Sine Screenime (Latin: Without Screens)

Our whole lives are lived in front of screens today. I’m staring at one. So are you. We work, learn, even do medical care via screen today. Our kids look at nothing else. They wake up, spend hours in front of screens at school. Then spend hours playing on computers.

But I sense a backlash building. My kids don’t take anything on screens seriously. Screens are for games, or stories, or memes. And its becoming obvious that the schooling done on screens – even tough they are in person, they are still on computers way more than is healthy – is treated by them in the same way (and with the same authority) as memes or video games. That’s not how teachers want themselves to be considered, and the warning signs are there – GET OFF THE SCREENS!

That’s why the church must be without them. We are face to face with each other, and face to face in the presence of God (though hidden in preaching and the sacraments.)

I’ve been looking at prospective congregations for my son – a techy sort of guy, who spends a lot of time on computers. He is absolutely uninterested in any congregation with a screen. He won’t attend. Not even if its just to project words to a hymn or the bible readings. If you have a screen, he won’t be there.

And I suspect the same is true of a lot of kids today. Why don’t they want to go to church? Because you don’t take it seriously. They know that as soon as they see the screen.

I’ve written against them before. But now that they have become such a plague in our lives, I think the church needs to renounce their use. I think a legitimate evangelism tactic is to post on the sign outside “Worship without screens! Meet real people!” Or, in the language of church-sign theology, “Recharge by unplugging for an hour.”

I think this will be the new trend. Congregations that adopt it have a great opportunity to set themselves apart from all the other froopy “We’re as exciting as your favorite TV show, we promise!” congregations. I think those will begin to struggle more and more. After all, if screens are the same as in person, why even bother getting out of pajamas? I can sit and watch church without ever leaving my bed. Sleep in for an extra half-hour. Watch and doze, then get up for the Sunday morning coffee. And I don’t have to watch the terrible preacher I’ve been subjected to for the last XX years at my local congregteria. I can pick a really good preacher from anywhere in America.

Congregations with screens aren’t going to survive post-COVID trauma very well. Oh, they may have lots of members. But as one of the Willow Creek pastors noted after many years, “It doesn’t seem to produce committed Christians.”

Lose the screens.

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1 Response to Sine Screenime (Latin: Without Screens)

  1. I had the same attitude as your son when I was looking at prospective congregations. I was going to be moving and confirmed that there was a least one LCMS church that I was fairly certain would meet my minimum requirements. But I still went around to a half dozen LCMS churches in the area to check them all out. They all had one or more of what I would consider disqualifiers that you saw upon walking into the church, and a screen (or more usually screens) was one of those disqualifiers. For me, it starts with the screens just being ugly when I think churches should be striving for beauty. Looking like the common American living room or a sports bar with tv screens everywhere isn’t appealing. Then when they are turned on, even if only to display hymn lines or the readings, is distracting to me. I’m not seeing and participating in the liturgy if I am looking at the screen. And lastly, the problems never seem to end with the presence of screens. Each church that had screens had other issues that troubled me, including open communion (or at least not a clear adherence to closed communion), etc. I would go so far to say that if a church is seriously considering installing screens, it is heading in the wrong direction.

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