Archeologists talk about the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Historians speak of the Age of Reason. But in what age are we now living? The Age of Reason certainly does not describe us. It’s time to coin a new term. 

Archeologists talk about the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Historians speak of the Age of Reason. But in what age are we now living? The Age of Reason certainly does not describe us. It’s time to coin a new term.


We’ve tried a few. We gave the “Age of the Automobile” a whirl, but it crashed. We tried out the “the Computer Age” — it failed to boot. We found the Atomic Age too scary and budget cuts have kept the Space Age from getting off the ground.


The writer Flannery O’Connor might have opted for the Age of Doubt. “We are now living,” she once remarked, “in an age which doubts both fact and value.” 


Still others claim that ours is the Age of Credulity. At first glance this would seem to contradict O’Connor. But the two views are not irreconcilable. As Emile Cammaerts (summarizing G. K. Chesterton) once pointed out: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.” Doubt and credulity are close cousins.


If I may suggest a title for our era, I think it should be: “The Age of Distraction.” Kevin Miller, writing in Christian Management Report, claims the average office worker gets 220 messages a day — in emails, memos, phone calls, interruptions and ads.


A 2009 Qwest Communications survey found that 46 percent of Americans cannot go more than one day without checking email. Since then things have become even more distracting. Over 2.5 billion text messages are now sent each day in the U.S.


Nurturing a spiritual life in the Age of Distraction is a challenge. When Michael Zigarelli, Associate Professor of Management at the Charleston Southern University School of Business, conducted a survey in 2007, he found that 4 out of 10 Christians around the world say they “often” or “always” rush from task to task, and 6 out of 10 say that busyness gets in the way of their spiritual life.


I was in a prayer meeting recently where we were asked to read aloud St. Paul’s words from 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge ... that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 


I had to wonder if any of us really want peaceful and quiet lives. The evidence is against it: we check our cell phones 200 times a day, send emails and texts, and constantly post on Facebook (even at work). Then we head home with the radio blasting, unless we’re on the phone, and turn the TV on the moment we walk through the door. 


Frederick Faber warned about this more than 150 years ago. He wrote: “God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.”


But we keep rushing around, afraid to be still; afraid that if we ever do get quiet we will not hear that voice. Or maybe we’re afraid that we will, and it will tell us something we don’t want to hear.


After John Ortberg accepted a position in a high-pressure, fast-moving church, he called a friend for spiritual direction. After listening to his situation, his wise friend said: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”


Ortberg said, “OK, I wrote that one down. Now what else is there?” 


His friend answered: “There is nothing else.”


I wonder if he was willing to take his friend’s advice. I wonder if we are.

 

Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Michigan. He can be reached at salooper@frontier.com.