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Digital cocaine and the fire at the Jesus Dome!

Two Sunday's ago we had Brad Huddleston as the guest speaker at Acts Christian Church. His message was mind blowing to say the least. I mean I've heard so many times how excessive use of computers and social media can be detrimental to your relationships and how these devices are such a distraction from real life and most importantly our relationship with God. I got that... I understood that...but somehow it never really shocked me enough to make me want to put my phone down. Being a scientist means that statements such as "too much technology is detrimental to your health" only elicits the shock factor with me when I can see the science behind it. In many ways my brain has been trained to look for the reasoning. So when I saw the scientific facts that backs up what Brad Huddleston is saying his message really hit home for me. In a nutshell the brain scans of a cocaine addict are comparable to that of a digital addict. Yes! You read right! Neuroscience demonstrates this in black and white. And I understand it well since imaging is part and parcel of my career. I now understand that addiction to hard drugs follows the same chemical pathway in my body as an addiction to anything else for that matter! The second thing that made me sit up and take notice is when Brad so aptly acted out how engrossed we are in our phones that sometimes during a conversation with someone, we are instead engaged on our phones and our responses to the conversation are intermittent "aha's" and we have no idea what that person is even saying. I am so guilty of this! And we do the SAME in our relationship with God... "Yes God" whilst we totally distracted by every other aspect of life and He never fully receives our attention or focus that He alone deserves. I often pray, "Lord help me to keep my eyes fixed on you", but how can I when I am so distracted! Let's just say there are some changes happening in my house hold as you read this. What I admire about Brad is that he is in fact a tech expert or nerd as he termed himself, yet he is willing to look at both sides of the coin. He owns several devices and is actually a computer science graduate. He has personally experienced the result of the abuse of technology yet he still believes that there are many valuable uses of technology. The key is achieving and maintaining, as he so eloquently puts it, an "iBalance" (being an Apple fan I just love this terminology). My husband and I were so convicted after Brads message that we never looked at our phones all day that day and what I quickly learned is that this is a habit I will need to retrain my brain in order to break. So what does this have to do with the burning of the iconic Jesus Dome of Durban Christian Center? Well I got a clear view of the good and bad uses of technology as a result of this unfortunate incident. Many of the local newspapers were quick to upload images of the building being engulfed in flames - it was quite a sight. I have no good reason for this but I often find myself scrolling through the comments section on such news posts to read what people are feeling and thinking. Wow! What an array of comments. So many people empathizing with the leaders and congregation of the church but so many reveling in the incident. So many used the post as a chance to bash Christians and the church and religions in general. So many engaging in heated arguments over the comments and I am sure many were in the situation Brad spoke of - people becoming totally involved in a war of words with someone over a screen - you cannot see the person, you cannot gauge their emotion or facial expressions - you just agonize over the words which eventually have a power over you that keeps you up late into the night and raises your blood pressure. I mean there were even scammers who took the opportunity to create false "building fund appeals" during this crisis. This is the power of social media.

The one redeeming aspect of this story was the reminder that the building is not the church...its just a building, the people are the church and the church will still prevail. The good that came out of this situation on social media was all the messages of support that came flooding in from churches and organisations and ordinary citizens who expressed their solidarity with DCC in this time. The best post I came across was a video clip of people watching the building burn and then in the midst of the silence a small voice starts to sing, "There is none like You, no one else can touch my heart like you do. I could search for all eternity Lord and find there is none like You". That single voice was quickly joined by a mass of people praising God in the midst of the storm or fire to be more accurate. And right there I was reminded that God deserves the praise no matter the situation! I am sure that the many Christians who viewed that video had the same reminder. For the many non-Christians that viewed that - there could have been one who said, "I want to know that God that they are singing about, that despite the bad circumstances they are still singing His praises!" This is the positive power of social media. It's all about finding the iBalance.

Being involved in the media for Acts of Love, I see first hand the power of technology to bring people together for a common cause, to highlight the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves, to call people to take action to make a difference. But I recognise that in my personal capacity I have to always maintain a healthy balance to ensure that my use of technology remains valuable as opposed to destructive. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Brad Huddleston's book - I am pretty sure that this will prove a useful resource to finding my iBalance.

Till next time...

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