Recently, we here at the Wallet kicked the around the idea of cutting off one’s internet supply at home. For some of you Abrahamic family leaders, that won’t be the way you go. And that’s fine. But if you read that piece and thought, “I do believe these fellows have up and gotten A MITE TOO EXTREME in their zeal” …well then I have bad news for you. We intend to turn the screws even more on this whole technology issue. See, there are some things that have become de riguer in our culture that are just flat out… problematic for us Bible lovers. Sorry to say it, but that constant, unrestrained flow of internet sludge into our homes is one of those things. The phone in your pocket? The one that’s ready to demand your attention at any moment, snatching relationship from you on a whim, and feed you whatever perversion you might dial up at any moment? Um… It’s another of those things. And I’m not saying you must necessarily rid yourself of either one… But if you’re already tuning me out because you can’t bear the thought of survival sans phone or internet, I’m here to tell you that you need to get your head screwed on right. (And that’s our job! Prepare for head-screwing session to commence!) You really DO need to be able to at least consider these things if you’re to “give careful thought to your ways” as we’re commanded, Pancho. So come. Walk with me awhile, my friend, and let us knock back a sarsaparilla… and consider the smartphone.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2 (via The Message)

I spent a weekend in the lovely community of Shipshewana, Indiana a few months back. We travelled to this Amish alcove to hear from the horse’s mouth (or, the horse driver’s mouth, as the case may be) about how these peculiar folks managed their homes. I won’t say that my buds and I were holding up the Amish as our goal for our own homes, but we were at least interested enough to go hear more (after all, as the museum and our tour attested, these are people who take the relationship between technology and their families of faith extremely seriously, and have done so with some success, for a long long time).

One thing stuck out to me almost immediately upon my arrival. Our guide for the weekend, John, was occasionally checking in on his iPhone as we clip clopped down the road. Huh? So we pushed on that a bit:
“So John, you guys seem to be really thoughtful about your efforts to keep things simple and all… so what’s with the phone?”
“Oh this? Well this is really helpful for work; I use it all the time… but if you think I’d EVER bring this into my house, you’re crazy. It would almost immediately destroy everything we’ve gone to great lengths to create in our home”.
File that chat away in your brain – we’ll come back to it later.

The smartphone may have changed our lives more than any other creation of the past 100 years. That is not a grand revelation, on its own. But it seems we’re letting these waves engulf us without so much as a rebuttal. Maybe you’ve already noticed these things, but allow me to document some discreet changes that I’ve noticed in my own life that I attribute to the arrival of the always-on brick we all carry around:

  • Any break in the need for my full attention can now be filled with tasks – productive or utterly mindless. That’s new.
  • The activities that used to consume my undivided attention–playing with children, having dinner with friends, driving–now seem like they have space for me to also fit in some email checking, texting and social media.
  • Pornography is always easily accessible, almost impossible to be discovered (no longer is the risk that your wife or mom is going to walk into the family room while that desktop computer is streaming the dirty), and very hard to filter out even if your intent is to avoid temptation. Porn everywhere is unquestionably a game changer.
  • Our constant connectivity has (counter intuitively) created a culture where commitments are far less sacred – the last minute text bailout is normal in my peer group and ENDEMIC amongst the one or two generations behind me.
  • Along those lines – communication has become less rich: I talk to people less with my voice than I would without social media and texting, and…
  • Social media, because of its constant presence in my pocket, tempts me to substitute mass broadcasting of my lot in life (good or bad) for more meaningful connections with friends. (When’s the last time I called a friend and told him some good news?) It also tempts me to create a version of myself that will be enviable to those who I never intended to stay in touch with. The plasticine me is born.
  • Smartphones are a major budget item for most people now – and this has been accepted with FAR fewer questions than we’ve asked about much smaller line items in the budget (like cable TV). People who have always held the line on cable (“We don’t need it! Too much money and it’s not good for our home environment!”) have seemingly never considered that these arguments apply 10x to the smartphones they carry on their person at all times while in and out of the home.
  • I don’t value knowing information very much any more because I have the entire body of knowledge known to man in my pocket at all times. Why learn stuff?
  • Every item on this list seems to be packing an increasingly wicked and earlier-arriving punch on future generations as many of my children’s peers are receiving their own smartphones in early elementary school. If the effects of smartphone are in fact a problem, that problem is growing exponentially.

This list staggers me. Looking back at it now, ONE of those seems like enough of a reason for us family leaders to pull hard on the reins and, at very least, do some serious thinking, talking, and praying. May we please do a little of that now? Please? Can you hang in just to do some real talk with me and the Bible, just so that we don’t go off the deep end without at least considering it?

Again, whether you end up on the unlimited data plan and your kids all have the iPhone X or you go back to writing letters in calligraphy, I want you to emerge from this multi-part series having thought very hard about the decisions you make. Also, lest you tune me out now, thinking I’ve landed somewhere extreme and unrelatable, here’s a spoiler: I have smartphones in my home. But, we’re doing that differently than most (interestingly, we are in the company of most of the folks who are building these things in Silicon Valley). Oh well. Onward.

I’ll be honest – I initially set out to write a quick post on how to save money and improve your life with a flip phone. But as I began to dig into the reasons behind my desire to limit the penetration of technology in my own life, it became clear that this topic was big enough for a deeper dive. You may be wondering if I’m really going to write a many-part series on phones? Mm hmm, yes I am. But it’s about a whole lot more than telephones; it’s how they’ve changed us–and almost certainly without our conscious permission.

Here’s the stuff you can expect we’ll cover:

  1. “Presence”, distraction, boredom and hearing the voice of God
  2. Sexual purity vs. the smartphone
  3. Why knowing things still matters in the age of mobile Google
  4. The finances behind smartphone ownership
  5. The God-submitted will. EVERYTHING is optional. And finally,
  6. The nuts and bolts of how we manage phones and internet in our family

To wrap up today, let’s reconsider the instructive tale of Amish John. A member of a community known for their propensity to exit modern society (and not just regarding technology), John still saw the goodness and value in a smartphone. Imagine that! He adopted it happily and yet he also guarded his home from its intrusion with an almost alarming ferocity. I don’t know if John was a typical Amish man in his views here, but I do know that he had thought very deeply about this (and every) item that he would bring into his home. He had considered the impact that a smartphone would have on how he was interacting with his wife and children, and how they were able to rest in an environment that made connection with each other and God flow naturally. (BTW, John loves Jesus and is the real article. We really loved this dude.) The verdict of his consideration was that John’s iPhone was no more welcome in the house than his sterling Belgian plow horse. Both would create a huge mess that could be easily avoided by keeping them outside of the home.

And that’s my goal for you fellas: that at the end of this series you’d have thought with equal depth and openness about how and why you’re doing technology in your home. This will be just as relevant for you if you have 6 kids, or live in a college dorm. In all of it, let’s be driven by the Word of God and His guidance for us as men and fathers. While the scriptures don’t mention unlimited talk and text plans, they are NOT silent on the absolute duty that we have to think deeply about how we invest our time, money and attention.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways…
Haggai 1:5