The Theology of Technology (or that time my kid took Lego Robotics at LLFC)

My son signed up for a Lego Robotics session last summer during our week at Laity Lodge Family Camp. After a morning of biking and swimming, I was expecting another fun activity to fill a very hot afternoon. But it was so much more than that. Not only did my son love every second of this activity, but I (as a parent) was moved when I heard Marcus Goodyear (a full-time staffer from the Kerrville office and parent of LLYC alums) bring faith into the session.

He didn’t just pin a Bible verse on a Lego either! He started off the session by reminding campers of Mark 12:28-31, where Jesus says: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Goodyear went on to explain that technology often helps us build on one of the ways we are commanded to love God.

Strength: A car makes us stronger than we would be otherwise, so we can carry more and travel faster.

Mind: Google and Wikipedia help us access knowledge faster than we could otherwise.

Heart: Social media can help us share photos of what we love and engage with others.

Soul: Are there ways in which technology can help us love God more with our soul? (ex: apps that help us connect more deeply with God’s Word)

After each of these points, Goodyear then asked campers how they could use cars, search engines and social media/apps to love God and serve others.

And before he let the kiddos get to work building their Lego robots, he emphasized that technology is not neutral. “No matter what we intend to do with our technology,” Goodyear said, “it is important to remember that technology is never neutral.”

A hammer wants to hammer.
A shovel makes me a shovel-er.

Goodyear explained,

“All technologies have particular ‘affordances’ which is a fancy idea from industrial design that means things ‘want’ to accomplish the task they were designed to accomplish. For example, a person with a hammer wants to pound nails. A person with a shovel wants to dig holes. As creative people, we can often imagine new purposes for our technologies. An artist can use a hammer as part of a sculpture. A musician can use a hammer as a percussion instrument. However, there are limits to the number of creative ways we can use hammers. Ultimately, they are best at pounding, and that is what we tend to do with them. So we can say no tool is neutral because we will always want to use it according to its design.

“But there’s more. When we use technology, it changes us as humans. If I have a shovel and dig holes to the glory of God all day long, it will change my body. My arms and chest will get bigger over time. Sometims this means that extended use of technology–even for good purposes–may have unintended consequences. If I have a car that can take me further and faster than my own feet, I may expand my local community from a three mile radius that I can walk easily to a twenty mile radius that I can’t walk at all. This could mean that my church is now a collection of people all driving from 20 miles away and choosing to be together. It seems like a good thing, but also allows us to view the body of Christ as a community we choose in the same way that we may choose one college over another, one gym over another, or one store over another. So we can also say that no tool is neutral because it will always change us and the way we engage the world.”

The heart that fueled this activity had a huge impact on me as a parent. I will bring these truths home with me as we navigate our technology-heavy world. If you want an even bigger sneak peek into Lego Robotics at LLFT, check out the video below!