Technology is a vehicle, not a cause.

We, in our generation, live under a measure of threat seldom equaled in history.

Scientific technology moves at unbelievable speed with frightening momentum. Thoughtful persons are tempted to join the chorus of those who predict that moral values may perish from the earth.

The implications of this are sweeping. It would seem that those most concerned for the maintenance and incarnation of such qualities as love, compassion, honor, honesty, and justice may despair for the future. Such loss of Christian ideals would leave a sinful world in the morass of selfish lawlessness.

Those moral foundations we have assumed to be the permanent underlay of civilization appear to be eroded by forces seemingly both unpredictable and irresistible. This shaking of the spiritual underpinnings of society cannot leave the confidence of sensitive Christians unaffected.

It is significant that this erosion of the historical sources of moral reliance and religious hope has occurred with quickened tempo in an era of unparalleled technological achievement. Norman Cousins, in his volume Modern Man Is Obsolete, articulated the fears of many a generation ago: that the seemingly limitless and unrestrained effect of technology has signaled a loss of mankind’s struggle for values in competition with this technological advance. He noted that time is no longer on the side of the quest for spiritual resources to meet the new challenges presented by technology’s release of new forces. Some today frankly state that the standards and norms by which civilization has been maintained are doomed to eclipse and perhaps to a limbo with other lost causes.

Few will deny that technological discoveries have caught mankind unawares. Our generation has not been prepared for the manner in which new technology has left us all vulnerable—due to the vast possibilities for access to our actions and even our thoughts that man’s inventiveness has brought. It is, however, still timely to ask whether the growing pessimism with respect to the survival of moral and spiritual values in general, and Christian values in particular, may not tend to be self-fulfilling prophecy. If so, the Christian should find ways to make the voice of faith heard in ringing tones.

In a very real sense, technology has been made a whipping boy for collective frustration. It affords the doomsayers a convenient explanation for the destructive and menacing forces with which our age is confronted. Against this simplistic view, it should be noted that many of the powerful forces for the destruction of values in our time are only loosely, if at all, the results of technological development, and may be correctly identified as being cultural and social. At the risk of being myself simplistic and “single issue,” I wish to point out forces and movements that are not the result of scientific technology.

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Today’s commercial entertainment seems in large part designed to vulgarize public taste and to degrade both speech and manners. The deft engineering of a youth subculture, pioneered by the Beatles and borne along by a tiresome retinue of rock musical groups, has embodied lifestyles inimical to a value-oriented society.

We are slowly becoming aware of the deep and relentless onslaught by POPular music, including some of the so-called country music, upon civility, chastity, and sobriety. The emphasis upon sexual looseness and the supposed value of using mind-bending drugs can scarcely be regarded as anything less than a destruction of values—both Christian and human.

In short, the cumulative impact of the larger portion of today’s entertainment, especially that labeled “adult,” represents a direct assault upon moral and spiritual values in general, and upon Christian values in particular. And it can scarcely be maintained that these morally destructive forms of institutionalized vulgarity stem from technology.

This suggests that instead of mindlessly condemning technology, Christians should be giving larger attention to the social and cultural abuses that have made such a massive assault upon our value structures. There must be a place from which could be mounted a Christian counterattack upon the outpouring of filth into minds, especially of youth, of today.

Such value-destructive features as the drug scene, the broadcasting of pornography, and the wholesale exploitation of sex could have not arisen from sheer evil intent. They have moved into a vacuum in our society. The loss of parental authority and discipline, depriving young people of firm guidelines, has been partly responsible. Added to this, public education is either by choice or by force of law forbidden to inculcate moral values.

Such observations narrow the field within which technology may fairly be held responsible for the erosion of values. This does not mean no dehumanizing elements are involved in the processes of high technology. Instant information, disseminated on a “global village” scale, brings serious invasions of privacy—of the needed personal “space”—of multitudes. This in turn tends to invert values by compromising such elements as personal responsibility and personal dignity. Within that context, feelings of helplessness and futility flourish, with their inevitable erosion of feeling for values. This leads to the deeper conclusion that technology tends to create large and dangerous vacuum conditions, which do have a bearing upon the survival of moral and spiritual values.

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By vacuum conditions is meant an existence in which there are great emptinesses in multitudes of lives. Shortening the workweek, for example, leaves a time vacuum in which meaningless leisure creates a craving for equally empty forms of entertainment. More serious is the vacuum of meaning, producing a lowering of self-esteem, and worse, a loss of the basic stewardships that give worth to existence. Into this vacuum rushes a constellation of anti-value elements.

Perhaps there are elements here that ought to challenge all evangelicals, if not all Christians. One could be a warning against simplistic identification of technology as the sole culprit that threatens the continuance of moral and spiritual values.

It should also be borne in mind that such values are not self-propelling. They are incorporated in and perpetuated by persons who project them into society by consistent and contagious living—Christian living in particular. It is the individual Christian whose life insures the survival of these values.

Evangelicals will do well to avoid, consciously and scrupulously, being paralyzed by an unthinking acceptance of the doomsayers’ view of technology as the final executioner of Christian values. If Jesus Christ embodied in himself the whole constellation of values, he as the Eternal Son is and will be the ultimate Guarantor of the survival of these values of Christian faith.

HAROLD B. KUHNDr. Kuhn is professor of philosophy of religion, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.

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