling an intense sense of disappoint with everything he has tried to pull from life.  

Consider the situation: We have a man who is blessed with more material commodities and luxuries than 99% in the history of mankind.  The result?  His belly is full, but his soul is empty.  And perhaps that's why so many young people in our society take their own lives.

At the same time, halfway across the world, an African child is dying of starvation.  Halfway around the world an Indian teenager is gathering water from a polluted river that runs through his village with a carved up plastic jug which washed ashore from the trash island in the pacific ocean accumulating the excesses of western civilization.  

 Are people concerned?  Some are, yes.  But there seems to be a great mass that only moves when the screen tells them to.  They get excitable about gay marriage and gay rights.  They get excitable about Bruce Jenner becoming a woman.  Or police violence.  Or global warming.  But when it comes to sex trafficking, world poverty, disease, or war.  Well, there isn't a lot of concern in the great mass one might call the mob of western culture. 

It's a screen life out there.  I woke up in the screen life.  I suppose I've never known much else.  From my very youngest every piece of furniture was pointed toward the TV screen.  From my youngest years I was obsessed with video games.  Throughout my whole life I'm sure I've watched thousands of hours of movies.  Thousands of hours of computer and video games.  Endless hours spent on the internet and Facebook.   

I think I understand why, though maybe I don't.  Keeping people in front of the screen allows for the more powerful "classes" if you want to call it that, to gather their money, and power and such things.  That's speculative of course, but I just notice a lot of corruption in business and banking.  In the film adaptation of Animal Farm by George Orwell, the hogs begin taking undue power and the other farm animals begin mobilizing to protest and mount a counter-insurgence.  Then one of the hogs pushed a television in front of the other animals, and they were all mesmerized.  They stopped organizing, stopped fighting for their rights in exchange for creature comforts.

That's kind of how I see modernists.  They were taken in by the seductions of western convenience.  The screen was pushed in front of them while institutions like the Federal Reserve quietly took control.  Waking up as a Christian in America today, it kind of feels like the past forty years have been the demise of Christianity in the west.  At least that's how it looks on paper in the history books.  Of course these are unauthorized histories.  One must read between the lines in these sort of matters.   

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were atheists.  So was H.G. Wells.  In their views of the future they say hopelessness.  Orwell saw a totalitarian nightmare that would eventually convert the very heart of a man to total devotion.  1984 ended in hopelessness.  Huxley saw a world of nightmarish consumerism in Brave New World where entertainment and convenience became god.  He didn't see any hope.  Wells saw a terrifying evolutionary future in his classic The Time Machine.  He saw the same world of classes polarized to the extreme, with one evolutionary end of man brainless and living a privileged life, and another evolutionary end of man living in darkness snatching unsuspecting members of the privileged class when they strayed too close to their dwellings.  He saw no hope or future.  

But they were wrong.  They couldn't fathom a God who worked quietly in history.  But I can.  And I do.  His presence and guidance is unmistakable.  Watch his hands at work.  One can see it through the very pages of history.  Events turn from good to bad to worse, then out of seeming catastrophe the various threads of a better future pull together.  

Quite often God allows it all to reach the breaking point.  Time and again across human history it's all been at the breaking point.  Think of Noah in the ark as the waters rose.  Think of how the nation of Israel was blessed by God again and again, yet time and again they would fall away.  They would forget their God.  But inevitably a point comes when the old book of the law is discovered in the rubble.  And one Godly man or woman changes things by a taunt dedication to purity, truth, and their God.  Think of Daniel in the lion's den.  Think of David before Goliath. 

In modern times we've seen the world at the brink more than once haven't we?  Think of the cold war, when the world hung at the edge of nuclear holocaust.  Think of world war II as Hitler swept across Europe.  Think of the genocide of the Jewish people.  Consider the plight of Israel and the Jewish people after the return to their homeland post world war II.  How often they've come to the brink of destruction, but held out against endless hostile neighbors. 

In the United States Christians and non-Christians a like have been blessed by God.  There has been relative safety, prosperity, comfort, and convenience.  Americans are blessed of God unlike any other nation on Earth.  It's astounding.  Most of the world does not look like the USA.  But was it always that way?  Of course not!  The USA fought a brutal war for independence from Great Britain.  If you want to talk about a knife edge, look at the revolutionary war.  Many times it looked as if the colonists would fail.  It's been a battle for America ever since it's founding.  Think of the struggles to formulate a Constitution that allows for freedom and liberty.  And when liberty was threatened by the horrific evil of slavery, it took a long devastating war between brothers to settle the issue once and for all.  We can't take for granted what has happened in the United States.  Philosophers, historians, and theologians can argue all they want, the prosperity of the USA was built on the protestant ethic.  And without it it's crumbling into depravity.  

Many a wall and barrier has been uprooted and removed in regard to morality and truth.  In fact almost every road sign for such things has been removed for the sake of equality and tolerance.  In past times Christians fought very hard to make sure the USA remained a Christian nation.  People form organizations and institutions to protect what they'd gained in former times.  

It's like they build walls and barriers to protect the blessings God has given.  Yet time and again the old barriers crumble in disrepair.  They are forgotten.

Old fortifications are found, but no one is manning them.  It's like after Jesus found me, changed me, and I was reborn into Christianity I found a series of old castles guarding along an ancient stronghold of evil.  I walked along the walls inspecting the battlements.  But no one was manning them.  There was no soldiers there.  Wind howled through the old rock structures.  Cob-webs gathered in the halls and courts.  Fall descended and the smell of red leaves had become unmistakable on the air.  Somewhere along the line the defenses had been forgotten and simply abandoned.  Yet as soon as I stood on the walls and gazed out toward the horizon, I knew those defenses were absolutely critical.  But it appeared that most were at potlucks, social gatherings, or Christian rock concerts.  No one was on the frontlines.  

Then I noticed someone walking up to stand on one of the high towers.  Then another, trotting up on horseback to take up his post.  Young people were appearing.  Groups of four and five were approaching, marching up the brick staircases.  I noticed more and more young people moving out to the battlements.  They were picking up shields, lances, swords, and crossbows.  They were lining up one by one along the walls and towers.  A white rider named the Holy Spirit had sent them, and had sent me.  Because something big was coming.  

The screen life, well, that was fun.  Or was it?  I can hardly remember.  On another note: I've often wondered, if one gets so drunk as to black out the entire experience of a fun night of debauchery, did the emerging amnesiac really in fact have a good time?  In any case, Jesus Christ has not only freed me from selfishness, addictions, meaninglessness, and lovelessness, but he has also endeavored to free me from the screen life.  

Is the screen inherently evil?  I don't believe so.  Is money inherently evil?  Not at all.  The Bible says "the love for money is at the root of all kinds of evil."  The screen is like money, when used properly it is a good thing, when misused it becomes a vehicle for evil.   

The only way out of this madness is Jesus Christ.  It's the Christian faith.  I couldn't crawl out on my own, all those allurements were too engrossing.  The pain of the past was too acute.  I couldn't handle it.  I was falling apart.  The screen life had me real good.  I suppose in some ways it still does.  Jesus Christ is the way of escape.  Like Neo trapped in the matrix, we need an exit.  We need to find Morpheus, and receive the truth.  We need to join the resistance in a hovership, against the system that once dominated us.  Join us on the battlelines.  Many Christians forgot the struggle of their forefathers against the forces of darkness.  But young people are rising up to stand on the ancient fortifications, outnumbered, outgunned, overwhelmed, but sometimes like Leonidas at Thermopylae one must take a stand to inspire others.

Our God is a God of great inspirations.  He is a God of uncanny glory, and powerful motivating inspiration.  Be set on fire by his Spirit.  Someone has to stand now, today.  Join us, take up your shield, take up your sword, take up the armor of God, and stand against the enemy.   

Christ bids us to come and die.  Come and be changed forever.  When I was broken, troubled, lost, and sitting in front of the screen hoping for an end, I was obsessed with a year.  It was 2012.  I was sure I was going to die in 2012, at age 27, and join club 27.  I was completely sure of it.  And it turned out instead God the Father drew me to Jesus Christ in mind and in spirit.  That's when I called out to him in October 2012.  I was reborn into the body of Christ, washed in the Holy Spirit made new and clean.  Today it came into my mind... I was so sure for so many years.  I mean I would write about it, talk about it, and tell people.  I even told a college professor I greatly admired at the University of Wisconsin.  I was consumed with it.  Today I realized... I wasn't wrong.  I was right.  I did die in 2012.  

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
-Colossians 3:3 ESV

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  -Galatians 2:20 ESV 

 Related Posts:
  1. Books and the Joy of Reading.
  2. Christian Activism: Can Christianity survive the new cultural attitudes?
  3. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations
  4. Helping Children Heal from Divorce
  5. Noble: The Life of Christina Noble & her ministry
  6. What is prayer?
  7. Liberty University Graduation, Young People
  8. How does God communicate with us?
  9. Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics and Philosophy Renaissance
  10. The Paradox of Victory through Surrender: Rise Above