"Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me."
John 14:1 CSB
Last Wednesday was a typical day for me--at least it has become typical for me over the last four months. I got up early. I was in my study and on my computer by about 7 am. I worked at my computer, taking a few breaks throughout the day until about 5. After I quit working for the day I stayed right there at my desk and studied for another hour. My wife came home, and we had dinner, and then I went back to my desk and attended an online Zoom seminary event for a couple hours. I went to bed, watched TV and "socialized" on Facebook and finally went to sleep. So I spend about 14 hours looking at one screen or another. This will be the experience many of our children as they "go back to school" in the fall without actually going anywhere.
Isn't it wonderful how the Corona Virus Pandemic has taught us how much we can actually do on our screens without ever leaving the house? We don't even have to get dressed anymore!
We have a lot of people at my place of employment talking about making this permanent--working from home! A lot of people in the religious community are actually saying that worship should all be done online now days, and that a church is "just a building." I had no idea how many experts we had in our government on what constitutes worship and what does not until this pandemic arrived--I'd always thought in the United States those decisions were those of the faithful and protected under the constitution.
But this idea of never going back to buildings or face-to-face activities isn't limited to work environments and churches--there's a few in the education community that are asking why we spend all this money on school buildings and school buses in this day and age when we can sit our kids down in front of a screen right at home while we're working "at the office" right there on our sofa?
I think this is a terrible path to head down. There's more to life than staring at a computer screen. Mankind was meant for social interaction. They were meant to see each other, and talk to each other . . . in person. You just can't develop the same kind of friendships online that you can by spending time with a person . . . fishing, or going to a movie, or out to dinner, or just hanging out. And what about dating? We going to do all that on the computer, too?
And I hate to disagree with well-meaning people, but worship is a group activity. We are meant to worship TOGETHER. In a basement, in a barn, in a field, in a park, in a house, or right there in your local church, but worship is a group activity. And a church is not "just a building" it is the family home for a group of believers.
A lot of people are afraid right now. I get that. And much of this talk is a fear reaction that will sort itself out as time passes. I was afraid in the beginning as well. That first two or three weeks I was home, I checked my temperature three or four times a day convinced I was going to be dead by the end of the month. But I'm still here. I'm still concerned about the virus, but I'm in good health--that's no guarantee I'll be okay if I get sick, but I'm at the point now where I'm actually more worried about missing life than getting sick.
I miss going to a ballgame or to a movie. I miss getting a cup of coffee and people watching at the mall. I miss going to meetings face-to-face. I miss lunch with my friends, and fall festivals, and Saturday morning charity pancake breakfasts at the American Legion post. I missed parades and fireworks on the 4th of July. I'm willing to take a few risks at this point to ensure I'm living my life--and I don't think I'm the only one by any means. And I want my children and grandchildren to live life, too. I don't want them to live their life sitting in front of a screen doing everything "virtually" as we've been doing the last few months.
I'll bet you didn't know this about me, but I walked the entire length of the Great Wall of China! That's what the badge I got from Fitbit says I did. But that's the difference between a virtual experience and an authentic experience. I didn't walk the Great Wall. I didn't sweat under the Chinese sun, see the sights, smell the smells, learn the culture, or eat the cuisine. I've never even been to China. What I did was walked 13,171 miles over a period of time right here in the Midwest United States. I could have done it on a treadmill and never left the house. But it's certainly not a trek in China any more than a TV show is a substitute for worship or a YouTube video is a substitution for a college class or an online chat is a date. The "virtual" is always going to pale in comparison to the "authentic".
And that's the question we're all going to have to deal with individually. Is safety and security worth giving up the fullness that life has to offer? What are we missing in the "virtual experience" that we would gain from the "authentic experience."
I've done the calculus, and made my own decision on this matter. I've decided I'd rather live a shorter "authentic" life, than a long "virtual" life. I have no intention of allowing a computer screen to become my window to the world.