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Technology and Family | Week 28

By: Tianna Stieglitz

Posted in Program Updates on March 23, 2017 | View all posts

The irony of writing a blog post about the overwhelming nature and influence of technology is not lost on me. It takes a hard stop for me to actually take inventory of how many devices I’m attached to, not including the thousands of other influences technology has had on my day-to-day life. That gut check is exactly what Andy Crouch, our recent guest speaker, would encourage for anyone actively participating in the 21st century. Andy tells the story of his own experience in his forthcoming book The Tech-Wise Family, highlighting tangible ways his family is engaging technology. Along with his wife Catherine, the Crouches spent several days with us discussing the evolution of technology and the impact it has had on today’s family structure and influence.

Andy explained the role of technology in influencing modernity, specifically through the factors of energy, money, and information. As the pace of technology has quickened and virtually exploded, the ability of the family to cope has not kept up. Energy is moveable, no longer tied to organic power from human and animal bodies. Money is alienated and used indiscriminately with no need for prior relationship. Information is accessible in thousands of ways and from thousands of sources while providing no solid ability to test truth claims. The combination of these three powerful sources, while bringing incredible positive change, has effectively made human existence possible with almost no relational depth and complete autonomy.

What is the problem with this? Humans are designed for connection. We crave (sometimes with trepidation) the opportunity to know others and to be known. This personal knowledge of one another and of God cannot happen in isolation. It is necessary to address technology as a nonnegotiable part of the human experience, incorporating it into our pursuit of human flourishing and the glory of God rather then trying to avoid it altogether. With this in mind, Andy presented two facets of what it means to really flourish: the appropriate and growing ability to practice vulnerability and authority together. For a much more nuanced understanding of this, I would recommend Strong and Weak, where Andy dives into both the hope of flourishing and downfall of authority gone awry.

These massive topics (technology, connection, vulnerability, and authority) set the stage for the theme of the week: family. Together we brainstormed what it could look like to establish family structures, including those outside of the nuclear family, which could provide connection and a space for knowing. These would have to be places of established trust, where the individual has minimal control over their self-presentation. Awkward smirks appeared around the table as shared memories surfaced from Windrush, those moments we all wish we could hide but just can’t when you share the same walls. Nods of agreement were visible when we discussed the importance of a covenant commitment, at least for a time, in order to prevent unhealthy emotional or physical retreat.

I walked away from the library last week with a lot of questions about the role of technology and family, but I also walked away with a renewed vision. I had glimpsed an integration of the benefits of living in community, the realities of technology, and the role that the Church could play in an increasingly polarized society. This vision also reminded me that I have been given a new family, and that this massive family is connected by something much stronger than blood.