Recently, writer John Dyer moved from Texas to England to start a PhD program on digital Bible use. In the process, he was forced to give up a lot of technology we take for granted (like dryers and coffee makers). When he moved to his new home, he found himself wondering about “technology fasts” and Sabbath breaks from the internet.
What about the concept of “Sabbath” and “rest”? While fasting seems to be for the individual’s spiritual maturity, the Jewish Sabbath was and is very much a social activity. A Sabbath rest declares that the world can go on without me, but that I am still valuable to my community as a human being. The Sabbath is something the entire community does together, and the lack of work creates space for alternate social practices that deepen community and relational bonds.
Dyer realizes that line of thinking seems to go against the trend of some Christians (including myself) to give up Twitter or Facebook for Lent or taking a “Tech Sabbath” and avoiding those social networks for a period of time. Those services are designed to create community and, at least in some ways, do a pretty good job of it.
Certainly, rest can be experienced on an individual level, but for ideally a “Tech Sabbath” should be something shared within a group, a family structure, or a living arrangement.
When the Law was/is strictly enforced in the Jewish community, Sabbath observance is a big deal. Nehemiah closed the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath. When merchants even spent the night outside of the gates, he warned them, “If you do this again, I’ll have you arrested.” (Nehemiah 13: 19–20)
If we abstain from social connections for Sabbath rest, are we actually going against the spirit of community implicit in the observance of the Sabbath? It’s a point of view I had not considered before, but will certainly be giving more thought to in the coming year, as I consider the right level of technology my life and the lives of my family members.