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Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Technology".
On Loneliness and Resurrection Moments
June 12, 2018 | Michael Gulker
On Loneliness and Resurrection Moments
A year ago, I wrote a prayer letter in response to a surprising outcome of Christians engaging conflict together in the presence of God as an act of worship. Over and over, leaders trained in The Colossian Way tell us that they’re not only discovering the ability to live faithfully amidst conflict, but also how just being together through conflict reveals a deep and abiding loneliness afflicting their lives.    In a spate of recent news articles triggered by a health report, loneliness is back in the spotlight (see e.g., USA Today, US News & World Report, and Comment). In the report, the physiological effect of loneliness is equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is a disease ravaging our nation, churches, and families. Especially concerning is the reality that the primary victims of loneliness are those most awash in an endless stream of digital communication—our youth.  I was struck by these articles, in part, because just the week prior my wife and I confessed to some of our closest friends that one of our deepest spiritual hurts is indeed loneliness. This seems a strange affliction for two people who constantly feel overwhelmed by endless email, tweets, posts, texts, and phone calls. How can we be lonely amidst all this noise? Loneliness, disease, poverty, sickness. These are not words we associate with America or the American church, but they afflict us nonetheless. We feel vulnerable and silly even saying them out loud. Perhaps we’re not the only ones feeling alone—oddballs who need to get it together. According to Jamie Smith’s Comment editorial: “You are alone. Except there are hundreds of thousands of you. You’re not alone in being lonely—not that that makes you any less lonely. Loneliness—often a factor of social isolation—has become a societal epidemic in late capitalist societies. The Centre for Social Justice provides a succinct snapshot in the United Kingdom, for example:       As many as 800,000 people in England are chronically lonely and many more experience some degree of loneliness. 17 percent of older people interact with family, friends or neighbours less than once a week, while 11 percent do so less than once a month. It is linked to cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression and according to some researchers, its effect on mortality is similar to smoking and worse than obesity. One study revealed that it can increase the risk of an early death by as much as 30 percent. In addition to this there is a strong link between isolation and poverty: having two or more close friends reduces the likelihood of poverty by nearly 20 percent.” So, what’s the relationship between conflict (our fear of it and our incapacity to engage it well) and loneliness? My own experience and the experience of hundreds of Colossian Way participants has been that despite ubiquitous digital communication, we are cut off from communion with those we love because of our fear of getting conflict wrong. Ironically, we are most in need of fellowship and friendship at the very places we are most afraid. Hence, we suffer spiritually, emotionally, and even physically from a poverty of friendship. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Mother Teresa said years ago that, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” When asked by an American reporter to name the poorest country she’d visited, Mother Teresa responded, “I have been to many countries and seen much poverty and suffering. Everywhere I go people tell me of their hardships and struggles, and ask for help, and I give what I can. But of all the countries I have been to, the poorest one I have been to is America.” Somewhat shocked, the reporter informed Mother Teresa that America was one of the richest countries and questioned how it could be the poorest. “Because”, she replied, “America suffers most from the poverty of loneliness.” Let’s face it, our engagement with conflict as an act of worship won’t fix the world any more than Mother Teresa’s cup of water for the dying. Yet, as captives of hope we believe these small acts testify to a reality bigger and more beautiful than we can imagine. Even though we only see “as through a glass darkly” these little eschatological foretastes of what will be enable us to participate more fully in the deepest truth of the world, in contrast to the endless news cycle of violence and conflict.  We can say this with confidence because we’ve seen the kingdom break forth already through our Lord’s death and resurrection, and in multiple iterations of that resurrection in our own lives of worship and witness. As we risk laying down our lives, or at least our arguments, we become a cup of water to a dying world—marking the inbreaking of the new world. And what better way to quench the thirst for relationship hidden at the core of our deepest conflicts.
Introducing The Colossian Way
September 9, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
Introducing The Colossian Way
                           
Deciding together: the Amish model for technology use
November 22, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Deciding together: the Amish model for technology use
We welcomed historian Steve Nolt from Goshen College for a recent gathering of local leaders. Drawing on his research into Amish culture and tradition, Nolt introduced our group to one particular model for the adoption or rejection of new technologies. As was also the case with the 19th-century Luddite movement, the Amish approach does not reject new technologies out of hand.  Instead, the tradition maintains a strong sense of priorities which influence if or how new tools will be adopted. A new technology is not ignored, but closely scrutinized for the likelihood that it will either reinforce or undermine the values of the community. Over time, and on the basis of observation and intentional communal discernment, the community will then decide to reject, adopt, or perhaps even adapt the new tool. As one Amish writer summarizes, “Plain people [the Amish] do not oppose all new ideas and practices. There is a need to choose only those that will be of genuine benefit, and to reject those that break down the values we uphold.”[1] As we discussed this approach, one element that stood out was the communal nature of discernment. So often, we as Christians try to make the best decision we can—individually—and trust others—on their own—to do the same. This might get us a good distance down the road. But what would change if we found a way to invite one another into the discernment process? How could we help one another to make wise choices – and then support each other’s efforts to live faithfully? The Amish no doubt live a life very different from most of ours. But they hold out for the rest of us a vision of life that draws on the riches of community and the wisdom of deliberate discernment. As the rest of us juggle the competing buzzes, dings, and flashes of a digital age, we can perhaps in some small way learn from their model, helping one another to more thoughtfully “reject, adopt, or adapt.” [1] The Amish and Technology, p. 333.
Geeks & Luddites: Should we be both?
November 13, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Geeks & Luddites: Should we be both?
Educator and author Kester Brewin recently wrote a piece for HuffingtonPost.co.uk about the need to discern wisely how and when to adopt new technologies. He describes the ways in which much of Western society has now joined the rank of “geeks,” as we increasingly inhabit a world that is technologically mediated and dominated. By uncritically adopting new “tools,” he warns, we run the risk of overlooking the significant (if unintended) side effects of their use. One corrective, Brewin suggests, is to also incorporate the wisdom of the Luddites. This implies not so much a naïve rejection of technology, but a well-informed decision to intentionally structure its use. Luddites, in this sense, aren’t those who blindly refuse to adopt technology, but the visionaries who foresee some of its riskier implications and take precautionary steps to establish healthy parameters. We tend to think of geeks and Luddites as inhabiting different ends of the spectrum, but it’s perhaps more accurate to say that both draw different conclusions from their intense focus on technology. In fact, Brewin suggests, elements of each can inform healthy decision-making in the technological arena. As we at TCF work to help Christians make wise choices in their adoption of technologies, we also strive to find the gifts inherent in diverse and even conflicting perspectives. Brewin’s insights help highlight the ways in which all of us—even, or especially, the geeks—can benefit from the wise legacy of the Luddites.  
Facebook: problem or solution?
November 8, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Facebook: problem or solution?
As I sat down to write a different post, this news flashed across my screen: “Facebook Down: Users Unable To Update Status Or Post Pictures.” I was at work, so of course had been blissfully unaware of the catastrophic event. The headline caught my attention, though, so I jumped over to Facebook to corroborate the story. Apparently it’s true, so the post I was planning to write will have to wait for another day. Facebook does have an uncanny way of derailing my plans. I’ll be honest: I’m happy to be counted among the legions of Facebook users. In fact, if my kids are right about this, I’m a little too happy about it. (“Too many posts, Mom!”) There’s no question, in fact, that I struggle to find a healthy balance of facetime vs facebooktime. No doubt, my appreciation for fb’s gifts is not an unproblematic one. That’s why I welcome insights that help me think through how to get better at this social media thing. Even from folks with whom I don’t see eye-to-eye. In a recent post on his Study Hacks Blog, Cal Newport writes, “My philosophy [is] to only adopt tools that solve a major pre-existing problem.” This rationale has kept Newport from joining Facebook – in fact, from even marginal interest in doing so. That same rationale, on the other hand, confirms my decision to join up. I’m an extrovert with friends on multiple continents, and as a result – for better or for worse – many of my relationships will always be technologically mediated. I want to know when a friend has a baby or gets a new job, and my joy is multiplied by sharing in hers. A couple generations ago, my great-grandmother would have heard news like this while she stood in line at the market. But I don’t live in a small town in Kansas - there’s no single “public space” like the market where I go to hear the news and share my own. FB solves my contemporary conundrum of a geographically-distributed community, offering a digital version of the by-gone market queue. Geographic distance from people I know and love has been a problem for me since my family moved overseas when I was three years old. FB helps solve that problem. FB solves another problem for me, as well. I’m an organizer. I like people, and I also like to get them together around causes that matter. My Franklin planner was great in the 90s, and email still works pretty well. But fb events and messages coordinate and streamline, and spare us all the curse of “Reply all” threads that never end. FB solves more than a few of my organizational problems. By Newport’s standard, then, using FB makes good sense for me. However, his thoughtful “sieve” suggests some ways in which I might re-evaluate just how I use this tool. He suggests, implicitly at least, that technology essentially creates a demand for itself. In what ways, I wonder, have my own uses of FB been changed in service to FB’s needs, rather than vice versa? In other words – what problems is FB creating for me, so that I will then turn to FB for the solution? Furthermore, can I find ways to limit my use to just those ways in which FB actually does solve my problems? Can I use it to maintain friendships and keep things organized, without pouring hours of my time into pointless browsing? Hm. Kind of makes me wonder if there’s a tool out there to help solve my FB problems…   Note: one of the issues we're exploring at TCF is the need to discern well how we employ new technologies. This post is intended to present one (personal) perspective on a complex issue.
The History of a Wicked Problem
October 29, 2013 | Lori Wilson
The History of a Wicked Problem
This week’s conversation with our gathering of local leaders took a bit of a twist, as we explored how the church has wrestled with and “solved” a wicked technological problem. The Pill – a technological innovation that has occasioned no small amount of controversy – presents a sort of case study for both positive and negative ways of engaging new tools. The Roman Catholic church has of course maintained a strict position on this issue, which, if it suggests a number of troubling questions, is nevertheless a well-thought-out and consistent approach. The Protestant church, on the other hand, has largely relegated decisions about the Pill (and contraception, more broadly) to the private sphere. While this allows the individual believer to adopt what she or he believes to be a faithful response, it tends to leave some of us floundering, trying to sort out on our own the ethical and even theological implications of human sexuality and procreation. Many of the questions engendered by this technology remain largely unaddressed. As we continue to grapple with the fallout of the Sexual Revolution, might we need to reexamine the “unbounded freedom” promised by the Pill? What are the effects on a church community when we absolutely privatize these decisions? What does it mean to remain open to God’s leading while practicing “family planning?” This contraceptive “tool” has typically been either categorically refused or uncritically embraced – and in either case, considered a problem solved. One of the hallmarks of a wicked problem, however, is that it has no one single, permanent solution.  These various ways of thinking about a single contraceptive technology illustrate the ways in which we might make progress on an issue, while nevertheless discovering along the way that questions remain unanswered. How then might we hope to make headway? One practice might include committing ourselves to the uncomfortable task of keeping the conversation alive. Silence may be a less awkward approach, but it guarantees that, as a church body, we will fail to make progress in wisdom or obedience regarding this particular issue. As one of our participants noted, perhaps marital counseling should encourage couples to consider these difficult questions. Another commented that our congregations ought to be places where folks can work through difficult ethical tensions like these. Furthermore, for problems like these, the faithful Christian response involves learning how to live faithfully “in the midst” of the problem.  As this group continues to meet, our conversations are helping us develop some of the virtues that will help us do this well – among these honesty and patience, a willingness to confront our own blind spots, and to trust God’s goodness with the “wickedness” of what we don’t yet understand.

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