This post will set the tone for the next two years of my life.
But first, I have to say how much I appreciate the team over at threadsmedia.com. They are doing a great ministry over there, trying to be honest about faith and life and trying to sort out what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. They’ve let me play in their sandbox as an almost “adjunct” team member going to (some) team meeting and posting my thoughts on the blog. I always want to add to the conversation and add to their ministry, never detract from it. And that’s why I’m OK with this:
A blog post of mine was recently taken down.
The official reason is that it was off-topic from the direction the blog has been heading. I’m ok with that. The post (which we’ll get to in a few lines) was definitely an experiment and, honestly, not my best work. It is more the kernel of an idea… the thoughts that I’m struggling with right now.
The intent of the blog at threadsmedia is to talk about our reactions to things that happen in life. My post was my reaction to something I read that really hit home with me and I thought would be a great way to open up a new conversation for the readership of threadsmedia to discuss.
Ironically, I did not put the post on this blog for two reasons:
1) I wanted to start diversifying my writing between what goes on here, threads, and my readingthebible blog.
2) The post was written with the threads audience in mind, introducing them to my struggles in life with a topic that most people who know me personally (i.e. the readership of this blog) probably already know.
Without further ado, the lost post of Aaron on threadsmedia.com:*** May I talk about Robots? It was recently announced by Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp and Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle that, starting in September, there will be a congressional caucus to learn about robots. This… could be big. As robots get more and more pervasive in society, it’s important that we begin to try and figure out what the ethics and morals are for them. Eventually, their artificial intelligence will match/exceed our own. As robots move past being our vacuum cleaners or pets and become integrated into society, life as we know it will quickly change.So, now that the American government is waking up to the realization that there is something to discuss here, shouldn’t we as the church begin to sort out our thoughts? What happens to us, morally, if someone write some bit of code that gives robots true feelings? Are we morally obligated to them? What happens when some software is finally written that doesn’t need to be rebooted and can stay on forever, learning and thinking… do we have a right to take out its batteries? Are we to hold true to Asimov’s three laws… or does that essentially make these robots little more than slaves? I don’t have any kind of answer for any of this yet. But I want to explore it. Shouldn’t the church and all our visionaries begin to enter this conversation? Is this something that we need to be involved in, or do we trust that this is some subject the government can handle on it’s own? How do we as Christians begin to work through our morals and spirits to something so absent of life yet so full of potential? ***
So… it’s not my best work nor is it a fully-realized document at all. To me, the ideas presented there are more like saying “hey, there’s a thing called an iceberg” moreso than studying what’s a mile or two deep into the iceberg… let alone 100 miles deep.
This conversation, however, is so far off the norm for typical spiritual conversation that it looks odd and out of place on the threadsmedia blog. Like I said – I’m not at all upset, wounded, or disappointed with the choice to take it down. I get it. I understand the reasons and fully support it. I’ll keep on writing for the blog and be honored and amazed that they even let me have a login.
My struggle is coming down the line, though. I’ll be seeking people to have these kinds of conversations with and I’m not sure where to have them. I’m genuinely concerned for the Church of America that is blind to what’s happening around us in regards to science, biology, culture and, well, the future.
And so, this August, I will begin working through the University of Houston’s Studies of the Future Master’s Program under the tutelage of Dr. Peter Bishop. I hope to join the conversation of contemporary futurists and help shape culture there. I hope there’s a place for me in the conversation of the Church to figure out how we are to react to changes in culture that are coming. I pray that I’ll still be loved an accepted by my Southern Baptist brethren as my words and ideas might be new.
I know that there are struggles coming for me. It’s going to be hard to walk the line between being informative and helping change lives with my studies and not sounding like an eccentric sci-fi author. Taking this new knowledge and translating it into some kind of text or study will have to be prompted by the Holy Spirit because I don’t know how to approach it.
I want to talk about synthetic life and what it means for Creation. I want to talk about gay bomb warfare and what it means for sexuality. I want to talk turning off DNA, installing auditory nerve implants and I want to talk about whether or not turning off robots is morally ok for a Christ-follower.
I’m excited to start the futurist program at UH as it will give me an opportunity to have these conversations and, just maybe, gleam some insight as to what it means for us spiritually. Maybe one day God will grant me some nugget of wisdom worth imparting so some listening audience, somewhere. And perhaps, just by chance, I might get to talk about robots.
One of my best friends, James, got engaged earlier tonight. I’m excited for him and his soon-to-be-bride and all the memories that life together will bring them. As a friend I get to share in their joy and be happy for them; they found the one they want to spend this life with. In that same breath, I remember being in college and James and I being jealous as our friends married off and found some woman to love on. We wanted so desperately to love and be loved. We wanted a “successful” relationship.
Now, just a couple years later and very happily married, I have learned a little something about relationships:
Every relationship can be a success. Every relationship should be a success.
As a young Christian growing up in youth group, I automatically assumed that every relationship was supposed to end in marriage. I would think that if I dated a girl and wasn’t thinking about a ring then I was wronging her and dishonoring myself. My perspective, and the goal or a relationship was wrong.
Every relationship can be a success; every relationship should be a success. I all depends on what you define as a success. My definition now?
Success in a relationship is determined by one little thing: Did I answer the question?
We befriend someone to answer the question: Should I date this person?
Now, that’s not to say the only reason we befriend someone is to figure out whether or not we should date them… instead, that before we decide “I want to date this person” we should at least befriend them. We should know some basics – do they have the same beliefs as me? Do we get along? Am I attracted to this person? Can I control myself around them? Do they let me be me?
If something happens here, if you aren’t compatible – it’s ok. We obviously shouldn’t be trying to date all of our friends – people perceive that as just being creepy and/or desperate. But look – if you decide that this person is not for you your time wasn’t wasted; it was a success! You answered the question and you are both wiser for it; and hopefully, you have a new, real friend.
If you do decide to date them… then you’re still successful! You answered the question. But after that success comes and even more important question…
We date to answer the question: Should I be in a relationship with this person?
So we’ve gotten the basics out of the way. You know you like each other, you get excited when they call and their sneezes sound cute. But now you’re asking something a little more serious. Being in a relationship is tying yourself to someone else. You begin to see them through rose-colored glasses. Because you want them to be right for you, because you want your time investment to be worthwhile, it’s easy to amplify the positive and pardon the real issues that are there. There are so many important things to still be discovered… do your friends like each other? Do your parents/mentors/guardians approve? Do your moral values line up? Is it comfortable to pray together?
If along the way you decide that no, I shouldn’t be in a relationship with this person that’s ok. It’s still successful because you answered the question. You were just dating, right? It wasn’t a commitment and hearts don’t have to be shattered. But if you answer the question and decide that yes – this is someone I want to be in a relationship with…
We are in a relationship to answer the question: Should I marry this person?
One of the most important decisions you will make in your life; is this the person I should marry? How do you even begin to decide this?
If you never had a clear answer on whether or not you should date this person, if you never had a clear answer on whether or not you should be in a relationship with this person… the ideas and thoughts in your heads are going to be so muddy that you won’t be able to answer this question clearly.
The relationship was a success if you answered the question “no” and ended the relationship. The problems come when the answer should have been “no” but you never decided the answer… or tricked yourself into thinking the answer was yes.
What makes you decide, “should I marry this person”? I think it’s different for everyone; you have to know what priorities are. If one of the pair has been called to international service work but the other doesn’t want to ever leave the country… there might be a problem there. If the girl has always dreamed of being a mom but the man can’t stand the idea of children… there might be a problem. Those are just surface issues.
Perhaps even better are the opposite questions: why should I marry this person? Can we do ministry together? Does he make you smile in the morning? Do your friends see the love you two share? Does she make you want to be a better man?
And if the answer is no; if you decide somewhere that you shouldn’t be married to this person… then the relationship is still a success. Why? Because you answered the question. Yes, it will hurt and your heart will be broken. But you answered the question and – ultimately – you can look back on the relationship as a success.
The goal isn’t to be married; the goal is to discover who you should be married to. Once you find that, the rest is easy.
Congratulations, James and Heather. I’m glad that each step along the way you answered the question. I’m honored that I got to pray with you and can’t wait for you two to discover all the joys, struggles, smiles and tears that marriage will bring. I’m excited that you discovered who you should be married to; I’m glad you had the courage to ask and I’m she already knew she’d said yes.