Saturday, December 6, 2008

Facebook, Relationships, & Eugene Peterson

I just finished Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. A few weeks ago I linked a Scot McKnight article on Peterson’s new book. He mentioned how difficult it is to review Peterson because he’s more conversational than developing a thesis in a systematic manner. I can’t say I disagree, though I’ve never really thought about it (that’s why I blog … so I pay better attention to what I read!).

Anyway, the next few posts will be different highlights from Christ Plays that I found helpful or thought-provoking. Nothing systematic. This one’s from the epilogue and talks about the danger of technology making us less human, less relational. Peterson describing the teaching of a philosopher friend:

“We have permitted a technology-saturated way of life to disengage us from what is essential to our humanity, whether in relation to things or people. As a result we live at secondhand: relationships atrophy, enjoyment diminishes, life thins out. Borgman places the ‘culture of the table’ – the preparing and serving and cleaning up after meals – at the center of the well-lived life. …Used without discrimination, technology discarnates our lives, the polar opposite of what takes place in Jesus in his incarnation, the em-body-ment of God among us. We can’t live a life more like Jesus by embracing a way of life less like Jesus” (p. 336).
I’ve been wondering about this for a while since Facebook has become a moderate addiction for me. For starters, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. My mom, too. She actually gets to see pictures because I upload them to Facebook – where I would never email them to her. Go figure. I can stay connected in fun, simple ways with friends that I see all the time. And my favorite part right now is that I’m finding out what God is doing in the lives of high school friends. People who weren’t even believers are now going to be missionaries in Muslim nations. Crazy. I love it!

But I wonder, and this may only be my introversion speaking, but is it possible to keep alive too many relationships? Not that we should have a relationship “cap,” but are we built for a certain amount of relationships prescribed by the amount of time we have to attend to those relationships? Family and best friends (regardless of location) aside, do Facebook (or other) relationships take away from those relationships I should be “present” with here in SoCal right now?

I honestly don’t know. I know I enjoy Facebook. I don’t think it is adversely affecting my “present” relationships, though it may be. I suppose I need to give it more thought. Any thoughts on Facebook or technology in general?


Lee Jones said...

Eugene Peterson sometime seems profound, and at other times he seems to be stating the obvious in a very wordy manner. I have alternately loved some of his work ("A Long Obedience") and couldn't stand others ("The Message").

Anyway, technology, psychology and theology and the like are (can/should be?) tools in the service of God. They cannot, must not, define us, but seldom can we ignore them, either, without detriment.

So long as it enhances something good either through enabling or by making it more accessible, any tool including Facebook is good.

Here's a link, by the way, of someone who's tried to think biblically on Facebook

Justin said...

Thanks for the link, Lee. I'll check it out. I know Facebook can be used for good. I guess the questions is less about the tool and more about how I use it. Is my usage limiting the relationships I'm cultivating in my "place"? For example, instead of spending an accumulted 30 min. to an hour on Facebook on a given day (some days more, mostly less) - with old friends - should I be having coffee at Starbucks with you, one of my current, local friends?

That's a funny way of looking at Peterson, too. While I liked much of this book, I found myself wondering if it had to be this long. Usually I'm disappointed when his books end.