We all have something to do that we think is of primary importance during this challenging time of the virus.
I know I do. In addition to coming up with tasty and creative meals every night (I didn’t realize we ate out so much previously) to working until all hours putting together a training site for church communicators, I’ve been working on for months (hopefully ready to launch this week). We are all busy.
But there is one thing that has been very heavy on my heart that I'd like us all to stop what we are doing and consider and that is:
How can we get internet access and computers for those without them?
Bear with me as I share why this is so important and some additional resources you may want to read on the topic.
How we care for the “least of these” is the most crucial spiritual test at this time
Many church communicators are overwhelmed with the challenges of technology at this time to get out virtual, online church services to their communities. That is understandable, well, and good.
However, this reminds me of the Corinthian Church (in 1 Cor. 11), where some had too much to eat, and some went hungry.
A church service online is important. Chats or whatever to communicate with the church audience is wonderful. But there is a fine line between producing something good enough and obsessing to create perfect pre-recorded performances that take hours.
At the same time, there are thousands of people without computers or internet access who cannot work from home, even if they have a job that will continue to pay them if they do. There are many more thousands of children without computers or internet access who cannot keep up with their schoolwork.
These examples are in addition to the many within your congregation who do not have access to technology or the ability to participate in your online services. I’ve written about this in another article (https://wp.me/pDky9-8OO), and I will do more, but for now, I want to focus on these other groups of people.
This situation demands our attention as disciples of Jesus
The Bible is very clear.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:26,27 (KJV)
The Message Translation is a bit more brutal in its rendition of the verses:
Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:27 (MSG)
This is not an isolated verse. The continuous teaching of scripture is Jesus’ emphasis on looking out for those less fortunate.
Jesus went after the one sheep that strayed (Luke 15).
In a vivid picture of the final judgment, Jesus makes it very clear that taking care of those less fortunate is of supreme importance and that helping them is like help Jesus (Matt.25:31-46).
As a rebuke if we think we are doing more important things are Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23, again first in the NIV and then in the Message translation:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
This time and how we respond could be one of our finest witnesses to the world
Editorial writers and commentators are talking about this. Following are some articles worth looking at for more on this topic
During coronavirus, high-speed internet is a lifesaver — that millions lack
Short, to the point article, this is an excellent overview of the situation. Here is some of it:
“I’m in dire straits. I need help,” the heartbreaking message went. “I need to be able to work.”
It was from a young woman from a small town in Texas who lives paycheck to paycheck and had been told this week that she had to work remotely because of the coronavirus. To do that, she needed to be able to get online from home.
While many of us reacted to the news that we need to “socially distance” by raiding the grocery store, plopping on the couch and turning on our computers, we are neglecting those Americans for whom staying home is devastating because they have no high-speed internet. They can’t work, or connect their children to online schooling, or hold video sessions with faraway friends and family, or shop online, or entertain themselves through streaming, or do many of the other basic things connected households are able to manage during this crisis.
PLEASE READ the rest of the article: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/during-coronavirus-high-speed-internet-lifesaver-millions-lack-ncna1165321
She’s 10, Homeless and Eager to Learn. But She Has No Internet.
On the first day of remote learning, while some parents in the city were posting cute photos of their children waving to their classmates and teachers as lessons were streamed live, Allia and thousands of other children living in New York City shelters and in overcrowded apartments did not have devices with built-in internet. There are about 450 shelters for families and single adults in the main shelter system, and most of them do not have Wi-Fi available for residents, according to the city Department of Social Services.
For the rest of the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/nyregion/new-york-homeless-students-coronavirus.html
This next link will be far too political for some of you, so you may want to skip the article, but James Carville is totally correct in one comment he makes that I quote below the link:
Trump’s coronavirus press conferences won’t save America. Here’s what might.
On the flip side, who is digitally targeting the working-class black mother in Fulton County, Georgia who may not have access to WiFi in her home? Those who live in privileged bubbles like myself might not think so, but there is an entire America that does not have access to the resources needed to be informed about this crisis. And it is not an uncommon theme that the poorest among us end up bearing the brunt of a national meltdown.
For the rest of the article: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-s-coronavirus-press-conferences-won-t-save-america-here-ncna1172406
What can we do?
First, repent. I know I need to.
Years ago, when the internet first became relevant, I did a lot of research on the Digital Divide at that time—those who had access to this extraordinary new technology and those who didn’t.
I’d always been a social justice crusader (maybe it was coming of age in the 70s), but I wrote and talked about this issue.
Until I got tired of it. Maybe I assumed it was taken care of, though I never checked on it. Certainly, I got busy teaching those who had computer access how to communicate more effectively.
But the problem didn’t get better. The Church (with the exception of some who saw the need) has ignored this Digital Divide. It’s now not a simply a matter of being able to access the internet for exploration and socializing, but a matter of life and death for some.
Or making a living or no living.
Or staying up in school or falling behind a year or so.
Lord have mercy on us all.
The Joshua solution
Following is one of my favorite smack-in-the-face scriptures when I find myself wallowing because of my sins.
The situation is that Joshua and his army won a great victory at Jericho, but in their next battle, they were soundly defeated because one of the soldiers blatantly stole what God forbid. The complete story is told in Joshua 7.
Joshua, in response to the defeat, throws himself on the ground, crying out to God.
My translation of what is next goes something like this:
“Get up off your face and deal with it.”
That’s what we need to do.
You can’t solve the entire national problem, but you can solve the problem for those in and near your Church.
Consider, pray about what you might do. Here are some ideas and I’m sure you will come up with many more if you try:
- Could you collect unused laptops from your congregation (many families have extras) and give them to a local homeless shelter?
- Or could you find out from your local school district or teachers who might need a computer?
- Consider a special offering to buy some computers for this situation. YES, I know many churches are struggling with finances now (go to this article for one idea on it). But what might be struggling for you is a matter of life and death to others.
- There are numerous deals on Amazon where you can get an adequate computer for less than $200.
- What about in YOUR Church? We are to care for those of our family. Do you know which families may have students who need a computer? Or who needs to buy internet access? Paying for equipment or internet access might be an excellent use of your Deacons’ fund at this time.
- Maybe some people in your Church have computers but don’t know how to use them to connect with all the resources available today. Remember, what is obvious to you isn’t to everyone. Could you set up a HELP DESK and talk people through how to use the technology they have through a phone call.
I know there are many other ideas the Lord can give you. Brainstorm, pray, and take action.
Your community doesn’t care what you do in your streaming service, but they will notice if you care for those who need technology to live and learn
Long ago, the Church (looking at myself) should have been more focused on making sure that the least of these had the technology most of us take for granted.
We didn’t, and many are in the situation they are in because of our inaction.
Now is an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who need the technology they should have had all along. It is another chance also to be a witness to our world that we truly trust God in this situation enough to not just hunker down in our bunkers of comfort, but that we care enough to reach out to those in need.
Extra credit if you take the time to read this
I was once an adjunct professor of church history. One of the things I learned in studying for my degree was that when the Church looked out for the interests of those outside itself, it made a powerful impact on the world.
Following is an excerpt of something I wrote back then. Citations are removed for the sake of space.
As he lay dying, the victim of a randomly thrown spear, Emperor Julian flung blood from his wound into the air, with the words, “Galilean, you have conquered.”’
Though the exact truth of this episode is uncertain, it does reflect the bitter disappointment of Julian’s life. Under Emperor Constantine, Christianity had become a legal religion through the Edict of Milan in AD 313. This event caused the rapid growth of the Church, much to the dismay of the considerable pagan portion of the population. The pagans were now in a disadvantaged political and religious position. When Julian, surnamed the Apostate, became emperor in 360, he sought to turn back the influence of the spreading Christian Church and to reinstitute the traditional pagan religions which he felt had been the cause of the greatness of the empire. After only nineteen months as emperor, death terminated his plans.
His efforts at restoring paganism had not been Particularly successful. He found it difficult to rebuild pagan temples, dedicated pagan clergy were rare and ineffectual4, and sacrifices were seldom conducted properly. Particularly distressing to the austere and ascetic Julian was the lifestyle and social involvement of the competing Christian Church. He attempted again and again to encourage his pagan advocates to imitate what he saw as a primary cause of the Christian success. He angrily stated this opinion in the following letter:
Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done the most to increase atheism [Christianity] jIt is disgraceful that when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor, but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.
Julian was not alone in noticing the effects of the Christians’ behavior. Their social and moral behavior, in fact, was the only characteristic that made this initially small and insignificant cult noticeable at all. The ancient world was filled with religions. Isis and Osiris, Mithra, Dionysus, Attis and Cyblene, Orpheus, and many others were worshipped.
Christianity seemed, in many ways, indistinguishable from the rest of them. They all were salvationist, promising a better life after death. They all had some sort of savior figure who died and was reborn. Most had initiation rites such as baptism and some kind of sacred meal. Christianity, however, had the distinction, as Julian related to his disgust, of a behavior pattern of conspicuous morality and social concern. Not only did their enemies notice it, but the Christians themselves continuously pointed it out in their histories, apologies, tracts, and liturgies. To be a Christian meant one’s behavior was different, even if adhering to that standard meant death.
What we do during this crisis might not change the course of history, but we know our Lord is watching and reminds us, “what you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”