‘The Greatest Threat to Faith Today is not Hedonism but Distraction’: ‘Being Human’

The following quote from Andrew Sullivan[1] might sound, at a theological level, rather pelagian; but I think it represents some rather good cultural commentary on where the church is at in the 21st century—particularly for those of us in low church North American evangelicalism. Sullivan’s article, from which the following quote is taken, is a lament on the devastating effects the smartphone beinghumanculture has had on western societies; he calls it “living-in-the-web.” He is lamenting the impact that technology has had upon the human psyche, such that quiet places and silence (in our heads) is a thing of the past. Indeed, Sullivan himself, refers to himself as a social-media addict, and he actually went to “treatment” to disabuse himself of it (which cost him money, since he made money as a social-media and business personality). What I found striking about his critique was how he applied it, in the following paragraph, to the church; as an evangelical this insight hits very close to home, and resonates deeply with my own lived experience. Sullivan writes:

If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.[2]

There has, of course, been a kind of movement called ancient church that has indeed attempted to resource some of these types of contemplative and even mystical spaces from the past. But of course, when something like that is artificially generated, among evangelicals in my case, it loses that actual space we are seeking; it becomes all too self-focused, and identity driven. Anyway, I thought Sullivan’s point about ‘distraction’ versus ‘hedonism’ was a valid one; even if the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive in the way he seems to intimate.

 

[1] H/T: Jason Goroncy, he shared the link to Sullivan’s article via his blog in his post: ‘i used to be a human being.’

[2] Andrew Sullivan, I Used to be a Human Being, accessed online 10-22-2016.

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5 Responses to ‘The Greatest Threat to Faith Today is not Hedonism but Distraction’: ‘Being Human’

  1. Ron Grow says:

    Very thought provoking and something I’ve been more aware of this past year.
    How does the church turn this around? I’m from another generation that this was not an issue, not to say there weren’t other distractions, but i see this as a very serious problem and not sure what the church can or will do!?

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  2. Pingback: ‘The Greatest Threat to Faith Today is not Hedonism but Distraction’: ‘Being Human’ — Other Reformed Theology | Talmidimblogging

  3. Heather says:

    Good observations, Bobby. Glad to see you’re still blogging, though.

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  4. Bobby Grow says:

    Thanks, Heather. I never planned on quitting, if anything just moving. But that seemed silly to do, but a name change works :).

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  5. Bobby Grow says:

    Dad, I know that other generation Lol; I’m essentially from it myself. I actually think the problem is that low church evangelicals have always had a lack of sacred space and meditative silence. I’m really not sure what can be done for the evangelicals in that sense.

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