Kate, Leopold and the Apostle Paul2
He couldn’t believe it. Not only had she broken off their engagement, but she did so with a text! Yes, his fiance told him the wedding was off by sending him a text message.
I love technology. I work for an IT company and can do most of my job from home due to how technology has changed since my last job in 1978. I enjoy learning about new gadgets and…shhh…I’m better at Angry Birds than my grandchildren. Sending out a quick email to the ladies in my church about what to bring to a baby shower is way better than making lots of phone calls. And earlier today I completed some assignments for an online class I could never have attended onsite.
But I’m concerned about our technology-saturated culture producing people who can’t look each other in the eyes and communicate heart-to-heart. If you frequent this blog you know our church has been doing a series on finding peace in our digital age. Yesterday I talked about an angry relationship I have with my not-so-smart phone that keeps misunderstanding what I'm trying to say to it. I’ve blogged about this before but even since then my concerns have increased. Anyone who breaks an engagement with a text has a problem far deeper than being technology dependent.
Did you see Kate and Leopold? It’s the romantic time-travel comedy about Leopold (played by my two younger daughter's favorite actor, Hugh Jackman) coming into the 21st century from the 1870’s. He meets Kate and her younger brother, Charlie, an aspiring actor who thinks Leopold is also an actor. Charlie invites Leopold out with him and some friends for drinks only to notice that a girl he wants to ask out on a date seems to take a liking to Leopold. Who wouldn’t? He’s handsome, chivalrous and looks people in the eyes when they talk. Leopold ends up coaching Charlie through the process of approaching his would-be date…
Leopold was shocked that Charlie called the gal to ask her out over the phone. I can only imagine how he would have reacted if Charlie had wanted to email or text her!
I refused to get texting on my phone. Flatly refused. I didn’t want to join a timid and cell phone obsessed culture. Period. Hmmm. Last month I sent and received over 1,000 texts. I text my kids to ask questions; text Benny the list of stuff I need him to pick up at the store; text friends to say I’m praying for them; and text my boss/son to ask him questions because I often get a quicker answer than emailing. And, oh dear, one day I almost texted one of my kids to mention a comment they made had been hurtful to another family member.
What in the world was I thinking? In a couple of short years I’ve gone from saying I would never, ever text anyone about anything to almost suggesting one of my kids was insensitive in a text message. It would have been so easy to just shoot off a text rather than talk to my kid. Or, better yet, let the kid who was hurt (or were they?) talk to their sibling all by their self.
It’s not just about texting. It’s about communicating weighty heart issues over email and making comments or status updates on Facebook that are nothing more than gossip. It's about Siri teaching me that if she can utterly misunderstand what I'm trying to say to someone in a text or email, then why should I be surprised when a real live person does the same to me — or I to them?
I have someone I need to talk to about something. It’s not a huge deal but it’s important, at least to me. I admit it…I would rather type than talk. Typing is safe. I can backspace, edit, walk away and think before I type more — or even delete it all and start completely over. I can choose my words carefully and linger over how I want to say what I’m thinking. I’ll get to communicate uninterrupted and I don’t have to 't adjust my words because my friend looks confused, upset or disinterested.
After all, for centuries people communicated in writing! We wouldn’t have much of the New Testament if Paul had waited to communicate everything to the churches in person. Even Leopold shared his heart with Kate in a romantic letter written with beautiful calligraphy style handwriting that produced wonderful results — so obviously talking face to face isn’t always necessary. (Wait…did I just put the Apostle Paul and Hugh Jackman’s writings in the same paragraph?)
The question for me is this: will our children and grandchildren know how to talk to people? Open up about heart issues? Share openly about their struggles, temptations and joys?
A while back my granddaughter got a text on her iPod from a friend asking who she “likes.” (When did iPods go from music to texting and being used as a phone???) I smiled. My then pre-teen daughter and her friends giggled over which boys were cute and who they were going to marry while we parents drank coffee in another room talking about how relieved we were that our homeschooled kids weren’t going to be foolish teens who had crushes and were boy/girl crazy like we were at their age. (We found out soon enough that we parents were the foolish ones.) At least my now-adult daughter and her friend saw the text exchange between their daughters and were able to wisely and carefully discuss it with them. So maybe texting isn’t such a bad thing after all. I’m starting to sound schizophrenic.
That schizophrenic analysis of the impact technology has on communication is a good example of my main poin. Technology isn’t the issue — the heart, as always, is. Cell phones aren’t the devil, as much as I’ve been tempted to think so. I’m sure the Apostle would have benefited from having his scribe type letters to send via email to the churches rather than having to meticulously hand write and deliver each one. But using a text message to break an engagement or suggest to your adult child that he was mean just isn’t right in my book, especially since there’s no calligraphy font to use. The important question to ask ourselves is how is technology a helpful tool in your life? And how is it possibly a way to avoid the stuff of real-life relationships? Our biggest mistake would be to uncritically accept technological options as a valid means of communication in every situation (even calling off an engagement).
I am asking myself these questions and they're hard ones. But regarding the friend I need to connect with, Leopold is whispering in my ear that I should do this face to face. And the Apostle Paul is, too.
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