Cell Phones and Presence

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In case you didn't notice, practically everything I put on this site originally appeared on Justin Taylor's site, Between Two Worlds. I'm thinking of renaming my site "HT:JT" which means "Hat tip to Justin Taylor" (a Hat-tip is a term for recognizing that it was brought to your attention by someone else). Anyway, Justin posted this article by Ken Myers on the emerging social consequences of technology and the implications for Christians. The following is about cell phone use:

The idea of presence is an important one in Biblical religion. In his second letter, the Apostle John writes, "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face." The Church is called the ekklesia, the assembly, the place where believers are present to one another to encourage one another to love and good works.


By contrast, holding a telephone conversation while walking down the street or up an aisle at the supermarket pointedly ignores the presence of others. The importance of physical presence is thus de-valued. It also poses a kind of challenge to passers-by.

In an earlier, less hectic time, when you wanted to make a phone call, you isolated yourself temporarily in a telephone booth (ask your parents if this is an unfamiliar term). This guaranteed privacy for yourself but also spared strangers the awkwardness of hearing half of your conversation, especially if the conversation involved intimate personal details. The more primitive technology imposed limits on where your body was when you made a call, but certain notions about presence and boundaries were also encouraged.

Just because we are now able to make calls anywhere anytime doesn't mean that we should. Whether or not we should is a question that, to my knowledge, hasn't even been raised.

Read the full article here.

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