Not long ago I had to decide—new cell phone, no cell phone; smart phone, plain phone.  The cell phone that had served me through sheep corals and pig chases, fence building and double digging had come to its end.  I could no longer see the numbers to dial and the phone started to die without reason.  Worst of all, the phone started dialing friends at odd hours—on its own.  So I had to decide.

Christian faith and technology

Where your treasure is there is your heart. Does tech own U? (montage: J Fowler)

Getting rid of the cell phone all together crossed my mind.  I never really liked transitioning to a cell phone in the first place, but I made the switch because I was being bad at both customer service and friendship without one.  That reality is still in place and so though I would love to ditch the phone all together I can’t really go back.  I haven’t had a land line for years anyhow, and too many people have my cell number.

So the decision is really, which cell phone should I choose?  I was due, over due, for a “free” “upgrade.”  I went to the online store of my provider to see what the options were.  Smart phone after smart phone—phones on which I could Tweet and Facebook and YouTube every spare moment away, phones I could text on without clicking through three letters until I get the one I need—all with their attendant data and text plans.

I decided none of the above.  I found the most basic free phone I could—one that could make calls, text with difficulty, and maybe survive my abuse.  In making this choice I was choosing much more than a cell phone—I was choosing a different form of life.  I was choosing limits and with those limits, freedom and simplicity.

In this age of “limitless possibilities” we must make more decisions, however arbitrary, to not follow all of those possibilities.  We must decide against the on-buttons and plugs.  It is the decision to buy a simple cell phone or no cell phone at all, to bike rather than drive or walk rather than bike, to go without internet access at home or to go without Facebook.  These aren’t moral choices, but they are choices that make a difference.  These are the choices that make us holy—set apart from the empire of limitless productivity and desire.

Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield (M.Div. Virginia Theological Seminary) is ordained in the Episcopal Church and serves a parish in his native Arkansas. is the author of 'This is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit and Deeper Faith', 'Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us',and the small collection of essays 'Farming as a Spiritual Discipline'. Ragan works to live the good life in partnership with his wife Emily and daughters Lillian and Lucia.

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