Check out this paragraph from a comment posted to a popular blog, on the issue of immigration and Americans who fear for their communities:
We (as in, human beings in the 21st century) are probably having a tougher time assimilating people into our communities than we have in the past because of our epidemic of loneliness and isolation. If we never physically walk over to speak with our neighbors or spend time with them in person, we can’t begin to understand them, or their cultural symbols, or even begin to assess their moral character or hope to influence it for the better. And we all know at least one big reason why: we spend WAY too much time behind our TV’s, computers, and smartphones.
This is interesting on two levels.
First, it connects two things that most people probably don’t connect in all these heated discussions everyone’s having:
- Personal technology use habits, and
- Ability to deal with the changing nature of the country and many neighborhoods.
I mean, imagine if someone was complaining about a new family that moved into their neighborhood, and you asked them, “How much time do you spend watching TV, gaming, or looking at your phone?” I think most people would assume that you had just changed the subject. But no, the writer of that paragraph has pointed out a very real connection, and pointed indirectly at another one. Technology use is most definitely driving this “epidemic of loneliness and isolation,” and in turn, as more and more of us simply get home from work or school and turn to a screen for the rest of our waking hours, that creates a dynamic in which people stay indoors and never meet their (physical) neighbors, and therefore come to see the people they live near as strangers and potential threats. All of this is (to quote one former Facebook exec) “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
What if all the fear and anxiety (on display in many of these discussions about immigration) is made exponentially worse by Americans‘ own bad habits–our absolute addiction to entertainment and mindless time-wasting whenever we’re not on some clock? What if the problem has as much to do with people who’ve been living in America for years or generations as it does with anyone trying to get here for the first time?
More importantly, for Christians, is the need to remember that neighbor-love is a core teaching of Jesus. And, when he was asked to explain who counted as a neighbor, he told a story involving a people from groups who feared, loathed, and mistrusted each other (Jews and Samaritans). So as followers of Jesus, we know that we do not have the option to simply fear and wall out people who are unfamiliar to us. Especially people in need.
…Which brings us to all the way around to the connection made in the comment above. What if this is just one more reason we need to examine our personal use of entertainment and technology?
If we take it to the Lord in prayer, would he tell us that the way we use screens is directly affecting our ability to love our neighbor?
Would he tell us that technology is standing in the way of keeping his commands?