Thursday, January 7, 2016

Where Our Pleasure Is, There Our Hearts Will Also Be

At the end of 2001, Wendell Berry reflected on the state of America. When he did so, he couldn’t help but notice that our devotion to Vulcan, god of technology, led inescapably to a fatal indifference toward all things past.
The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to “grow” [2] and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been, were discounted as of no value at all (In the Presence of Fear, The Orion Society, 2001, pp. 2-3).

Wendell rightly links euphoria with technology. All religions promise that proper devotion to their god(s) will guarantee happiness and protect one from misery. Euphoria is intense happiness. Certainly Vulcan, one of the six false, destructive, yet conventional gods of Olympianity, delivers on his promise. All of us, almost all of the time, even Christians, feel euphoric when using technology. We all experience a thrill, however brief, each time we turn on a light, start a car, remotely control our television, play a video game on our computer, or use our latest smartphone in any way at all.
Of course, we should be clear that it is our Olympian personality, not our Christian one, that is experiencing this euphoria. That’s because this feeling of happiness, and its intensity, depend like all other feelings on our worldview. It is our Olympian worldview, in all its societal, cultural, and personal glory, that attributes such meaning to technological innovation. We thrill to technological innovations because we are enthralled by Vulcan. Break his spell over us and our emerging Christian personality could only wonder at what we were thinking to find such pleasure in so little truth, freedom, or love.
Back to thralldom. Yes, since our Olympian personalities look to Vulcan to define for us what is good, we regard technological innovation as self-evidently so. Obviously, as it advances, it makes everything better and better.
As Wendell correctly points out, regarding technological progress as so highly important and so unquestionably good has consequences. One frightful consequence: it leads us to a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free, and to consider anything older than ten minutes as of no value at all. In addition to a hatred of the past, being enthralled by Vulcan also leads to a contempt for it. All this hatred and contempt also have consequences and destructive ones at that.
Enthralled by Vulcan, hateful and contemptuous about all that came before today’s latest technological innovation, we blind ourselves to the systematic destructiveness of today’s all-encompassing Global Technological System (GTS). We fail to see that it is history’s largest and most lethal parasite and that it is killing God’s good creation and all possibilities for healthy Christian personalities, cultures, and societies.
It is important, however, that we acknowledge that the GTS has no viable future. We need to repent of it now. We need to confess that, as a civilization, we erred when we gave ourselves over to Vulcan and started to fulfill his dream of building a GTS. We did this beginning around 1750 with what is called the Industrial Revolution. Before that, the best minds in Christendom made the mistake of abandoning Jesus and devoting themselves to the Olympian gods after 1648.
We need to start imagining and implementing a new Christian alternative society. It took us over 250 years to get to where we are today. It will take us some time, though hopefully not as long, to get to where we need to be.
Strangely enough, one of the things of the past, inherited and free, for which we indulge such indifference is the Bible. Even Christians! The average American spends 35 hours each week watching TV but hardly anyone, Christians included, reads the Bible anymore. Somehow, we’re too busy. Jesus once told us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, New International Version). We may just as truly say of ourselves today, where our pleasure is, there our heart will also be. Even we Christians find great euphoria in using technology. When was the last time we found such intense pleasure in studying the Bible? Attending Sunday worship?
One ironclad rule for happy interpersonal relationships is this: one must go along to get along. What happens to our witness to Jesus, however, when we must go along with the Olympian worldview broadcasted through all the mass media of communication, especially TV, to get along with the other members of our church? Nothing good.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.