"we can certainly learn from them the value of priorities and how modern technology can work for us rather than enslaving us."
Many of us are familiar with the traditions of the Amish from movies such as Witness. We know that theses traditionalist Christians generally avoid modern technology. Their homes do not have telephones or televisions and even electricity is relegated to the barn but not the house. To many people this lifestyle seems harsh and primitive, but that is because we do not understand why the Amish choose to live this way.
A few years ago an Amish bishop explained in an interview. He suggested that most technology has a negative effect on people's lives. Television, for example, brings violence and poor ethical values into the home. Many people recognize that television is a bad influence on their children and would like to watch less TV but find they cannot.
So are the Amish against modern technology? No, explained the bishop. But they want to keep it in its proper place. Take telephones for example. The bishop actually had one installed down the lane from his house. He recognized that it is a very useful tool to have in an emergency or to contact distant friends and relatives. But he would not bring it into the house.
“Telephones intrude into the most precious moments of life.” said the bishop. “You may be talking to your children or sharing something important with your wife; if the phone rings, you will allow it to interrupt what you’re saying. The family can be at prayer, and if the phone rings you will stop and answer it. You could be with your wife in bed, and you will allow the ringing telephone to interrupt what you are doing there!”
How many times have you had a conversation interrupted by a cell phone? The person you are talking to may take a call in mid-sentence or, just as bad, someone nearby takes a call and similarly intrudes upon your thoughts.
In a similar way, electricity is a good thing if kept in its proper place. The Amish in his community had electricity in their barns to refrigerate their milk, but kept it out of their homes. They feel that electricity in the home disrupts the rhythms of daily life. With electricity people stay up late instead of going to bed. Radios and television bring the outside world into the home distracting people from focusing on their community.
Even the tractor is seen as an intrusion into the solidarity of the family. With a tractor, one man can plow an entire field alone. But with a horse drawn plow, the entire family must be involved.
The Amish have given a great deal of thought to the issue of modern technology and the convenience it brings. Can we say the same? We may not agree with their decisions but we can certainly learn from them the value of priorities and how modern technology can work for us rather than enslaving us.
Distractions in Translation
Which brings us to translating the bible.
Translation of scripture is an inexact science. There are times when an oddly translated word distracts us from fully comprehending the meaning of the passage.
Jesus tells us that whoever does not hate father and mother cannot be His disciple. But in our culture the word “hate” carries very strong associations. Although it is an accurate translation it is a word that tends to distract us from the message. Several scholars suggest, “love less” as an alternative. Although it is less literally accurate it carries a fuller understanding of God’s teaching to us.
Jesus is speaking about priorities. If we are to follow Him we must free ourselves of anything that prevents us from giving ourselves to Him completely. That may include wealth, material goods, and even the relationships of friends and family.
As the incarnation of God He demands the same undivided love that was given God in the Old Covenant, with all our heart, soul and strength.
Jesus challenges us to follow His example. He gave up everything, His friends, His family, even His mother. He had no place to lay His head. Jesus considered His life as nothing and He will carry His own cross.
Distraction in Our Work
Our lives are full of distractions that keep us from following God's plan for us. If we honestly assess our work, our actions, and the consequences that follow, we may find that we are too attached to something other than God. That attachment prevents us from following His will in our lives and truly making a difference in the lives of others.
That does not mean we should give up the benefits of modern technology, of which there are many, but perhaps it means to place that technology in its proper role. The Amish seem to be able to maintain the sense that things like telephones, electricity, and modern tractors are here to serve us, not the other way around.
Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend. The friend is just about to speak and your cell phone rings. Do you immediately answer, interrupting your friend? Are we slaves to modern convenience?
What might we have to give up in order to follow Christ more fully?
But we are promised if we give up everything for His sake and the sake of the Gospel, we will receive a hundred times more in “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,” now in this present age and eternal life in the age to come. (Mk 10:30)
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com