Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of recommending iGods, a book that explores the history of some of our modern ubiquitous technology as well as its affect on our lives. The book’s author, Craig Detweiler, became head of Biola University’s Mass Communications department during my last year in the screenwriting program, and he continued to hold that position when I returned to the university as a staff member two years later (we have since both moved into new employment).
Though we never developed a relationship while we were both on the same campus, Craig always seemed approachable, and I always heard of his doing excellent work for the school. Given this Biola connection, I contacted him during Stronghold‘s release, and we have corresponded here and there since that time. Following my recommendation of iGods, I asked Craig to participate in 3LC’s ongoing “In God’s Image” series, and he took some time to share with thoughts on his work, his goals, and his faith.
1. Define yourself in one word (Disciple, Christian, American, Man, etc.)
2. Why do you choose that term?
My goal is be fully human (since only Jesus was also fully divine). If I can live into my humanity, then hopefully I will end up closer to who God’s created me to be.
3. In two sentences, tell us about your most recent book, iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives—what it is and for whom its intended.
iGods is an effort to push the pause button on our electronic devices long enough to think carefully about how they impact our everyday lives. It was written for every harried student, frustrated parent, and stressed out human struggling to keep up with all the texts, tweets, and updates that barrage us.
4. What led to the writing of iGods? Was it a specific event or was it a more general decision based on the culture?
I was looking for a book that offered a theology of technology, that would help me figure out what digital discipleship might look like. At the end of my search, I decided to craft my own response to Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
5. How has your writing and teaching required you to sacrifice?
You definitely lose a bit of sleep writing a book. I tend to write best when things are quiet in our home (between roughly 10pm and 2am). And of course, my family also pays the price when my brain is thinking about the book rather than about them. A book or a cell phone can easily become a distraction and even an idol.
6. What is your primary goal as an educator? What about as an author?
I love how Jesus ended so many of his stories by addressing them to people with eyes to see and ears to hear. My work as a filmmaker, teacher, and author aims to awaken the senses and broaden hearts and minds.
7. What is your largest hope for those you teach? What about for your readers?
I try to give them permission to become the people God created them to be. They often just need a little encouragement to love the things they’re already passionate about and pursue the dreams that they’ve held themselves back from pursuing. As a writer and teacher and filmmaker, I try to create the things I wish I’d heard or seen.
8. What are two key ways in which you believe iGods can benefit readers today?
I’m trying to offer a bit of perspective, to get us thinking about how code might be preconditioning us to act in way we hadn’t realized. For example, when Facebook encourages us to ‘update status’, aren’t we subconsciously upgrading our status—creating posts that make us look or sound better? And when Twitter invites us to attract followers, aren’t we actually turning our friends into our audience? In both cases, we are becoming performers, playing to a crowd. Such outer-directed behavior may push us away from the God-directed callings we’re meant to pursue.
9. How have you seen God’s goodness and faithfulness in your work with your current students at Pepperdine University? How about with your books?
As a college professor, I’ve seen how technology has accelerated anxiety and undercut students’ sense of rest. So I’ve tried to respond with a theology rooted in my current students’ context. What are their questions and what do they need? The response to iGods has been so much wider and far more enthusiastic than I expected. Evidently, the book really connects with challenges that people are grappling with. I even won an award from indie publishers as one of the best books on pop culture this year! iGods may not stand the test of time, but it is certainly timely today.
10. How can readers learn more about you and your work?