Monday, October 20, 2014

Speed Worship, and the Endless Desire Where There Is No Need

Foggy morning on the River Raisin
So many books, so little time to read them. 

I just added Columbia University religion professor Mark Taylor's new book to my amazon wish list - Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left. I was pointed to this book by Taylor's essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education - "Speed Kills: Fast Is Never Fast Enough." Taylor's essay is a nice complement to another book I'm currently reading - Slow Church: Cultivating Community In the Patient Way of Jesus

I like slow. Slow living increases productivity. Speed living kills the soul. I'm doing some "slow" today and experiencing life. All that's missing is some succulent Slow's BBQ, whose owners understand there are certain things in life that should not be microwaved. 

Our culture is obsessed with speed. The idea that speedy technology would give us more leisure time was an illusion. Many are trapped within the prisons of their quick-gadgets. Taylor writes: "Contrary to expectation, the technologies that were supposed to liberate us now enslave us, networks that were supposed to unite us now divide us, and technologies that were supposed to save time leave us no time for ourselves."

Social status used to be measured by how little a person works; now it is measured by how much a person works. "If you are not constantly connected, you are unimportant; if you willingly unplug to recuperate, play, or even do nothing, you become an expendable slacker."

The worship of fastness has created its own value system. "Good" is understood by words like individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. The Speed Regime has repressed values like sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. Taylor argues that we must recover these repressed values to avoid a psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdown.

"Speed," writes Taylor, "has limits. As acceleration accelerates, individuals, societies, economies, and even the environment approach meltdown. We have been conned into worshiping speed by an economic system that creates endless desire where there is no need."

There's a lot of helpful analysis in Taylor's essay. All who are concerned that the American Church has been seduced into the Babylonian Captivity of Speed should take note. By the rivers of this Babylon we've laid our instruments down, not because we have no songs to sing, but because we have no time to sing them.