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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Renouncing Idols - Clinging to God

While there are many idols that might be worshipped, the contemporary person is prone to serve technology. There is a tendency to see technological achievement as definitive of human achievement. Whether that achievement is economic power, social control or gratification, the only joy that it attains has the fragile brilliance of crystal, a joy far outweighed by the fear that it will be shattered in an instant. Though some may be self-deluded enough to believe otherwise, self-definition through technological power offers only tenuous hope, even for the most powerful and adept. Indeed, the connection between what we know and what we make does not yield a destiny worthy of our nature and cannot long bear the weight of our existence.

Yet, technology offers such enchantment and seems to deliver on all its promises. Indeed, the average person might even believe that technology is serving him. He might have sincerely convinced himself that he has mastered something over which he exerts control with no cost to himself. Technology, however, is not neutral. It is a mistake to believe that it is merely a potentiality just waiting for an extrinsic force to manipulate it for its own purposes.

In so far as he sees his identity as tied to the work of his hands, a person's use of technology actually places his very being under its power. To the extent that anyone seeks the realization of his being from technology, that person is under the limited even if seemingly infinite potentialities of man made things. The alarming rate of self-harm and self-loathing testifies to the truth that knowing and making things is ordered to something that is not great enough to bear up human existence. Indeed, to the extent that we give ourselves over to manipulating anything, we implicate ourselves in forces that manipulate us.

Worship is filled with the desire for something above ourselves. If we serve what is above, it raises our existence. If something beneath us, it pulls us down to what is below our dignity. This is a matter of spiritual principle - one is appropriated to that which one appropriates to himself. St. Augustine expressed this in terms of desire and the weight of the soul. Desires for earthly things weigh the spirit down. Heavenly desires lift it up. No technology is heavenly. Technology cannot, by itself, raise us above ourselves.

This does not mean that technology is to be completely avoided or that it is inherently evil. What our hands have made reflect a small part of the potential for good and evil that lives in the human heart. Yet we should not allow this partial potential to make an absolute claim over our existence. We are mysteries unto ourselves, the truth of which is known only as we learn to give ourselves as gift to God and neighbor. Our lives have a higher purpose realized only through worshipping the One true God. We must be grateful to God that we can make anything good at all and we must be humble about the limits of technology when it comes to human thriving.

No matter how enchanting or delightful, the work of our hands is not worthy of worship. The altars of the machine offer a hope that can only diminish human greatness and betray the freedom for which we were made. Our destiny rests beyond the things that we have made. Thus, we must learn to place the things our hands of wrought into the hands of God.

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