The iPod Touch, Neil Postman, and Mount Calvary Baptist Church

A friend and fellow iPod Touch owner sent me Tim Challies’ “Don’t Take Your iPod to Church” a few days ago and asked me what I thought.

It just so happens that I do take my iPod Touch to church and take voluminous sermon notes on it, but that friend made some good points spurred by Challies’ post:

  1. iPod instead of Bible feels less formal/deliberate to me.
  2. iPod seems like it could be a distraction to others around me.
  3. I can’t take notes as well on an iPod.
  4. iPod gives me a feeling of “get where I’m going in a hurry” convenience.

I thought he answered well two questions that Neil Postman has now gotten me asking: First, what is the unspoken ideology that every technology carries with it? The medium, after all, is a message. Second, we techie folks know what tech gives, but what does it take away?

But I’m still carrying my iPod to church, and here’s why I do: I have found that the iPod gives such benefits that I am willing to put up with what it taketh away. I know I’ll use the sermon notes I take by putting them into BibleWorks—and I know paper notes will end up in the trash. So while I’m taking notes on the Touch I constantly keep two goals in mind which help me keep control of the technology: 1) understanding this passage by distilling Pastor’s exegetical points and 2) enriching my future teaching of the Bible.

I also try to communicate to others around me with my body language that I am listening intently and not texting. I have to think they would conclude that a guy like me would not so brazenly text during an entire message! Being married is actually a help, because people know that a married woman would be too embarrassed that her husband was texting to let it continue very long.

I can’t say, however, that I have control of all other technologies I use and that they never distract me. Google Reader, especially, is one that I am still fighting to get control of. My subtext for this post is that tech users should not reflexively defend their gadgets but should ask those trenchant Postman questions above.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 thought on “The iPod Touch, Neil Postman, and Mount Calvary Baptist Church”

  1. I think I disagree with your friend. Let me address each of his points.

    Here is what I do: I bring my leather Bible along with my iPod Touch.

    (1) Since I bring both leather Bible and iPod, it doesn’t feel any less “formal/deliberate.”

    (2) I will address this in a moment.

    (3) I take thorough notes through the “Notes” function in my “Holy Bible” application. I type very quickly on my iPod in landscape mode. In fact, I type 35+ words a minute on it. That’s faster than I write using an old-school pen and notebook. And the iPod catches my typos 🙂

    (4) I don’t mind the “get where I’m going in a hurry” feeling. The feeling I don’t like is when I cannot write fast enough (or legible enough!) to keep up with the speaker. I would rather keep up with the speaker.

    In addition to these, I can also email my notes to myself. I can then file these notes into my theological folder, and reference them when I need to use it for research later. I have 4 full hand-written sermon notebooks with my books right now, but they will rarely get used since I cannot search, reference, or email them.

    However, those things being said, (2) does have some validity (as you know, Mark!). Like you, I try to make it obvious that I am paying attention by looking at my leather Bible often, and engaging my ears and eyes with the speaker. While I have had some people thinking I was texting while in chapel, no one at my church (HeritageBibleChurch.org) has approached me about not paying attention or texting.

    As technology grows in practicality and in usage, it will become increasingly accepted in all walks of life–including church. That being said, I am not for tweeting in church. But that’s a different topic for a different day 🙂

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