Churches: Don’t Get Too Comfortable Online

Digital worship is a necessary stopgap under pandemic conditions. But in the long run, in-person fellowship is indispensable.

In his classic book Understanding Media, revered Canadian philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote the following prophetic words: “When the technology of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction, wisdom may well call for a countervailing thrust.” Over the past half decade, even as digitally mediated communication has encroached on nearly every aspect of life, McLuhan’s “countervailing thrust” has begun to take shape.

The list of those pushing back against the digital age’s most nefarious side effects includes journalists like Rana Foroohar; professors like Sherry Turkle, Cal Newport, and Shoshana Zuboff; and lawyers like Tim Wu. Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mark Warner (D-VA) among others have also become critical of how certain aspects of digital technology are eroding public discourse and potentially causing their users cognitive and psychological harm.

Even some of Silicon Valley’s leading lights have begun vocally resisting where technology is taking us, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier and former Google ethicist Tristan Harris among them. In Christian circles, perhaps the most notable critics of the digital age are Tony Reinke with his books 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You and Competing Spectacles, and Andy Crouch with his book The Tech-Wise Family.

All of these voices, and others like them, have written persuasively about the negative effects of digital technology on our brains, our relationships, and our work, arguing that users should take a more careful and intentional approach to technology use in order to mitigate its harmful effects.

Jay Kim, a pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, joins the “countervailing thrust” …

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