a strange wiikness
by W. Jackson Watts
Read more about what Free Will Baptists believe at www.nafwb.org.
Not long ago the Nintendo Wii exploded on the scene as the latest video-gaming system to awe the mainstream market. It quickly sold millions of systems worldwide, making it the fastest-selling console in history.
The unique device has been embraced by all generations, with games designed for people of all ages. The games are fun, although I must admit I had little success when I recently tried it for the first time.
The system tries to simulate reality as closely as possible. Gamers can bowl, play tennis, canoe, and enjoy countless other outdoor activities—all within the confines of an air-conditioned living room. When thinking about this latest technological marvel, I cannot help but think of the vivid contrasts between virtual reality and the real Christian life.
Not Just a Game
The next time you go to the mall, take five minutes to observe the intensity and passion of a 15-year-old playing a handheld video game. He puts all of his effort into pressing the right buttons at all the right times. If he wins, he brags to his younger brother and challenges him to beat his score. If he loses, he may mutter an expletive, strike the system with his hand in anger, or stomp off in disgust. He does these things without realizing it is just a game. He can start over. He can turn the game off and come back to it later with no consequences.
In contrast, the Christian life is anything but a game! The Apostle Paul describes life as a daily battle against sin and self, a constant struggle between the carnal and the eternal, a constant surrender of self and pride. Yet enter a typical church and what do you see? People sit passively in their pews, waiting for the show to begin. They rise reluctantly and sing halfheartedly about the amazing work of Jesus Christ. They stare at the backs of their hands and glance at their watches as the preacher nears the end of his sermon. Doubtless their minds are more on lunch than the Great Commission.
You can’t help but wonder if they realize that the Christian life is not a game but real life. Souls and eternity are at stake. Unlike the virtual world, they can’t start over at any time. Their decisions carry real world consequences.
Yet how can we expect today’s generation to understand real life when today’s technology demands they live in a virtual world that moves faster, louder, and brighter than any culture in history?
High Impact World
Today’s Christian faces a daily assault—a barrage of information from every imaginable source. Nearly everyone owns a television, sometimes three or four. Most have computers in their homes (along with minivans, places of employment, and classrooms). Many people would question their ability to function in the modern world without a cellular telephone. The iPod has become standard fare for teens and adults alike. Indisputably, this culture of high impact images is inescapable.
The deluge of information arrives at incredibly rapid speeds, whether it be a car chase scene from a blockbuster film or the evening news As many psychologists and psychiatrists have observed, the images produced by these electronic media sources create dependence—perhaps obsession—with speed, excitement, and efficiency. No wonder believers today find it hard to maintain their focus on God through a single hour of relative silence and inactivity.
While few people would argue against the merits of living a productive, efficient life, it could be argued that the frenetic pace of the electronic age stands in direct contrast to the overall tenor of Scripture, which calls our attention to patience, temperance, stillness, and meditation.”
Christian psychiatrist Richard Winter has noted, “Christian maturity involves learning to delay gratification, to groan, to rejoice in hope and to wait eagerly and patiently for the complete fulfillment of God’s many promises of restoration and renewal (Rom. 8:22-27).” This learning process must begin by practicing patience daily, in the midst of our high-tech lifestyles.
By nature, however, Christians would rather not “be still and wait.” Instead, we turn to the ever-increasing glut of information and visual stimulation, satisfying our lust for sensual stimulation while our minds remain disengaged.
Turn It Off
How can a Christian respond to this 21st century Wiikness? Consider the following suggestions for subduing the effects of the media monsters in your life:
Seek silence. Carve out time in your day to disconnect. Electronic devices still have an on/off switch. Use it. Turn off computer, television, radio, and iPod. Avoid web-based devotional programs. Take a walk. Listen. Let God’s voice cut through the maddening hum of digital noise.
Re-establish relationships. Social networking sites cannot meet your need for Christian fellowship. Ironically, electronic relationships often foster isolation and illusion. After all, who wants to share his deepest burdens or greatest hopes in a text message? Few things cut through bravado and hypocrisy like the eye-to-eye contact of a close friend.
Value words. We’ve all heard the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In reality, most pictures require a thousand-word explanation. Images communicate through the emotion produced by a single glance, and human emotions are easily manipulated.
In contrast, salvation is based on belief. Belief is based on knowledge. Knowledge is based in truth. And Truth is best communicated with words. With this in mind, Christians should recognize the priority of the word in an image-saturated culture.
Enjoy church. Many believers today have come to value snappy transitions from one part of a service to the next rather than careful meditation over what is said, heard, seen, and felt. Reclaim the virtue of meditation and seek to grasp the spiritual and theological truths displayed through the Word, the ordinances, and the rich lyrics of hymns and songs.
Christians must stop expecting a service that embraces the entertainment-driven culture around it and rediscover the joy of simplicity, the beauty of the transcendent, and the value of the eternal.
About the Writer: A 2007 graduate of Free Will Baptist Bible College, Jackson Watts is the director of education at Tippett’s Chapel FWB Church in Clayton, NC. He is a seminary student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Read more from Jackson at www.truthandfaith.wordpress.com.