Society …Advances?

I don’t believe many of us even bother to think about many of the culture shaping products and ideas that have been, and are being, introduced into our society. We simply accept their promised benefits and move on. Very often we can hardly wait for the next medical break-through, new model of automobile, gaming platform, smart phone and tablet.

Yet I find it interesting how everyone I ask says they are working harder now than they did 10 years ago. (At least those who still have jobs.) I distinctly remember hearing (30-years ago) that computers were going to make us so productive we would be working 4-day work weeks within ten years.

What I don’t remember hearing is commercials for PCs, gaming platforms, (and now smart phones and tablets) that said, “…yes, we are going to turn you and your kids into technological robots that can’t be away from your ‘screen’ for more than a few minutes.” Nor did I hear, “…our technology is going to enslave you. You will become totally addicted to it and dependent on it. You will suffer from withdrawal if forced to do without it for even an hour or two. It will control you. You will become so addicted to it that you will monitor your technology during meals and while driving. You will conduct your business – including personal conversations – live on the internet and in restaurants, waiting rooms, meetings. You will interrupt face-to-face conversations to take a call, or note a sports update.”

Yes, we have wonderful technology and instant communications around the globe. And, how is that affecting our society; and perhaps more importantly, our stress levels and health, in general? I’d like to see the last 20-years of sales figures for anti-depressants and stress relief medications. And that’s the legal drugs. Illegal drugs are, I suspect, the same story. I also suspect that a lot of the push to legalize marijuana, is because people are looking for another product to help them relax, zone-out, or simply …to cope.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of us have stopped using our minds. At least we stopped using them for anything except trying to figure out how to make more money; how to impress our boss; members of the opposite sex (or same sex in some cases); neighbors and even strangers we meet. All while trying to reduce our stress levels, relax more, and oh yes, drop those extra pounds. If you don’t believe me, turn on your TV and spend some time critically watching both network and cable/satellite programming. Watch the commercials. After all, millions (actually billions) of dollars are spent annually by advertisers; and, that money is being spent on the things our society values or is being taught to value. Folks, they are selling an awful lot of what they are advertising.

Watch commercials with your mind engaged. Forget about the product for a minute. What values are being “sold”? Note the “dress code,” or lack thereof. How about the language being used – both verbal and non-verbal? Is there any “socially redeeming value” to the commercial? Do the commercials represent Biblical values? And that’s just the product advertising.

Next, we need to evaluate the implications of incorporating these ideas and products into our households, families, and society in general. Many seemingly innocent products have had far ranging impact on us. An interesting exercise might be to look at some common products and list their positive and negative impacts on society, families and individuals. Some products you may wish to consider: TV, motion pictures, cable & satellite programming, the automobile, the PC, smart phones, iPads/Tablets, the pill, the morning after pill, alcohol, tobacco, the internet, texting, instant messaging and social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

What I hope we gain from such an analysis is the understanding that the overall impact of these products – both good and bad (my definition of good is “…of God’s Kingdom;” and bad is, “…not of God’s Kingdom”) is far wider ranged than first envisioned. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “unintended consequences”. Well, there have always been visionaries who envisioned (and understood) many of the consequences – intended and unintended. It’s just that these forward thinkers frequently have trouble getting “traction”. If they are voicing problems, concerns or (shudder) moral objections, you will seldom hear about it. They are frequently marginalized, attacked personally, or ignored. On the other hand, if it’s a consequence from which a lot of money can be made there will be no trouble getting all, or more, attention than they want.

What are we to do? Well, for starters we need to start thinking for ourselves and looking at things through our “Jesus Filter”. Ask yourself, “Is this furthering Kingdom Values or worldly values?”

Obviously many products and ideas have the potential to be “used” either way. We need to monitor and control their use in our families. In some cases, we need to rediscover outrage. Pick something (just one thing) which you strongly feel is damaging or dangerous to your family and Kingdom Values. You might write a few letters to TV networks, or the CEO’s of companies whose advertising you find objectionable. Start talking about it to your friends and anyone else who will listen. You may be surprised where it will lead.

In Christian Love,
Avery Goodday

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