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Consider Laying Your Phone at the Altar

What if we actually did start eliminating smartphone use in our most important social institutions?
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If you’re a churchgoing person, do you check your phone during the sermon? Do you even bring it with you? Or when you’re having dinner with your spouse or a group of friends, is the draw to glance at the smartphone an almost irresistible temptation? It is for me. I’ve struggled with phone addiction since I was first introduced to my first smartphone at the age of seventeen, which I realize is way older than the average age kids get online today.

But what would it look like to have social spaces totally free of these persistently distracting and disruptive technologies? A new article by Jake Meador at the online journal Mere Orthodoxy asked this question. He poses it hypothetically, emphasizing that he’s not advocating for phone “bouncers” in the church foyer. Neither does he advocate shaming newcomers for having their phones on them. He simply wonders what a phoneless congregation might look like, and by extension, how our relationships writ large might be radically deepened and strengthened if we abandoned the smart phone at the door. Meador references a recent article from The Atlantic in which Jonathan Haidt advocates phone-free schools, citing the alarming decline of mental health among young people. Smartphones are largely to blame.

Phones weren’t allowed in my public school growing up, for which I’m now grateful. However, the last couple years of high school, the administrators allowed us to check our phones between classes. I don’t know what the policy is now, but I tend to agree with Haidt. Smartphones get in the way. Whether you’re trying to worship a God in your church community or solve a complex problem in high school calculus, the disruptive technologies of our age beckon us away from connection, learning, and meaning.


Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is a prolific fiction writer and has written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and is a contributing writer and editor for Mind Matters.

Consider Laying Your Phone at the Altar