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On February 19, 1964, Paul Simon went into his bathroom, turned out the lights and wrote a song that describes a vision planted in his brain. It describes restless streets, loneliness, a street lamp, coldness and dampness being broken by the “sound of silence” and in the light he saw 10,000 people maybe more, people talking without speaking, hearing without listening, writing songs that no one shared. He describes silence like a cancer grows. Strikingly he describes people bowing and praying to a neon god that they made. He speaks of prophets and their words written on subway walls. All the meaning is subjective. There is no certain intent stated by Simon. But it’s not unreasonable to listen to the song today thinking it prophetic of our time, social media, screen after screen never put down for long.

Like many things that are not of the Word, Simon’s song can offer neither cause, nor cure to the problem. But we do see a problem, lamented in the song. And like much music, it is open to interpretation. Nonetheless, it’s a start, to see a problem. The problem of people talking without really speaking, hearing without listening, etc. The means appears to be related to our neon screens which have become gods at an epidemic proportion. Instead of praying to God, they are praying to these gods, or appear to be.

The Bible is very clear as to the cause of idolatry lays in the heart of man that as Calvin calls it—is an idol factory. The cure is a bit more involved, but at core it has to do with a supernatural gracious work in the soul. But thank God every now and then a song comes along that points out the problem; may God grant the cure that will change prayers from neon lights to the true Light and the Logos, our Lord Jesus Christ. God has spoken clearly to break that which causes idolatrous silence between Him and us, and us and each other.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

There is nothing inherently evil in the cellular phone or any lawful technology. They can be great tools in the hands of the righteous. Nonetheless, when abused they can become a problem taking people’s focus away from authentic relationships and ministry. For that, it is good to ask yourself if you are looking to your cell phone for things that God made to be found in him and elsewhere? And if so, it’s a good time to get alone and bow your head to him over a printed Bible, not a cellular phone or any other screen, and ask for his help.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9 ESV)

After prayer, there are some considerations to make about escapism. I found an interview on a book called Reaching for Hope When Life Is Too Much by Rush Witt helpful. In the interview he describes four areas of escape: Denial, Distraction, Deflect/destroy, Death. In the times we live in all four of these are temptations that exist. Here is an description excerpt of the interview:

The four common ways that we seek to escape rather than to trust God can be broken down into denial, distraction, deflect/destroy, and death.

Denial ignoring the trouble or temptation that we are facing, hoping that it will go away on its own or pretending that it is not really a problem. We may try blocking out or rejecting reality. Examples include denying that a problem exists, downplaying its significance, or ignoring the situation altogether.

Distraction is another common method of escape, and it is easy to do because we have so many options available to us in our modern world. Distraction involves turning to activities that help us forget about the problem temporarily.  We can distract ourselves with entertainment, work, or other activities to avoid dealing with the underlying issues. We all love to enjoy good gifts like social media and other entertainment. But we should also be alert to when our enjoyment moves into the realm of escapism.

Deflect/destroy is a more destructive method of escape, where the anxieties in our hearts can boil over and burn others. It’s an attempt to alleviate the problem by addressing it in a more indirect (yet damaging) way. We lash out at those around us, seeking to deflect attention away from our own problems or to destroy those whom we perceive as being responsible for our troubles. This may also include venting our frustration to others, blaming someone else for the issue, or engaging in destructive behaviors like self-harm.

Death represents the most extreme form of escape which is unfortunately becoming increasingly common today as pressures rise and hope is lost. This includes thoughts or actions related to both self-harm or suicide. While this is a serious concern, it’s essential to remember that there is help available for anyone who is struggling with these types of feelings.

New Growth Press Interview

The use of technology falls under the “distraction” tab. Knowing it is a form of escape and a way of avoiding actually trusting God can be close to a solution. The solution ultimately is trusting God and not turning to any of these false avenues for happiness. As we turn to God to find relationship, we can be sure that other relationships will be improved in time; and they will be real and substantive in Christ. We can’t get there by spending more time going in the wrong direction of empty and dark places.

To be clear, the technology we possess and make use of, including the means upon which one is reading this post is not the problem. The problem is in the heart of man that seeks to find in these things of technological advancement only what God provides in himself and through communing with others in ways he has lovingly ordained for our joy and his glory.

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