Every year millions of people approach Lent asking themselves what sacrifice they should make to observe the church season. Many give up meat or chocolate. Some adopt new habits like exercise or devotional reading. In the last few years or so, it’s become more popular to give up social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. This latest trend reveals a new awareness of technology’s influence in our lives.
Lenten disciplines certainly offer potential benefits for the faithful. But does it make sense to give up devices and social media like this? C.S. Lewis actually had something to say about this.
Lewis, of course, never dreamed of anything like Facebook or even the internet. But we aren’t the first generation to notice technology changing our habits and lifestyles. Lewis once received a letter from a gentleman asking his advice about “motoring.” Cars and driving were very much a common part of daily life by the 1950s, and this man was looking for some guidance. Here’s what Lewis had to say in a letter from 1956 (to a man named Michael Edwards):
“Dear Mr. Edwards …
Of course enjoying equipment or motoring is not a sin. The point I wanted to make is that excessive excitement about gadgetry and the belief (Weston’s belief) that the possession of, say, wireless [i.e., radio] & aeroplanes somehow makes one superior to those who lack them & even justifies one in conquering such people, is bosh. My motto w[oul]d be ‘Have your toys, have your conveniences, but for heaven’s sake don’t start talking as if those things really mattered as, say, charity matters.’
As for ‘giving up’ things—well, when we’ve given up all our sins (the things everyone knows to be sins), we can think again! The problem will not be immediate. The devil is fond of distracting us from our plain daily duties by suggesting vague & rather faddy ones, you know.”
In this letter, Lewis takes what is perhaps his strongest moral stance on “gadgetry.” Despite everything he says elsewhere about technology, this is the first occasion where he brings sin into the conversation. In fact, Lewis makes technology a matter of faith when he compares the value of technology to that of charity or love. Lewis wanted Edwards to keep perspective: Love is more important than technology.
Read the rest at Relevant.