7-29-09 the quote below appeared in USA TODAY in the article: “Governments tap into the power of Twitter.” Tom Watson, a Labor Party, blogger said:
There are some very bright, digitally enabled civil servants who unfortunately have to write these documents for their bosses. . . who still get their secretaries to print off their e-mails so they can read them.
This situation is can be repeated in every office, governmental, educational, religious, in probably every nation in the world. No disagreement there. But here is what does bother me, not only in this instance are some of the unspoken attitudes expressed in this patronizing, snarky blog comment because they sadly sometimes seep into the church. My concerns:
The equating of digital skill with intelligence
It bothers me that the adjective “bright” is paired with “digitally enabled” and the implied contrast that follows with the bosses who, because their secretaries must print off emails, are obviously not bright because they are not digitally savvy.
This equating of intelligence with the ability to use digital equipment, if carried to it's logical conclusion would mean that the robots who assemble auto parts are far brighter and more intelligent, than the human who work in the factories. The robots after all, follow digital commands with complete understanding and without deviation. Humans make mistakes. That conclusion is obviously foolish when pushed to the extreme, but it is equally foolish in lesser degrees.
Equally bothersome is the pride that comes with the mastery of a new skill
Just because a secretary can use Twitter does not mean she has suddenly become “brighter”than her boss. There is a reason the boss is the boss and the skills required extend far beyond tweetability.
A bit of humility is in order. I couldn't help but wonder if the spelling ability, the penmanship ability, the ability to construct clear, lengthy business plans, and the ability to negotiate complex contracts, were also a superior skills of the secretary. I doubt it.
How this applies in the church
Our hearts are desperately wicked and our pride overwhelming. It is so easy to feel superior when we learn a new skill. So tempting to relegate those who don’t know the new skill as out of touch, and truth be told, not very bright.
No matter what the technology, we remain servants of Jesus. No matter what new skill we learn, we are always to consider others better than ourselves.
If we learn a new technology that is useful and others in the church don't know, understand, or use it, we have three choices:
- If it is something that might genuinely benefit them, we can offer to help them learn in a fun, upbeat way. I recently helped a young teacher with some online video creation I'd found great fun to do (www.animoto.com). Though I love this program, it isn't the greatest thing for everyone.
- If the person is unable because of time constraints, or other reasons, not able to learn or practice it, perhaps we can help them with it as a fellow worker and servant. Answering my husbands email (a bi-vocational pastor who works hard at a handyman job to work for a church for free) is the sort of work that falls into this category.
- We can wait, pray, be encouraging and available to engage others in the skill if and when time and interest are expressed.
The greatest commandment remains that to love each other and that involves all the demanding requirements of 1 Cor. 13, including patience, kindness, bearing all things, enduring all, never failing and related skills that are far more difficult to master than the latest computer communication skill. Mastering those character traits is what will make us bright, indeed.
Note on context of this blog entry: I didn't write the cautions above as a technophobe. I've emailed since the days that email addresses were numbers; you can follow me on Twitter at yvonprehn. I wrote it to smack myself to never be proud of something I learn, but humble and thankful for the opportunity.