Thursday, October 26, 2005
Cell phones make you believe in ...
Sometimes as a minister I am asked if I believe in evolution, to which I reply, “I most certainly do. Why I’ve seen it!” I think about this every time I go out in my car. Here in the other lane comes a visible mutation of the human species, the presence of a genetically-attached cell phone in the other driver’s right hand, as they turn perilously close to my front fender, driving in full yak mode.
I am quite sure that if people are not born with a cell phone genetically attached, one is placed in the infant’s hand immediately after birth. In fact, I would imagine cell phones have taken the place of a pacifier.
Recently I was speaking with a 4-year-old. She informed me that Santa was bringing her a cell phone for Christmas, and it was a good thing, too, because all the other children her age have their own. What did we do before we could talk to other people at all times?
It raises the question whether all our extra verbiage (and the money we pay to express it) is resulting in more intelligent wisdom being produced by our vocal chords. If so, it ought to be recorded and shared with the rest of us who are hungering for guidance.
I am waiting for the preacher who interrupts a sermon to take a call from the instrument ringing at his hip. You never know when it might be somebody important — maybe a message from on high.
Meanwhile, what to do about the cell phones? Some have raised the question of danger when they are used by people driving cars. If the danger is provable, I trust that civil law and insurance regulation will regulate the situation.
But I will say that the prospect of ringing purses, diaper bags and gentlemen’s pockets does add a new degree of anxiety to the typical minister’s sermon delivery. One never knows what will happen!
Sumner Bacon was a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher in Texas who kept attention in the 1830s with a six-shooter laid across the pulpit. He is said to have used it once when a band of ruffians interrupted his sermon.
Of course modern technology is helpful at times. We had a seminary professor who was often invited to speak off campus. So as not to slight us in his lecturing, he resorted to having his class sessions taped. We would arrive to see a television set in place of our teacher, and when it was time for class to begin, media services would beam the recorded broadcast from their remote location across the campus quadrangle.
Sometimes I thought it would be fun if we students all set tape recorders in our desks. But the guys at media services were one jump ahead of that. Theology lectures are boring enough when delivered in person, but when they are taped (badly), it was horrific.
So to lighten our mood of being “left behind” media would do things like splitting the screen so that two images of our professor shook their fingers at one another, or flailed the air standing back to back, speaking in opposite directions. Sometimes our teacher appeared upside down, horizontal, or doctored to wear ridiculous clothes or a fright wig.
If Dr. Leith had ever seen what was done to him by those who recorded his voice and image for our classes, he would never have gone off lecturing elsewhere again. But I will grant that the technique of video teaching is effective. That buffoonery was the most memorable aspect of my theological instruction.
As I cannot chew gum and walk, I do not talk on a cell phone while driving. Neither do I accept calls while preaching. But I am thinking about imitating old Sumner Bacon and laying out my revolver across the pulpit.
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