Using digital devices for reflection during Lent

The season of Lent is upon us. This is a holy season for Christians who seek to identify with Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting as he prepared to be tested and later crucified.

In order to identify with Christ’s self-sacrifice, Christians often join in a symbolic fast, giving up certain foods such as meat or chocolate or even giving up certain practices.

In recent years, fasting from the internet or other forms of technology has become popular. Fasting from technology is encouraged by many religious leaders as the ideal way for individuals to reflect on their daily dependency on technology.

Sometimes called taking a “digital Sabbath,” it refers to the Christian and Jewish practice, in which one day a week is set aside as sacred.

On such a day, secular practices such as using media are halted in order to help believers focus on God and their faith.

This is based on the premise that the best way to critically engage with technology is to unplug from it. It’s a way to remember that true communication is unmediated by technology and grounded in being with one another in the “real world.”

Unplugging from social media or limiting one’s internet use for a set period such as during Lent can be helpful for some individuals.

My research, conducted over two decades, however, shows that some of core assumptions on which digital fasting is based on can be problematic or misguided.

Technology can, in fact, be good for religion. The question is, how do we engage with technology thoughtfully and actively?

Media and immoral values?

First, let’s look at how religious groups interact and make decisions about new forms of media.

In my recent book, “Networked Theology,” my coauthor Stephen Garner and I discuss how some religious communities believe the media primarily promote immoral values and frivolous entertainment.

Therefore, they insist interaction with media via digital devices should be controlled, just as is done during a digital fast. Continue reading

Sources

  • The Conversation, article by Heidi A. Campbell, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University.
  • Image: Salon

 

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