Use of Artificial Intelligence is on the rise. Sadly, however, making real connections with other human beings is on the decline.
It appears that Alexa and her entourage are now replacing the support groups once fueled by our family, our friends, and our church fellowship.
Dr. Ralph Hillman, my college speech professor, taught me that eye contact and body language both play important roles in the effectiveness of our communication. How can Alexa see the pain in our eyes or the attitude of self-preservation as we fold our arms across our chests?
While advanced technology has enabled us to start our cars from inside our houses and control our home thermostats from our office chairs, this same technology has disabled our ability to connect with others.
We turn to Alexa for knowledge, but can she give us wisdom?
Our knowledge of technology is almost endless, but our society is lonelier than ever.
As a result of our dependence on technology, we are moving away from community. By isolating ourselves from the burden of bonding with other humans, we are losing the blessings that human bonding can provide.
According to “An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America” (Outreach Magazine, 10 April 2018), less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church.
We are becoming like Silas Marner, the Weaver of Raveloe, in George Eliot’s novel. After losing faith in his fellow man and his God, Silas withdraws from society and embraces a life of solitude. His life is reduced to that of an insect: rote, robotic, and connected to nothing more than the web he weaves.
“His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end toward which the functions tended. The same sort of process had perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love.”
Eventually, Silas Marner’s neighbor Dolly Winthrop gently encourages him to come to church and connect with his community.
“If you was to go to church, and see the holly and the yew, and hear the anthem, and then take the sacramen’, you’d be a deal the better, and you’d know which end you stood on, and you could put your trust i’ Them as knows better nor we do, seein’ you’d ha’ done what it lies on us all to do.”
As Dolly tells Silas to receive the sacrament, she serves him lard cakes stamped with the letters I.H.S. Through this act Dolly provides a symbolic form of communion for Silas and feeds his body as well as his soul.
Even though Dolly lacks the knowledge to read the letters on her cakes, she understands the wisdom they represent.
“The letters pricked on ‘em, I can’t read ‘em myself, and there’s nobody, not Mr. Macey himself, rightly knows what they mean; but they’ve a good meaning, for they’re the same as is on the pulpit cloth at church. . . .Whativer the letters are, they’ve a good meaning; . . . for if there’s any good, we’ve need of it i’ this world.”
Ah, yes, we’ve need of good in this world, now more than ever in my lifetime.
“But didn’t you hear the church bells this morning, Master Marner? I doubt you didn’t know it was Sunday. Living so lone here, you lose your count, I daresay.”
Are the majority of Americans so wrapped up in their technology that they’ve forgotten to hear the church bells?
I have many Facebook friends whom I have never met face to face. Yes, we share some common interests, but their emotional support is not the same as the empathy I receive from my relatives, close friends, and church community.
This past week my church community suffered the deaths of four people, and a family lost part of their home in a fire. With a strong and loving community connection, though, the people affected by these losses will better be able to weather their storms.
How can any of us bear the burdens of life without some sort of support group? A loving church family can supply this need.
The letters I.H.S., an ancient symbol of Christianity, represent Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus Savior of Men.
I challenge you to get to know Jesus. Go to church. Worship God. Connect with a Sunday School class. Become an active member of a church community.
Put down your phone. Have dinner with your family face to face. Take off your mask. Share your concerns. Care about each other. Show kindness. Seek wisdom.
“Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but the sweetness of a friend is a fragrant forest.”—Proverbs 27:9
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” –Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Hebrews 10:24-25; Matthew 18:20