Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.
During recess in the second grade, my friend Mary and I enjoyed swinging as high as we could on the swing set, singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” It’s a great song of comfort, basically affirming that, no matter what, God is holding us. Note the song doesn’t say God is in control, just that God is there for us. And I still believe that.
These days we have a better grip on what it means for God to hold the whole world because we have the internet and a 24/7 news cycle. Now we too have the whole world in our hands every time we log on.
The narrator in my as-yet-unpublished mystery novel so reveres the internet that, just as many of us only visit God on Sunday mornings, he only visits the internet on Saturday mornings. Comparing it to touching the forbidden Mt. Sinai, he drolly writes:
The internet is such an awesome god—so extensive we can only glimpse a part of it, so powerful that it has crashed many a computer, so desirous that many humans and their marriages have been sacrificed on its local altars. Okay, I’m a little over the top here, but it’s an amusing analogy, don’t you think? My point is, like any powerful and overwhelming god, the internet must be approached guardedly, with respect, on appointed days and at appointed times, lest we take it for granted (as if our computers are always up) or believe we can domesticate it (making it entirely user-friendly). Just as the ancient monastics limited human intercourse of all kinds, even so, those of us who practice an ascetic lifestyle must limit our intercourse with the internet, lest it lead us into idolatry or distract us from reality. To switch mythological metaphors, the internet is the Medusa’s head of our time, a face whose tresses are cables rather than snakes, but still able to turn men to stone.
Demonstrating a similar reverence, only recently has my spell-check stopped correcting me when I fail to capitalize the word “internet,” though it never corrects me when I fail to capitalize “god”!
A retreat leader once scandalized my progressive theology—you know, the theology that tells you to have the Bible in one hand and The New York Times in the other during your morning prayers—by observing that the omnipresent news cycle hooks us in other people’s stories before we know our own story for the day. And, during a retreat I was leading on finding space in our busy lives to rest in God, a woman had the “aha” moment that she was busy even in her prayers, listing the world’s concerns, as if the whole world were not already in God’s hands!
Now more than ever, we have the whole world in our hands. And more than ever, we need to step back, take a breath, take moments of Sabbath rest, and resist the temptation to use Eden’s apple or the Silicon Valley’s Apple to be like the gods.
Yet we are not absolved of responsibility. Now, also more than ever, the internet gives what we do and say the power to transform the world for good or for ill.
We’ve got the whole world in our hands. If we are God’s, then that should be a comfort rather than a concern.