The Internet - A Tower Of Babel?

Posted at 12:56pm on 5th June 2017

Let me be clear: I love the internet.  The advantages are indescribable.  For me, as an author, it facilitates research, enlarges my readership, and enables me to make friends via social media.  As a mother, aunt and cousin, it affords photographic and written information to be shared at the touch of a button.  Brilliant!  And as a one-time Copyright & Financial Manager for Jubilate Hymns (I worked for them for fourteen years) it totally changed the means of communication – for the better.  With only snail-mail, a telephone and fax machine, prior to that, copyright licences for the BBC, churches and organisations worldwide, had to be sent by post, a lengthy and costly way of interaction.  By comparison, e-mail, websites and social media are great.

The internet, however, does have a downside.

THE TOWER

Back in 1998 when I first started working for Jubilate, Rev Richard Bewes – Rector of All Souls, Langham  Place, and still a firm friend – was asked to write a hymn celebrating the arrival of the internet.  Speaking to me on the telephone, he asked me what I thought of it.  Having said what I’ve written above, I went on to say that I believed it could turn out to be a Tower of Babel.

‘Just imagine,’ I said.  ‘It makes gods of us all.  We’re omnipresent (our internet presence is everywhere forever – as is God), and we believe ourselves to be omniscient (wise, all-knowing and, therefore, unassailable).’

Sadly, nearly twenty years later, that prophecy is shown to be true.

THE DOWNFALL

The story of Babel is told in the book of Genesis.  The aim of the people who built the tower was to ‘make a name for themselves’.  In other words, to be revered.  To be listened to.  To be respected.  This is described, in commentaries, as wanting to reach heaven; to be like God. http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/the-tower-of-babel.html

In chapter eleven, verse one, we read: Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  That commonality, I believe, is now evident in the internet.  This single entity has become the means for each of us to have a voice; to communicate with the whole world.  And for many, it appears to fulfil the aim of being heard; being valued and admired.

The problem is, that there is increasingly less cohesion when it comes to the one voice.  Which is exactly what happened when God saw the arrogance in the hearts of men, and caused them to speak different languages, scattering them across the world.

BREXIT & SCATTERED DISUNITY

With the UK referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or not (commonly known as Brexit) divisive arguments began to take their toll.  It’s one thing to put forward a persuasive point of view.  In wanting to win me over to your way of thinking, you might list the pros and cons of Remain or Leave.  Naturally, this could be no more than your opinion as to how things would pan out in the long run.  But what happened was that opinion was quickly seen, by some, to be truth.  Irrefutably!

Attitudes began to change.  If I didn’t agree with your *truth*, I had to be corrected.  And boy, was I!  In no uncertain terms.  Publicly.  And offensively.  Told on Facebook that my vote (to leave the EU) was responsible for having unleashed racism and other terrible things, I was attacked, personally, by people I thought I knew as internet friends; more than that, as fellow Christians.

My response was to say:

I'm not out to win an argument now any more than I was out to win a conclusion when I voted Leave. It goes without saying that I pray for our nation - daily – because, I agree with you: it's needed. As I've already said, I prayed that the outcome would be God's will for us as a nation.  On the morning of the referendum, it suddenly occurred to me that sometimes God's will for any one of us, or all of us, might be to allow us to go through troubled times.  IMHO those troubled times might equally have come about if Remain had won.  But I find it highly - offensive and/or naive - to be told that my vote has unleashed racism and other terrible things. I don't hold it against you for making that remark, but I do believe that we would ALL be better seeking unity rather than making divisive comments like that.

UNITY

I hold by that statement.  Again and again, we are reminded of the need for unity, the following being but two examples.   

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Cor 1:10

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:23

PRAYER

Help us to remember, Heavenly Father, that every divisive comment we make online not only hurts those we criticise, but divides those of different opinion.  Help us to remember, Lord, that united in you, we might use the internet for good.  Help us, Holy Spirit, to spread your word; your love; your peace.  Amen

TO COME: A further look at the Tower of Babel

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