We would encourage our readers to carefully consider the issues raised in the following article. “The Lampstand” committee make a conscious effort to include articles that are relevant to today’s world and which are impacting upon the Brotherhood. Modern Hi-tech advances are having a greater effect upon us, and our children in particular, than we are probably aware of, and these changes generally have a deleterious outcome for those who have “taken up the cross” of our Lord and are following him. Readers are encouraged to “ponder the paths of their feet”, to hear the trumpet’s calls, and institute changes that will ensure they “finish their course”

Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don’t stand in the doorway Don’t block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There’s a battle outside And it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticize What you can’t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is Rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’.

So wrote Bob Dylan in 1964 in a song which became an anthem encapsulating the spirit of social unrest that swept through America during that decade.

Whilst the words summarise attitudes and trends which are repugnant to us as brethren of Christ, certainly the times were changing rapidly during this period, and in the time that has elapsed since the 60’s each decade has resulted in great changes in lifestyle for parents and children alike.

In words which would suit the context of any revolutionary era, Dylan wrote of a raging battle which would ultimately affect everyone, sweeping away the old in order to give place to the ‘new’. He wrote of a generation that did not understand their children and the struggles they were going through. He hinted at the growing irrelevance of parents in their children’s lives. The song is a call to ‘get with the times’ and ‘get out of the way’ if you aren’t prepared to do so.

Despite being written over forty years ago, the words go some way to summing up the spirit of our age too. The times continue to change and never has change been manifesting itself so rapidly and in so many ways as it is today. Forty years on the wheel is ‘still in spin’—it’s just spinning faster than we could ever have imagined.

In recent years, it has become a bit of a cliché to say that ‘the world changed on September 11th, 2001’. To a certain extent, however, it’s true. The terrorist attacks really were a momentous event in recent history, and the images of those events that were flashed into our world in the days following that tragedy are etched in our memories. It is also true to say that proceedings on the world stage since then and the emphasis on security and counter terrorism have been ever present features in the daily news.

For most of us however (and thankfully so) these events did not have a direct impact on our lives. In fact, as Christadelphians these events were viewed in the light of our confidence that God is in control, and may well have even served to confirm our faith and reinforce for us our conviction that the world truly needs the healing hand of our Lord.

Bomb Blast!

Other changes that have occurred in the last decade or so however have had a much more direct effect on our lives. Staying with the September 11 theme, the changes this article focuses on can perhaps be best introduced by relating how I personally found out about those dramatic events.

The first plane (American Airlines Flight 11) crashed into the North Tower at 8.46am local time, which was 10.27pm at night in Melbourne, Australia. I recall very clearly being ‘online’ randomly surfing the Internet, when an email came though with the subject line ‘Palestinian Terrorist attack—plane crashes into World Trade Centre’.

Ironically, this wasn’t enough to arouse my curiosity… in an ‘online stupor’ and oblivious to the dramatic events of reality, I kept on clicking away.

Thirty minutes away, my good friend and Brother Jonathan Burke was sitting in his kitchen in Victoria, communicating via an online messenger service with soon to be fiancée Dianne. Dianne was at work in Manhattan, and was looking out the window at a giant tear in the World Trade Centre which had been caused by the first plane. Jonathon was given an almost ‘on the spot’ real time description of events as they unfolded by Dianne.

Exactly seventeen minutes after the first plane struck, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower. It wasn’t long after that when another email came through. “This does sound big”, I thought. I flicked on the radio and within minutes was around at a friend’s place watching it all unfold on television.

I’m sure you can remember where you were and how you found out too. I found out via email whilst online, confirmed it via the radio, and then watched the images on television. I’m sure that for 90% of us the media in some form connected us with the events that happened in New York that day.

If much more history goes by, it will probably be the 1990s that is looked to as the decade which most altered our everyday lives. It was in the ’90s that technology really exploded into our lives in a huge way.

• Was it not sometime in the ’90s that most people procured an email address?

• Isn’t that when you first heard of (and accessed) the ‘World Wide Web’?

• If you didn’t have a personal computer in your house by 1990, was it not in the following ten years that this changed?

• Was it not in the latter half of that decade that the now ubiquitous mobile phone began to emerge?

These technologies were not wholeheartedly embraced by everyone during the ’90s, but surely it’s conservative to say these things are true of most Christadelphians in the Western world.

The home computer, the internet and the mobile phone now play a very big part in our everyday life, and they have spawned much new technology which we are familiar with and possibly regularly use. For example, most of us would be well aware of DVDs, MP3s, and SMSs.

Technology has become an enormous part of our daily lives. We interact with it more than we probably care to think about. These days our children and young people are becoming more connected and generally are ‘tech savvy’ younger and younger.

In 1990, Professor Donald Roberts conducted a survey in which the majority of adolescents declared the radio/CD player to be the one medium they could least live without. When a follow up survey was conducted in 2004, it was their computer by a long shot.

In 2007, a case could be made for it being their mobile phone—the sort that is a walkman, TV, Message Centre, Internet Console and ‘SMS-MMS Factory’ all in one.

Recently I was scheduled to give a Bible Class and had prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the occasion. Not owning a laptop at the time, I had asked a young brother to bring one for use on the night. Much to my dismay and with two minutes to go before the starting time, he arrived without the laptop!

What a relief when my 11 year old Sunday school student lent me hers. The PowerPoint presentation went off without a hitch. Hannah uses one for school now.

Collateral Damage

We can easily be swept up in the momentum of all these advances in technology without appreciating just what an extraordinary period of history we live in and how it all affects our daily life. In reality, the challenges all these changes bring are immense, the dangers very real.

Speaking recently with my Dad about the last 15 or so years of my life, he commented how that often he felt that young people were dealing with challenges very foreign to the kind of issues that he faced in his upbringing during the ’50s and the ’60s. I am sure he is not alone in feeling that way.

My adolescent period was the late ’80s and the ’90s, with much of that time spent in Hong Kong. I was a ‘latecomer’ to the Internet (so I thought) in 1995 or thereabouts.

I well remember being connected to the Internet for the first time, and Dad coming in to look over my shoulder. He didn’t understand it. He told me then… “This scares me”. Ten or so years on, and now with all the added technology and accessories that the Internet has spawned, how much were those fears justified? Was Dad’s fear a vague portent of how substantial this new monster in my bedroom was? Was there something about it that hinted at enormous potential, possibly for evil?

So how scary is this new technology? How much has it changed out lives? our children’s lives? the kind of family life we envisaged ourselves having when we first had children?

In the Time magazine of April 2006 an article appeared entitled ‘The Multitasking Generation’. The article examined the modern day phenomenon of ‘connected kids’ and their habit of ‘multitasking’. “They’re emailing, IM-ing and downloading while writing the history essay.” The article focused in on “what all that digital juggling was doing to their brains and their family life.”

The observations are scary. More so for the fact that so many can relate to the scenarios that were described in the article.

“It’s 9.30pm, and Stephen and Georgina Cox know exactly where their children are. Well, their bodies, at least. Piers, 14, is holed up in his bedroom—eyes fixed on his computer screen—where he has been logged onto a MySpace chat room and AOL Instant Messenger (IM) for the past three hours. His twin sister Bronte is planted in the living room, having commandeered her dad’s iMac—as usual. She, too, is busily IM-ing, while chatting on her cell phone and chipping away at homework. By all standard space-time calculations, the four members of the family occupy the same threebedroom home in Van Nuys, California, but psychologically each exists in his or her own little universe.”

I imagine that many parents of children during the 90’s and down to today felt overwhelmed and unprepared when all this new technology began to enter their lives.

Many feel that this was outside their control, they feel overtaken by these changes, and perhaps, as Dylan suggested, they even feel reluctant to ‘criticise what they can’t understand’.

It is true that many children today interact with technology which they know their parents aren’t conversant with. There is the potential for so much more to be going on in their lives than their parents know.

It has to be admitted that ‘the waters around us have grown’ and that many of us (parents and children alike) now feel ‘drenched to the bone’ in the changes which have overtaken our lives. Surely now, it also has to be admitted that some are actually drowning.

As evidenced by the article quoted above, the world around us is starting to wake up to the enormous changes that have taken place in the western world. Social commentators are starting to sound the warning bells, but it is all moving so quickly and developing so rapidly.

Perhaps the example cited above of one family is a far cry from a Christadelphian home environment. Perhaps for some of us it is not…

Earlier, I described the entrance of technology into our lives as an explosion.

Explosions damage things. That’s why this section is labelled ‘Collateral Damage’.

Collateral damage is a by-product. It’s something which happens ‘off to the side’ of the main event, but a military commander contemplating the dropping of a bomb must take into account the potential collateral damage. He must ask himself, by instigating this action, what is likely to be affected? Is it worth it? What are the chances of improving the tactical situation in relation to the war against the enemy? What are the chances of making it worse?

Similarly, we need to be able to make an intelligent, informed decision on whether or not certain technologies should be ‘dropped’ into the middle of our homes and families. A cursory consideration might leave us feeling that the adoption of this or that new technology could only be constructive. The truth is however (as many families and marriages are discovering) all this new technology has the potential to be extremely destructive. In many circumstances, much more careful thought as to what extent we change and update to ‘get with the times’ is called for.

Over the years, there have been many soundings of the trumpet in the brotherhood concerning the dangers of introducing television into our homes. One wonders if some of the more recent technologies escaped our attention. Have the warnings been muffled as a result of the advantages for the work of the truth that some of these technologies have undoubtedly produced in areas? Or have the changes been so gradual and subtle that we haven’t noticed their import and harmful potential. Some of the cost of the collateral damage could perhaps be best assessed by asking ourselves the following questions about our individual and family life:

Are the readings being done? Are family meals happening? Are our homes characterised by warm, healthy communication between all? Are our homes havens away from the pressures and temptations of the world around us?

It remains true: for all the change that is happening in our world and for all the change we allow to happen in our family lives, one thing that doesn’t change is our God. He is still the high and lofty one inhabiting eternity. He is still the Loving Father desiring to be the centre of the affections and daily life of His children. He still desires us to be holy even as He is holy.

It is surely our responsibility to order our lives in such a way that is conducive to development of His character. There is much of today’s world which if brought into our lives can sabotage our attempts at righteousness and turn us away from Him. We must be diligent and alert to the potential dangers! We must be prepared to act.

A Significant Survey

Recently, in an attempt to try and understand how we are being affected as a community by modern technology and how we feel about the pace and pressures of life, a survey was conducted of the Brotherhood.

Questions were asked such as:

Do you feel in control?
Does life feel purposeful and meaningful?
What is the most difficult thing about our modern lifestyle?
The survey also focused on finding out about our daily Bible reading, prayer, meditation and study habits. Questions were also asked about how much time we spend viewing television and DVDs, what we watch on those mediums, the kind of music we listen to, and also how much we use the Internet and for what purpose.

The survey yielded information on how we feel about personal and collective reformation, and most importantly—how we feel about the return of Christ.

• 441 responses were received between June – August 06

• 67% of respondents were between the ages of 17–40

• 93% of respondents were baptized

• Responses were received from over 120 ecclesias around the world, in Australia, Barbados, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Guyana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, USA, and Wales

• 72% of respondents were from Australia and England.

It is proposed that in future articles we explore some of the survey results, and discuss some of the trends that emerge from the results in the context of relevant Scriptural principles.