When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.
After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.
About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.
This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.
Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.
It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.
I walked away knowing that justice had been served.
What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.
Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:
the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
the moral principle determining just conduct.
conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS
The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.
Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.
From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism. We need a unmovable point of reference.
We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.
C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.
In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.
There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.
Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it. Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?
Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.
You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.
When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.
However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.
When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.
We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.
I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.
First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.
Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.
Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.
Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.
How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?
1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?
2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.
3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.
4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.
5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.” People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.
Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“He (God) has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.
News: Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has been battling a rare form of bone cancer since March and was recently informed by doctors that his cancer has spread and there’s nothing more they can do medically. He has ceased seeking treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas and has returned home to Atlanta, Georgia to be with family and friends.
Thank you to Dr. Ravi Zacharias and a story…
In early February of 2014, I heard that world renown preacher, philosopher, author and Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias would be coming to a church in Fort Worth to speak. I’ll refer to him as ‘Ravi’ because his ministry has been a part of my life since around 2009 – He’s almost like family! Although, we only know him through radio, books, videos and podcasts. He is a very familiar voice around our home and God has used him to shape my life and ministry.
About a week prior to his scheduled appearance in Fort Worth, I decided to send him an email. Below this post is that email. I wanted to personally thank him for the impact he has on my life, shake his hand and introduce him to my wife Kathryn. That’s it. Just an good ole Texan, “Howdy and thanks for everything!”
On February 16, 2014 Kat and I showed up at Bethesda Church a little early because I figured there would be a pretty good turnout to hear Ravi. The sanctuary was packed. We took our seats 20 minutes before the service began.
As Ravi preached, he covered a lot of ground – constantly contextualizing the texts from which he was speaking. He unpacked the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father runs out to meet his disobedient wayward lost son. Ravi noted that it was “counter-cultural” to the way middle-eastern fathers would have treated their disgraced sons. The boy would have been expected to crawl back to the father begging for mercy. But, in Jesus’ story, this father is DIFFERENT! This father runs to meet his hurting boy.
Then Ravi said, “Christ met me on a bed of suicide. I never went in pursuit after him, He pursued me… The Hound of Heaven.”
This is where my story with Ravi began many years prior to Bethesda in 2014. This is where his ministry was legitimized in my mind and where he threw an anchor into my heart. I had been there too, having suffered with depression many years prior (my story here). When someone you don’t know can bear witness to your suffering because they have been there too, there is a deep connection. I knew from 2009 on that Ravi would be able to minister to me and teach me in ways others could not. From then until now, Ravi has never let me down. Sure, he is human and a sinner. I do not put him on any pedestal but, he demonstrated to me how I could walk a similar path – a fearless abiding walk with Jesus Christ. The key word being “Fearless”.
Ravi’s sermon ended and the host pastor closed out the event and dismissed everyone. As expected, a massive crowd flocked to the front of the sanctuary to meet Ravi. I was one of hundreds. With my wife (who HATES crowds) in tow, I made my way up to the front to shake his hand and thank him. This was the first time that it occurred to me that Ravi had become an unknowing mentor of mine.
As soon as we got to the front of the stage, crowds were pressing in on all sides – shoulder to shoulder. Kat pealed off to the stage steps to get away, telling me to go ahead with out her. It was gridlock. Several minutes past and I could see Ravi about twenty feet away. It made me very glad that he was spending a few moments with each person whom he met. Several more minutes past and I was not any closer. I saw a security person flash the 2 minute sign to Ravi’s assistant. I was no closer than when I had set out on my endeavor. In my mind, I decided that it was not meant to be. I resigned to that – albeit a little bristled by being so close but unable to reach my objective.
After looking at my watch, I saw that two minutes has quickly flown by. The crowd had me hemmed in from the front and sides. I lost sight of Ravi, turned around to leave and get out of the crowd. I looked up, scanned the stage steps for my wife, locked eyes with her and started walking toward her in disappointment.
Then, Kathryn’s expression changed and she pointed past me. Her eyes grew bigger and she mouthed the word, “LOOK!” I stopped. You know when your wife gives you a look that tells you everything you need to know. It was like she was saying, “Turn around, silly, you are missing something!”
So, I slowly turned around and I was nearly face to face with Ravi. It was like the crowd parted like Moses parted the Red Sea and I found myself on the other side. No telling what kind of expression was on my face. My prepared remarks went out the window and I babbled a few words that included my name, “Thank you, sir” and something about an email I had sent a few days prior. Ravi looked at me for a moment as if to check his mental Rolodex (Contact Management System for you younger folks). His face softened. He reached out his hand, returned the pleasantries and said, “I read your email. Thank you for sending it along.” I was struck by the fact that he actually took time to read it much less remember it. The man must receive a couple hundred emails a day. I had just randomly found an @rzim.org address and hoped it would get to him. It did. I turned around to try to find Kat to introduce her to him but she was far away and just waved at us and smiled. She was there for me more than anything else. But, she did ask a young man with a camera to run up and take a photo of me and Ravi. He did.
Our visit was less than a minute in a half. We took a photo and I thanked him again. As I turned and walked away, I heard my name uttered by a strangely familiar voice behind me.
“Lance!” the voice said. I turned around. Ravi said, “Keep up the good work.”
An encouragement from a gentlemen and leader I greatly respect. “Yes sir, I will.”
As I reflect over the years that have passed since that day and this moment, my response is the same today as it was then, “Yes sir, I will.”
I hope and pray that will continue to be my response until I meet my Savior.
Brother Ravi, our days will continue afresh in the celestial Kingdom with Christ. May God Bless you and keep you and your family in these days. May God grant RZIM a double portion of impact in the decades to come. Whatever time God has ahead of you, “Keep up the good work!” Fright the good fight. And may goodness and mercy follow you all your days until you step foot into the everlasting.
I leave with you what you have left with me and so many. Distilled truth bathed in Grace and Goodness from the lips of our Savior … “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19)
Thank you sir.
Feb 2014 Email to Ravi Zacharias
Dear RZIM Team,
Hope this email finds you well. My wife, Kathryn and I will be at Bethesda this Sunday. If you could pass a message along to Ravi, I would appreciated it very much.
You and RZIM have been a part of my life for about 5 years through radio out-reach, podcast, books, videos and Slice of Infinity. The topics, questions and sermons have driven me deeper into God’s Word and equipped me to engage the world with truth in love. I feel like I’ve been taking an extended course in apologetics with a touch of pastoral ministry. You have had a profound effect on my life and my personal ministry. God has Blessed me and those I reach through you all. Thank you.
We share something in common, sir. I too nearly ended my own life about 11 years ago (I’m 39 now). In 8th grade, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was Baptized. By the end of college, I had become the worst of sinners as Paul in 1 Timothy 1:13-16.
My girlfriend became pregnant and we had an abortion. I gave my approval and sanctioned the death of the innocent.
I came to the end of myself on an early morning in 2003. All of the sin in my life weighed on me and the fact that I had murdered my own child put me over the edge. It was darkness and Satan was whispering lies for me to end my own life. At that moment, the Lord reminded me that I belonged to Him. A glimmer of hope entered the darkness.
It was not an immediate transformation. However, Jesus began drawing me to Himself and gave me Hope in my heart. My journey with Jesus is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve gone from being the worst of sinners to an abiding faith in Christ. I serve as the spiritual head of my loving family.
About three months ago my mother revealed a dark secret she had been hiding since before I was born. When she was pregnant with me, her marriage to my father was falling apart. She went to her doctor and asked about an abortion. He told her that he did not perform abortions. So, this lonely, angry, frightened young mother chose life.
Even while I was in my mother’s womb, God’s sovereign hand protected my tiny life. Even as He knew the choices I would make later in life, He protected me. I live Jeremiah 29:11-12
I currently serve as Chairman and Director of the ForLife Initiative at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. I have experienced healing and forgiveness the same way I was saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. On SOHL Sunday 2014, I told my story to our church family (7000 people). I went ‘all-in’ with Christ in order that he may reach those walking wounded among us and encourage men to step forward, get healed and join me on the battled field.
The years of ministry/training/encouragement from you and RZIM played a huge part in demonstrating the boldness and abiding faith I would need to step into such a hostile battle ground. I thank you for being obedient to your calling and God for calling you.
I hope to personally shake your hand and thank you this Sunday at Bethesda. Most importantly, introduce you to my wonderful wife, Kat. Obviously, if that doesn’t occur, please know that you, your family and team are in my prayers.
May the Lord go before you and prepare hearts to receive the Gospel of Grace through you.
My deepest thanks,
ps. Sorry this was so long.
Read previous post: “Why We Need Beauty”
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“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer. Elegant splendor reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.” – Thomas Dubay
We’ve been in self-quarantine / lockdown for over a month. Each day I’m asking myself questions about what I’m learning. I’m looking for lessons, both big and small. Some days, I come up short and can’t seem to find the lesson.
This morning I was reflecting on some interesting aspects of my life. There are themes that seem to rise to the surface now and then. One of those themes is beauty.
The further down the path of life I wander, the more important beauty and wonder become. The more of the hurt and pain I see and experience in the world, the more I find myself searching for that which is beautiful. Beauty is a salve for the human soul.
When I was younger, I was an artist of sorts. From an early age, I had a keen interest in music and visual art. I started drawing and painting at a very young age, I got my first drum set at 3 or 4 years old and my first tape recorder when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. I would listen to the radio and record my favorite songs. It wouldn’t be long (7th grade) before I would get my first turntables and mixer. My first DJ gig was at the end of 7th grade – a birthday party for a classmate. I have tinkered with various instruments my entire life. As an introvert and only child, I would sit in my room for hours drawing and building things both real and imagined.
I was a poor student in school, but I always excelled in art and writing. In fact, I was nearly headed to art school for college. I had my eyes set on Parson’s School of Design or Rhode Island School of Design. I had a great art instructor at my boarding school in Connecticut. Over 4 years, she showed me different ways to see the world. However, the rigid demands of creating a portfolio in Advanced Placement art class to submit to colleges proved to be too rigid. Add on top of that a growing interest in social activities and sports – and I walked away from ‘art school’ but not art or beauty.
Some of my fondest memories; are of exploring the woods around Avon Old Farms School (CT), wandering down to Bondi Beach (outside Sydney) to watch the surf, sitting on the top of a truck staring at the expanse of sky with friends at midnight in the middle of the Australian outback, relaxing on a balcony in Costa Rica with my wife watching birds circling in flight over the ocean and beholding a Texas sunset in the country with my family. These are just a few memories off the top of my mind. I have hundreds more.
Some of my best friends are extraordinary artists. To be able to see and hear the beautiful artifacts that emerge from them is a privilege and joy of the highest order.
A shift occurred
When I reflect back to why I loved beauty and art when I was younger vs. today, I learn that a major shift has taken place. When I was younger, I loved beauty and art mainly because it was an escape from reality. I wanted and needed to find a way out of the chaos and brokenness of my life. Beauty and art brought a kind of order and control. As I’ve gotten older and matured, I have learned that beauty is rooted in ultimate reality and an artist’s personality is the prism through which we see that reality. It is colored and shaped by the artist’s perceptions and expression outward.
So, why do we need beauty?
I have concluded that beauty points to an ultimate reality that remains thinly veiled in this life. From a Christian understanding, we live in a broken world that is slavishly chained to time. Everything, and I mean everything we see, hear and create will eventually decay or be destroyed. On the surface, this is kind of sad. But, if we consider ‘why’ beauty exists in the first place and ‘why’ we humans seem to need beauty – we begin to understand that the beauty we enjoy points to something else.
Beauty points to an ultimate reality and truth rooted in God’s character and expressed through his created order. Before the ‘fall’ of man into brokenness, God called His creation ‘good’. Since the fall, man has attempted to get back to that original state of goodness. Because we are all created in the image of God (Imago DeÍ), humans, like prisms reflect, refract and shape expressions of our creator’s beauty and goodness.
When we experience or express something beautiful, we’re getting a glimpse of an ultimate reality that is purely beautiful. We are seeing but shadows of that original ‘goodness’ cast onto the paths of this short life. When you see or hear something astoundingly beautiful, know that the reason why you love it and want it to last forever is because, beauty, goodness and truth are eternal. In this life, we merely perceive and enjoy dim glimpses of what was originally intended and what ultimately will come.
And so, if the world is slavish, harsh and cold, beauty is the warm inviting fire emanating a kindly light. We need beauty because, whether you believe it or not, beauty is a way that a good God reminds us that he love’s us.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend reading Google: Friend or Foe Part 1 and 2 before continuing.
What type of threat do companies like Google pose?
First, I think one threat tech companies pose is rooted in their surveillance business models, data collection, in addition to outside business relationships with governments (foreign and domestic) and other third parties. How will they use data? We’ve already seen the privacy issues, subsequent lawsuits and investigations.
Case in point, ten years ago China executed a state-sponsored cyber attack against Google and other large businesses. Many believe the attack was a response to Google’s decision to stop offering their search engine in the Chinese market due to human rights concerns. In addition the totalitarian communist state wanted to censor, monitor and limit Google search results. This began an interesting relationship between Google and the NSA (National Security Agency).
Once you investigate links with China, you will discover Google’s “Dragonfly” project. In a 2018, article from Just Security entitled, “Google’s Dragonfly: A Bellwether for Human Rights in the Digital Age”
“This “history” throws yesterday’s news about Google’s secret “Dragonfly” project, a search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship, into disturbing relief. Ever since 2010, the Chinese government has never quite gotten over the rebuke leveled against it by an uppity Western ICT company, which in retrospect clearly discredited the government on the world stage. Google took the type of action in support of human rights that few governments, let alone the private sector, would dare attempt. Of course, the Chinese government viewed the incident as a threat to regime control …. But, in the end, the Chinese government merely had to wait its challenger out, and all would be well.”
“Resisting no longer makes any business sense when the laws and policies of your country of origin and other active markets begin to resemble those of the country from which you withdrew.”
On the home front, if you want to explore Google’s U.S. partnerships with government agencies, political groups, nonprofits and the like, check out their ‘Transparency’ page.
Another interesting article was written by Harvard Law Review in 2018 entitled, “Cooperation or Resistance?: The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance”
Second, I think the biggest threat comes from the Social Engineering aspect of Google’s capabilities.
Remember, social engineering is used to manipulate people. When your platform is capable of shaping thought, behavior follows. Behind every artifact or innovation is a worldview – a philosophy of the person or group that created it. What is this artifact or innovation for? What is its purpose?
What is the dominant philosophy behind driving the current and future business model at Google? Does the philosophy view humans as dignified individuals or machines or something else? What are the political and economic philosophies expressed through search algorithms and social engineering.
Everything is fine when the people at the top are of goodwill toward their fellow humans. However, when organizations and their partners become self-serving, abusive or tyrannical, a perceived threat becomes real. Individual lives and whole societies will be impacted.
I don’t think we fully understand the power and implications of these technologies.
When a company makes profits by collecting, organizing and manipulating the personal data of billions of people we must attempt to understand potential threats and risks involved. In the wrong hands, these powerful tools can cause great harm or be misused to the detriment of humanity.
At the end of the day, Google is able to curate your internet experience to the places Google wants you to go. It controls what you see and what you don’t see. In other words, Google can herd people where they want them to go through powerful algorithms. Because Google has millions of data points on billions of individuals, Google’s powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology can predict your behavior with creepy accuracy. If Google can tell you where to find the information you think you are looking for but Google wants to to see and what to buy, it can tell you what to say and think. It already does.
Without anyone knowing, Google is shaping the worldview of billions of people. The question is what is the shape of the worldview Google intends for users? How will Google treat worldviews that counter it’s own? Shaping thought can be beneficial but that is what parents, teachers, mentors, artists and leaders do – not tech companies.
The First of the Ten Commandments is; “…You shall have no other gods before me”. After digging into the tech giant’s business model, activates, partnerships and philosophy, I believe Google’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods but Google.” Think about it.
After reading this series of posts, are you seeing a general theme?
What can we do about it?
Don’t just take my word for it, do your own research.
Take a technology inventory. List all of the technology devices and platforms connected to you and your family.
The band, Pink Floyd made this question famous on their 1979 album, “The Wall”. Under the haunting drones of synth chords and samples from the TV series, Gunsmoke, the listener is confronted with the question, “Is there anybody out there?” The question is repeated as the melancholy of the soundscape rises and finally breaks into a ethereal acoustic guitar melody accompanied by lonely violin. It provides some relief but not quite enough. The question still lingers about the mind, “Is there anybody out there?” It’s truly a genius two and a half minutes of music.
In the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” this song plays at the point where the bitter and alienated Pink (the main character) is attempting to reach anybody outside of his self-built wall. The repeated question “Is there anybody out there?” suggests that no response is heard (1).
I remember back to my music and DJ days when I would be in the DJ booth playing records to a packed club of hundreds of people, yet there was an underlying sense of alienation. I could see people around me – but why does the question still gnaw at my soul? “Is there anybody out there?” Does anyone even care?
There have been seasons in my life when I’ve felt alone. Even when I had family and friends around, I suffered from disconnectedness. At points, this lead to depression and anxiety. Its hard recognize from the outside. By God’s grace and the love of family and friends, I don’t suffer like I did so many years ago. However, there are shadows of how I felt in those seasons that remain as a remembrance. I think it is important that I remember rather than forget what it’s like to feel alone. There can be no deep ministry to others without memories of our own misery.
Today, many people feel alienated and lonely in our technology-driven, pseudo-connected, over-stimulated, hyper-autonomous and instant gratification-focused cultural moment. We’ve relegated our relationships and existence to online platforms, how can we not be driven to alienation?
I think a dangerous new religion is emerging in the West. It’s called Alienation.
It has its own doctrines of disconnect and loneliness. We carry our slick, shiny, flat-screened idols in our hands all day. It’s sacraments are dopamine drips through a communion of ‘likes’ and screen scrolling. It’s worship is seen on the altar where authentic human relationships go to be sacrificed. Alienation has its own cathedrals built for one. It has its own hymns and liturgy and even ideology and emerging politics. The enlightened state of the religion of alienation is loneliness and ultimately, despair. This despair brings some to their own end at their own hands – the ultimate sacrifice.
“Contemporary man is alienated. He is alienated from the past because he has no cultural roots anymore. He’s been taught to despise the past. He is alienated from a real vibrant society – his social ties are thin and few. That shows up in his sexual habits which seem to have no meaning beyond that of the pleasure or the despair of the moment. He has very little connection with the natural world – the outside world.
If I could jump into Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece, I would add one three letter word at the end… “Yes!”
Yes, there is someone out there, just like you. In fact millions, just like you. Human beings all over our world just wanting to connect in an authentic and meaningful way. But how do we overcome alienation that has become so pervasive?
It starts with a light switch. We begin by turning on the lights in the dark room for those who are lonely so they can see that there are others in the room.
We must recognize alienation and loneliness and label them as enemies of what is good, true and beautiful about the human experience. Humans are hardwired to connect with others. When humans don’t have connections, they can’t live meaningful lives of vibrance. We need relationships – we need each other. Our creator designed us to be in relationship.
We must restore what has been lost in this current lonely age.
If we do nothing, I fear that history will see this chapter as the loneliest in western culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it starts with you and me. Whether its the kitchen, the campfire or the nursing home on the holidays, we must be intentional about bringing life back to life. We bring hope and connection to the lonely lives of others and ourselves.
Restoration overcomes alienation. We must work to rescue one another from the cold grip of loneliness and despair. We restore lives through relationships.
To the haunting voice that asks, “Is there anybody out there?” We must break through self-built walls and shout, “Yes, we are here!” and “You are not alone!” and “God loves you and so do we!”
Now, go and do. The cure for alienation is real-life personal connection. That connection needs to be restored.
“And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’…” (Acts 17:26-28a)
The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” “It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law. Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
– F.W. Boreham
What does it mean to be a man in this cultural moment?
This all boils down to answering the question, “what does it mean to be human?”
This is a worldview question and depending on one’s worldview, will render different answers.
Worldview answers these questions:
Metaphysical – what is real?
Epistemology – what is true?
Origin – where did I come from?
Meaning – does life have meaning?
Morality – what is right or wrong (good / evil)?
Destiny – what happens when I die?
Identity – who am I and does my life have purpose?
Every worldview must answer those questions in ways that correspond to reality and have coherence.
A secularist-atheist, Muslim, pantheist, Christian, etc will all answer these questions differently. Worldview drives behavior and how we see ourselves in our place in the world. What I believe about being a man in this cultural moment is shaped by my worldview. In the west, The contours of our body ethic are rooted in a worldview and philosophies emerging from Rome and Greece – that were both reshaped and reformed by Christian worldview.
As the Christian ethic is jettisoned for a more naturalistic / materialistic worldview, we don’t actually move toward something new, we move back to something old – Rome.
Therefore, this shift will change how we define our place and purpose in the world, man and woman.
I believe the definition of a man is rooted in biology, theology and character.
What does it mean to be a man?
He does not give in to passivity
He takes responsibility
He leads sacrificially
He defends the weak
He is a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless.
He is faithful
He loves mercy and does justice
He loves well and leads well. (Notice none of these attributes have anything to do with a man’s physical strength, violence or abilities).
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
Note: The content above was taken from a reply I wrote to a friend’s post on Facebook. This is an extension of my recent work in the Colson Fellows residency has helped me crystalize and communicate the contours of what shapes our worldview particularly in America today and our definition of man.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.