On technology and spirituality  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , , , , , ,

In Image, a superb journal for those interested in faith and the arts, poet Luci Shaw interviews theologian Eugene Peterson. A brief excerpt:


Luci Shaw: You have often warned us against our culture’s information overload—the overstimulation that comes with exposure to multiple media. As a public person, how have you avoided it yourself?

Eugene Peterson: It’s a conscious decision. I hesitate to say this, because everybody is different, but in my life I need a lot of silence. We don’t have a television. I don’t use the Internet. If I were doing a different kind of work, a different kind of life, I would use all those things. My children do, and if I need to know something I call them up, which I’m not embarrassed to do. It’s not a matter of a puritanical keeping myself free of the world. It’s just what I need.


Everybody needs to be cautious about their use of technology. One of the most important writers today is Albert Borgmann, who analyzes technology and how devastating it can be to human relations. He’s a Christian. He’s not against technology; he uses email.


I think Christians need to be very cautious about the culture. This is not a God-fearing, life-reverencing culture. We live in a pluralistic, spiritual, religious world where anything goes. We’ve got a revelation to protect; we’ve got a way of life to pursue. We need to be as clear and as accurate—and relaxed—as we can. I don’t think we need to be nervous and uptight and cautious in the way we live, but we need to be discerning, and then relax and have fun.


LS: This may be an audacious question, but what spiritual disciplines do you observe?

EP: I read scripture slowly. I pray. I worship. I once tried to coin a new word, scriptureprayer. This is a conversation. There is something to the Zen Buddhist discipline of emptying the mind, but that’s only part of it. We’ve received the word, and we’ve got to listen. There’s someone to listen to.


A caveat about the disciplines: I’m uneasy about the word discipline. It’s a useful word, which Richard Foster has brought back into the Protestant vocabulary. But in practice it often encourages people to take charge of their own spirituality. When you practice a discipline, you’re doing something. There’s not much relaxation. There’s not much letting go. Some people say to me, “You’re such a disciplined person.” I ran marathons for twenty years, but it wasn’t a discipline. I loved it. I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. I have the same feeling about reading scripture, prayer, worship.


I was talking just this last week to a retired businessman. He led Bible studies for most of his life, but at some point he realized that he wasn’t getting it inside of him. He went to his pastor for advice, but his pastor couldn’t really help. So on his own, without any direction, he developed a system of lectio divina, almost exactly the way the books tell you how. He compiled huge notebooks of meditation and reflection on scripture. He told me he’d been doing this for ten years, that he’d wake up at five-thirty in the morning and he couldn’t wait to start. It wasn’t a discipline. It simply got inside of him.


Maybe discipline has become a cliché. Maybe there are new ways to talk about it. Maybe we’re right on the edge of that.


Source: a conversation between Luci Shaw and Eugene Peterson in Image: a journal of art, faith, & mystery (issue #62) pp. 72-73.


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1 comments

Thanks for this, Dennis

August 31, 2013 at 5:08 AM

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