"trying to chip away at the tower of Babel"

From yesterday's online conversation on "the grid" and our technological society...

I agree about living as exiles and aliens. I like the tower of Babel imagery, too. Maybe my resistance here is that I think you have misidentified the problem. It isn't the grid or technology, though those do reflect it, to some extent. God didn't tear down the tower of Babel as I recall. The tower (technological marvel that it was) wasn't the problem. The problem was the people, their pride in their collective might, so God scattered them.

Even if we can get out of technological society (and most of us can't, maybe none of us can completely) the pride of collective might and the domination that follows it still remain in the people. That's where the problem lies, in us, not in the technology. So I see the attack on technological society as somewhat misguided. Trying to chip away at the tower of Babel, when it's the people, the builders, who are the problem.

I also think the focus on the personal is important because our hearts can be changed even when the grid around us doesn't change. And God can allow us to benefit from the good that is available in our technological society, and not be enslaved by the evil. Our life can be good, not just when society is arranged well, not just when we're finally off the grid, but when God shows us how to live with freedom in our society. As Jesus did in his society.

...I do agree that there are dangers (along with benefits) and it's worthwhile to weigh these and we may choose not to use certain technologies for a variety of reasons. I also agree children are especially susceptible to the temptations and pressure, so special care should be taken.

And I agree with what you said earlier about evil being the absence of good. That's part of why I can't dismiss the grid or other technologies as utterly evil. There is some real existence there, some conforming to the laws of nature that makes electricity "work" and metals and other materials serve so well for certain useful purposes. Thus I see some good in these things, or at least potential good if they are used well. You're right that it's important to weigh the cost, and often we haven't done that well. But there are real benefits to be weighed as part of the equation and it doesn't serve your argument to dismiss them.

I also believe that every "thing" that God allows to have real existence in the world has at least some potential for good. So we should honor that and try to understand why God would allow it and then be open to the good it may offer. Certainly, there are some things like nuclear weapons that seem to have no potential good except to reflect back on us the evil in our own hearts and show us the devastation that results when we ignore conscience and the needs of other human beings. Maybe you see the grid and most technology in this way. But that's pretty hard to swallow, given that many of us have experienced some goods from a variety of these technologies and are grateful (perhaps even awed) that God has allowed them to have existence.

Again, that doesn't mean we should accept every new technology or use it without care or thought for the costs. It's just that there are many technological goods available to us that need not be completely rejected, and many of them can be used well with the freedom that God offers, and even received as a gift from God. Even acknowledging the pressures and perhaps unholy intentions of the designers, God can help us find the good there and benefit from it. I think that's part of God's gift of the good life in the midst of an oppressive society.

For example, the much-reviled ipod. I received one. I didn't buy it, wouldn't have bought one, can't afford one. But my brother had an old one and sent it to me. I figured out how to use it with free open source software, and downloaded free songs. So now I can enjoy some music when I couldn't before. There was a time many years ago when I gave away my music player and CDs, which was a good choice then, and I went for years without the option of playing music besides the little flute I have. That was fine. But to receive back the ability to listen to lots of music that I really enjoy has been a real gift, and I've seen it as one of the many signs of God's generosity and power to use anything (even technological society) to give good things to those who look to him for our needs.

And I still play my flute, as I did while worshiping outside by the creek yesterday. And I'm probably not using the ipod as Apple hoped I would. But it's an impressive little thing. And I'm grateful for the enjoyment God has given me through it.