Charlie bit my finger and now I’ve gone viral!

My video’s just gone viral! How fantastic is that?!

Viral. It sounds very much like a disease.

But who cares, when viral means, well, it means I might possibly become rich and famous. Hurray!

Have you seen Charlie bit my finger? This link takes you to a video watched just over 800 million times. 800 million! It’s extremely funny and when the parents took the video, they couldn’t possibly have known what would happen when they uploaded it onto Youtube. I’m told that the family has been able to generate sufficient income through advertising to live comfortably. From 1 minute of their sons’ antics. Not bad. Let’s hope Charlie sees some of that!

Viral. It’s enough to make one salivate over the possibilities.

In fact, bloggers like myself are tempted to go weak at the knees just thinking of ‘what might be.’ After all, anything on the internet has the potential to reach what . . . six billion people maybe?

‘Viral’ can quite literally change your life within a few weeks if . . . well, it’s a big ‘if’ isn’t it? And every single cyber-entrepreneur is working feverishly to try and work out the answer to ‘If only I did xx.’

So what’s wrong, apart from the fact that ‘viral’ sounds like a disease?

I have a few concerns.

In my opinion, ‘viral’ is code for shortcut. What do I mean?

Well, first let’s dispense with the allure of fame and fortune. There’s no getting away from a sobering truth which lurks in our souls. It’s this one: We tell ourselves that we trust God, but my goodness, that grass over there certainly looks exceedingly green. However, I’m more interested in some Trojan-horse thinking which I believe has entered on the back of technology. On the back of ‘viral,’ if you like.

It’s the offer of the quick-fix. Because both of those, ‘quick,’ and ‘fix’ sound sooo good. A solution to my problems. Right now. Little effort. Massive rewards. And no need to wait. Charlie’s parents’ bank account probably quintupled within a few months. Nice, huh?Maybe, but the attraction of the ‘immediate’ is not without consequences.

Nowadays, in technology-world, we no longer have to wait for anything. TV? Almost anything you can think of, instantly. Often for free. Consumer goods. Just click here. Information? Oh, we’re all experts on the Byzantine Empire now. After all, we have Google. And then we have apps up the wazoo! It’s all so easy. Too easy. Too cheap.

And yet there is an immense price to pay, if you allow yourself to live inside the deceptions of an instant, viral world. One in which everything is cheap (well relatively cheap), accessible and requires little expenditure of effort. And one which holds out the offer of fame and fortune if you could but crack the code.

There is a price to pay. At least there is for Christians.

What is that price? Let me quote Eugene Peterson, writing prophetically over 30 years ago before the vast spread of technology had draped itself across our culture. He writes,

One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently . . . It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest.

How tempting to want to solve one’s problems instantly. What’s not to like about that? But for pilgrims who have walked along a path marked, ‘a long obedience in the same direction,’ (Peterson’s book from which I quoted), different values, beliefs and behaviours are called for.

Not only is the avoidance of suffering anathema to the spiritual life, the Bible is replete with examples of waiting. And the kind of waiting which induced agonizing suffering. I think particularly of my favourite OT character, Abraham.

Promised a son. Now wait 25 years. 25 years!

This was God’s plan. His doing. There is no getting around that. And I don’t think he’s changed.

For all its manifold benefits, technology can teach us nothing about ‘growing in trust and obedience.’ On the contrary, it is often offering shortcuts. It provides tantalizing stories which beckon us to live in a constant state of ‘if only . . . ‘

What did Joseph Goebbels say? If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. 

You may convince yourself that you don’t believe the lies of the ‘instant society,’ but one day you may find you’re living a life indistinguishable from those who do.

So beware the temptation of shortcuts.

Instead, embrace the agony and ecstasy of life lived faithfully and obediently before your Creator.

Learn to wait. Learn to trust.

And don’t, whatever you do, envy Charlie and his parents.

© Richard Collins 2015


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