IN THE first chapter of his book, Guy Brandon says: “this isn’t a book about the internet or technology. It is about power and how that impacts our freedom as Christians.”
The theme of power runs throughout this helpful guide to some of the current issues to be faced in living faithfully as Christians in our “always-on” internet-addicted culture. Brandon guides the reader through such topics as control, work and rest, identity, privacy and surveillance, and how they relate to use of the internet and social media.
Does the book live up to its subtitle, A biblical guide to reclaiming your virtual self? I found it very helpful in terms of reflecting on how I use social media, the hold that it has over me, and how that relates to my relationship with God; but I didn’t find that the biblical allusions particularly helped with this. There is a smattering of Bible references through the book — and some are more successful than others. It might have been helpful to explain in the introduction how the book would be a “biblical guide”, and address the tensions inherent in applying the Bible to something that is so alien to the cultures in which the Bible was formed.
Where Brandon is excellent is in telling personal anecdotes in his own grappling with technology as a Christian. This resonated well with me, and I should have liked to hear more of his direct voice. The book is very well researched and has an easy journalistic style.
Throughout, Brandon manages to present the reality of the ambiguity of digital technology. Christians constantly swing between thinking the internet and social media are a great boon and thinking that they are a great evil. As with any new technology, we have to live with this ambiguity (as in other areas of life). Brandon provides some lights along the way to help us navigate through the fog.
I would recommend this book to both technologically savvy Christians and those who feel that they know very little about the online world. It is an excellent description of some of the current challenges. I came away from reading it far more thoughtful about how I use technology and how, sometimes, technology uses me.
The title of the book is apt: it is about how we might be digitally re-mastered to walk more closely the way of Jesus.
About the Author
The Revd Bryony Taylor, assistant curate of St Michael and All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham diocese, is the author of Sharing Faith Using Social Media (Grove, 2016).