Texting and discipleship

Another example of the “log and speck” problem highlighted by Jesus.

By John Chandler

An extensive Expedia “Road Rage” survey this past spring revealed that seven of 10 American drivers rate their fellow drivers who are texting, emailing or talking while driving as among the most irritating motorists on the road. What bothers us the most?

• The Texter (texts, emails or talks on phone while driving) — 69 percent

• The Tailgater (follows others far too closely) — 60 percent

• The Multitasker (applies makeup, eats, reads, etc.) — 54 percent

• The Drifter (straddles two lanes or weaves between) — 43 percent

• The Crawler (drives well below the speed limit) — 39 percent.  (This one is my personal pet peeves. What part of “slower traffic keep right” don’t people understand?)

What comes to mind are not only the many costs of “continuous partial attention” on the road, but also the idea that these categories may serve loosely as metaphors for the temptations and compromises to discipleship that mar the American church.

When pastors lament the shortcomings of congregants, we most often hear complaints about the “texters and multitaskers” whose overcrowded lives leave little room for contemplation or deep investment in community. Sometimes the problem is “tailgaters” who occupy so much of the pastor’s time that it is difficult to attend to the larger work of the congregation.

On the other hand, the complaints of the congregation about the pastor trend toward the leadership equivalent of the “drifter,” who can’t or won’t cast decisive vision for the direction of the church, or the “crawler” who isn’t moving quickly enough toward whatever it is the complainer wants the pastor to get done.

A recent letter to the editor in my local Charlottesville newspaper complained that “Crawlers” were making him late for work on his morning commute. This brought to mind the old George Carlin observation that when we are driving, everyone who drives too slowly for our liking is an “idiot,” whereas everyone who is speeding too rapidly for us is dubbed a “maniac.”

Which brings me to the point of the metaphor: not only is almost everyone annoyed with the discipleship (or driving) habits of others, but we may just be guilty of the old “log and speck” problem highlighted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Even as we are irritated by the behaviors of others on the road, 55 percent of us admit to the same habits. The other 45 percent of us are lying.

I promise that the next time a crawler impedes my progress, I will not tweet it. I also promise that my next look at the discipleship shortcomings of another will prompt a good look in the mirror.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.