By Archbishop Demetrios
The rapid pace of technological development is an undeniable and unavoidable characteristic of our contemporary American society. As Greek Orthodox Christians living in one of the most technologically advanced and complex societies on Earth, we would be wise to consider the manner in which technology has saturated virtually every aspect of our culture—our businesses, our homes, our schools, and even our churches. Information is being made available to us at extraordinarily fast rates. As a consequence, we observe an appalling confusion and ambiguity with regard to the most basic institutions of our society, such as religion and the family. Further, as we consider the vast quantities of stimuli that are being made available to the public through the Internet and electronic media in general, it is not a strange coincidence that we also may observe a steady rise in pathological addiction, illegal Internet activity, social withdrawal, and depression among many people in our midst.
In this context, it is prudent to assess the health of our contemporary situation by weighing the blessings of technological advancement against the negative results that can often accompany it. Let us consider an important question in this task: How do we respond to the harmful consequences of extreme technological saturation? This question prompts us to consider a variety of alternatives such as increased parental controls and continual alertness over the Internet.
In its most applicable and general sense, however, the question of how we respond to technological saturation urges us to reflect upon one especially timely and critical discipline, namely, the discipline of vigilance–the practice of being intentionally and watchfully alert of our environment. Our Lord continuously endeavored to instill this discipline within His disciples. Repeatedly and consistently, He communicated the fundamental importance of being watchful when He said, “Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).
The art of vigilance, in so far as it concerns all matters pertaining to the overall health of the soul, can be applied to many facets of our contemporary Christian life. In these times of unparalleled technological sophistication, let us exercise renewed watchfulness to our rapidly expanding and increasingly complex environment. Let us be continuously alert to the potentially harmful effects of technological explosion in the realm of ideas, ethics and politics, which are only beginning to be critically documented and studied. Above all, let us remember the importance of vigilance in all things, especially as we employ the vast resources of the Internet and associated information technologies.
As we consider the tremendous and unprecedented opportunities for communicating Christ’s Gospel within our modern information age, it becomes also apparent that there are yet many positive aspects associated with the utilization of advanced technology. In very powerful and direct ways, electronic media presents us with new capabilities to preach the Gospel, to offer our Orthodox Faith to contemporary America, and to respond to Christ’s commandment to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). As we critique the excesses of technology, let us commit ourselves to keeping our perspective balanced by exploring these tremendous capabilities in more critical and extensive detail, in the context of another reflection to be presented in the near future.