May 19th, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI, or “Benny Ten Six” as I like to call him, spoke a bit about Technology in his Palm Sunday Homily.

As a proud Irish Catholic (Irish by birth, Catholic by choice–and childhood prodding!) and lover of technology (I loved ‘Perfect Dark’ for Nintendo 64) I feel I have to make a brief comment on his Holiness’ comments.

The Pope said that technology can threaten humanity’s relationship with God–for it presents dangers both immediately tangible and dangers to our spiritual standing.

Sure, technology can be used to hurt and dehumanize.
But a person doesn’t need much more technology than a hefty rock to achieve that.
Even less! Look at all the damnable abuse done with bare hands–with only the threat of ‘shame’ to silence and bind a victim’s defenses.
Advances in technology do cause the immediate dangers of massive death and destruction. This is true.
Look at Fat Man and Little Boy.
But surely technology’s advance saves lives: innoculations and medicines of all types, agricultural advances to provide cheaper and more abundant food…

The Pope Said:
“…From the beginning men and women have been filled — and this is as true today as ever — with a desire to ‘be like God’, to attain the heights of God by their own powers…”
I say:
What beginning? It sounds like The Pope is talking about Adam and Eve with the allusion to being ‘like God’–a la eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Did that have to do with technology? Maybe an allusion to Babel would have been more appropriate. Was Babel about technology? Was the cause of the Flood? Was technology a matter of concern to the Prophets or…what was that guy’s name….Jesus?

The Pope Said:
“Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful…”
I say:
Ahhh, I have heard God compared to beauty, light, love, a Vine, peace–but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard God compared to gravity pulling a person down to the ground. It is a lovely image though.
Maybe this is along the lines of the story of Icarus. But I think that had to do with following wisdom and keeping a ‘Golden Mean’ more than a “flying is dangerous” fable.
Should we be ‘humble before God?’
But I would say that we should be humble before everyone. Like Icarus, we can listen to the great wisdom of our previous generations. We can listen to the perennial truths of the world’s religions. Those who are powerful and privileged can listen to the marginalized, the hurting, the oppressed.  

The Pope said that natural disasters remind us that we aren’t all-powerful.
Yup. That’s why we need technology to improve our alerting systems, our evacuation and rescue robotics and transports, our architecture so that it doesn’t fall on us, and our communications to streamline recovery and rescue operations.

The Pope Said
that if humanity wishes to have a closer relationship to God, humanity should “abandon the pride of wanting to become God…”
I say:
Does advancing technology have anything to do with ‘being like God?’
Even if one had great powers–equivalent of Tony Stark or Reed Richards–that does not at all encroach on the area of the ‘divine!’

Check it out. Who is close to the heart of God as depicted by Jesus? The poor. The destitute. The marginalized and politically voiceless. It seems that they would be “the least likely to own an iPhone!”

God is not about ‘ability.’
If God was ‘all-powerful’ and a petty jerk, that wouldn’t make God much of a God would it?
God is about love, goodness, beauty, truth, mercy, sacrifice, community, humility, service, justice…

Besides, it isn’t just technology that ‘enables’ and ’empowers’ folks.
Money does a bit of that too.
And I think there was once a poor Jew from Nazareth who spoke pretty fiercely about those who hoarded money, who had greedy hearts, who abused the poor.
But who would want to hear a homily calling the world’s governments, corporations, and rich to accountability for their greed and amassing of wealth? That’d be a bummer.

Happy Holy Week,
Ryan McGivern

One Laptop Per Child: