The Word: Analog in a digital world
Published 7:41 am Saturday, March 4, 2023
In a storage closet in my house, there are boxes of clothes and boots and books and canvas webbing. A few years ago, I became a World War II reenactor. The gear includes a Bible with a metal cover, to protect against bullets, hymnals for field worship services, and a navigator’s stopwatch in a shock-proof case.
I started reenacting because I wanted a new hobby, something combining my love of history with meeting new people and going to new places. Along the way, it’s given me a deeper understanding of the realities of life for military personnel in World War II. Though only an approximation –no one is trying to kill anyone else at a reenactment, and we all go home to warm houses and full bellies after the event is over – the lived physical experience of digging a foxhole, wearing scratchy wool uniforms, or sitting in a cramped aircraft seat lead me to a greater appreciation. The analog experience grants a clearer picture.
Today we live in an increasingly digital world. We send e-mails and check social media; we stream movies and TV shows online. Our grocery orders and doctor’s visits can be done on our computer or our smartphones. My wife and I text with our child’s teacher more than talk face-to-face. And during the pandemic our church, like many churches, went digital through Zoom worship and prayer times and Facebook announcements and online giving. We live in a digital world, and that isn’t changing anytime soon, so it is good to get better at navigating the virtual landscape.
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In the process, though, let’s not abandon our physicality. God created us as embodied creatures, with physical senses for interaction and community that exist in a physical place and time. We are wired to experience the world, God, and one another as physical creatures. This is why so many of the practices of faith (prayer, generosity, communion, worship) have physical expressions in the Scriptures (kneeling, giving coins, breaking bread, lifting hands, singing). The physical expressions guide our hearts and minds and souls toward God.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer encourages all who read it to not give up meeting together, because it is important to encourage one another and urge one another to live faithful loving lives. Much of our modern life is now lived online – but I hope that we will not give up meeting together, because when we get together, when we share not just the songs or the sermon, but also the joy of a handshake, the comfort of a smile, the sound of a word of encouragement around the table, we experience the presence of God in our midst.
So let’s surf the web, but let’s not forget to get together with family, friends, and our congregations of faith. Where it is most important, let’s hold onto a bit of the analog in this digital world!
Rev. Dr. J. Adam Tyler is the Senior Pastor for Farmville Baptist Church and he can be reached by email at email@example.com.