Summary: Despite the many ways we have of connecting you’ll still find that many people today feel a deep sense of isolation. But the primary result of the fall wasn’t a breakdown in our relationship with each other, it was a breakdown in our relationship with God
Part of a series based on The Cross of Christ by Dr Leon Morris
You may have seen any of the countless programs about the sinking of the Titanic over the past few weeks. One of the things I find interesting about the sinking of the Titanic is that when they wanted to call for help all they had was Morse code, a technology that had been in use for a couple of decades to transmit messages by radio. That’s just 100 years ago.
Since then we’ve seen an explosion in communications technology. From telegraph using Morse code to telephones, to radio to television to Internet technology until today we have unprecedented access to others through mobile phones, email, facebook, twitter and probably a dozen other social networking tools that I haven’t even heard of yet.
It’s interesting though, that despite the many ways we have of connecting you’ll still find that many people feel a deep sense of isolation. Even young people who communicate regularly through social media can feel alone, unable to connect in any real way, unable to experience the closeness of a relationship that allows them to express the deepest feelings within them. A sociologist from MIT in the US claims that the growth of social media has actually resulted in an increase in isolation. She says this: “Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.”
When I realised we’d programmed this topic on Mother’s Day I wondered whether it was a bit too morbid a topic for such a day of celebration. But then I realised that young mums also feel a sense of isolation at times. When our children were young I remember the mothers at the time commenting how much they yearned for someone to have an intelligent conversation with. Now I don’t think that was a comment on their husbands. Rather it was an expression of the sense of isolation they felt when most of their time was taken up with looking after babies and toddlers who they could love but couldn’t really communicate with in any depth.
You could say it seems strange that people could feel this sense of isolation when they live in a busy city surrounded by people. Let me suggest that it’s not so strange when you think about the way humanity has chosen to live. We ignore God; we refuse to do what God commanded; we each try to be the centre of the universe. One of the immediate results of Adam and Eve’s disobedience was the breakdown in relationships between the man and the woman. They began to blame one another. They began to compete with each other. Their first sons fought over the offering they brought to God with the result that one brother killed the other out of jealousy.
And that was just the beginning. Now we find it’s an epidemic. People are lonely, even in a big city like ours. In many cases we no longer know our neighbours. We may never even get to speak to them. There’s a real lack of connectedness with those we do come into contact with. Our workplaces are often cold, heartless places more reminiscent of something out of Dickens than the 21st century - except they’re cleaner. People work in cubicles shielded from contact with their work mates by screens and room dividers. The pressure to increase productivity means there’s no room for social contact at work.
As I said, the illusion of social contact through social networking is often just that - an illusion. I might learn the most trivial thoughts of someone yet never actually understand where they’re coming from or what really moves them
And finally, family breakdown seems to be the great marker of our social experience of the last century.
I was reading an article this week by Gordon Brown, who was the head of IFES for a number of years and who’s currently working as a University evangelist at large. He says: “I asked John Stott shortly before he died what he thought were the three greatest issues that people grapple with in the Western world today. He replied that they were engaged in a search for something transcendent, a search for personal significance and a search for community.” And I thought, that’s right. People today are looking for something transcendent, that is something outside themselves in the spiritual realm; for personal significance, that is something that’ll assure them that they matter, that they're not just an accident of the universe; and they’re searching for community. That is they’re searching for connectedness, for a lessening of the isolation they feel from the world around them.