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Texting, Driving, and Cultural Languages

September 29th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 4: 20-22 (NLT)

20 My child, pay attention to what I say.
      Listen carefully to my words.
 21 Don’t lose sight of them.
      Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
 22 for they bring life to those who find them,
      and healing to their whole body.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Every society has a language– a chief form of communication that connects the constituents of a culture.  Languages can be conventional in nature, such as English or Spanish.  When in the United States, if a person speaks one or both of these languages, then it is likely that they will be at least semi-successful in communicating simple ideas and phrases.  Someone who strictly speaks Swahili and nothing else would find it more than difficult to navigate their way through the Southeastern United States. Swahili?!  Shoot, boy!  I ain’t never been to Switzerland!

But language can mean more than just . . . well, language.  It can also refer to various forms of communication.  Every culture throughout the course of history has had methods to transfer messages or ideas between individuals.  For ancient cultures, the spoken word was most important. There are literally thousands of civilizations that no longer exist today of which we know very little information about.  Why?  Because their main cultural “language” was oral tradition.  In other words, once no one was left to tell what they were all about, their story was lost forever.  After the invention of the printing press, writing became a key “language” of society.  The mass publication of books, periodicals, and records have insured that information about modern society will be much harder to lose.

Fast forward to where we are today and we discover that one particular “language” has risen to the top as a phenomenon of epic, if not tragic, proportions.  That new language of our society is texting.

Now I know that it will make me sound old, but the story must be told.  I can remember when texting was first offered on our phones.  Honestly, I thought that it was a completely idiotic idea.  In my mind, texting was like reverse technology.  It was like we were moving backwards.  History had taken us from completely oral societies– to cultures where things were written and read– to the advent of the printing press– to a time when messages were transmitted over telegraphs– to the age of radio, television, and telephones– to the current time when almost every member of society owns a personal cell phone and can talk to other people all over the world at the push of a button.  

The invention and perfection of the telephone still stands as possibly the most significant advancement in personal communication in all of history.  Just imagine: you could now talk to someone who was miles away just by speaking into the receiver.  It may not seem like a big deal to us now, but the telephone changed the face of our world’s communication culture.  It was the ultimate change in language.

To me, texting felt like we were moving back in time.  Telegraphs allowed us to transmit information without speaking . . . now, we wanted to stop actually talking to each other and go back to just transmitting messages again.  Texting seemed like a modern form of the telegraph.  I mocked texting as archaic and completely backwards.  

Apparently, society didn’t really care what I thought.  Apparently, I didn’t care what I thought!  Now, I text so many times daily that I really can’t keep up with it.  Texting, much to my surprise, has a thousand practical usages and has become a key “language” for millions across the world.  Yeah, I may have been wrong about the whole texting thing.  Imagine that.

This new language is so widely spoken that people can’t seem to stop texting, even when they are driving.  A recent British study has shown that individuals who drive and text at the same time are actually much more impaired than those who are intoxicated.  That’s right: texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving!  Soon, police will be passing out DUI’s and DWT’s (Driving While Texting.)  

Just watch as you ride in a car (not as you drive) and count the number of drivers you see who are texting.  It’s absolutely terrifying.  Texting has even been blamed for a tragic train collision in Los Angeles that killed twenty-five people.  Authorities have determined that the conductor was texting at the time of the crash.

The issue is that texting requires one to take at least one of their hands off the wheel, as well as their eyes off of the road.  It’s an issue of paying attention.  Sounds so simple, right?  Yet the problem persists.  In fact, almost twenty percent of Americans admitted to texting and driving in a 2007 survey.  I have a feeling that if you’re reading this, you’re probably personally aware that, in reality, that number could be much higher.  

Why do we do it?  Because we want to have head-on collisions?  Is it because we enjoy being unsafe and endangering our lives and the lives of our loved ones?  No, it’s simply because texting has become the language of our culture and it’s difficult for us to stop speaking it long enough to navigate a vehicle.  We just don’t pay attention.

This passage is about “paying attention.”  Solomon says to not “lose sight” of wisdom.  In other words, it’s easy to take our eyes off the road because we are too busy speaking the language of our culture. I’m not talking about texting; I’m speaking of the multiplicity of cultural things that so easily distract us from God’s wisdom. 

The key to avoiding spiritual head-on collisions isn’t navigating one’s life with perfection; it’s really more about putting the vehicle of our relationship with God ahead of the culture.  We each personally hold the steering wheels of our lives.  Speaking the language of our culture isn’t wrong, but it can become detrimental if the things of this world cause us to stop paying attention to the spiritual road we are on.  In other words, we must know when to stop texting and concentrate on driving.

This life with Jesus isn’t about avoiding culture; it’s about prioritizing Jesus above all else.  This will allow us to speak to the culture instead of just speaking within it.  At the point that we are willing to put this “drive” with our Savior ahead of all else, His words will “penetrate deep into our hearts,” bringing “life” and “healing.”  

Now that’s a language I’d like to learn how to speak.  Well, TTYL!





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