Culture · On Being Christian

Manifesto for Slow Communication

The Wall Street Journal recently published an incredible article about why constantly living life at breakneck speed could give you motion sickness. It provides important context, something the writer points out is now missing from much of our hurried communications. And as a believer, I think it’s important to consider how we communicate the Gospel in light of these observations.

“The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com­munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust­ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

“This is a disastrous development on many levels. Brain sci­ence may suggest that some decisions can be made in the blink of an eye, but not all judgments benefit from a short frame of reference. We need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships. We need time in order to prop­erly consider the effect of what we say upon others. We need time in order to grasp the political and professional ramifica­tions of our typed correspondence. We need time to shape and design and filter our words so that we say exactly what we mean. Communicating at great haste hones our utterances down to instincts and impulses that until now have been held back or channeled more carefully.”

And this:

“There is a paradox here, though. The Internet has provided us with an almost unlimited amount of information, but the speed at which it works—and we work through it—has deprived us of its benefits… We can store a limited amount of information in our brains and have it at our disposal at any one time. Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete infor­mation, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions. Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources.”

As believers concerned with communicating Christ’s love and forgiveness, we also need to “protect the finite well of our attention” so we can give it fully to those who are hurting or questioning. We need to take time “to consider the effect of what we say on others” – particularly when we disagree. We need time “to shape and design and filter our words” so that they accurately express what Christ intended. A relationship with Jesus can not be built “on the slippery gravel of false impressions.”

While Facebook, Twitter, even online church are efficient and engaging ways for churches to connect with people, it’s important to remember that Jesus modeled the valuable resource of his full attention.

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