3 Trojan horses that are threatening our relationships

April 8, 2015

After a fruitless ten-year war against the city of Troy, the Greeks came up with a strategy to secure their place in the annals of history. They constructed a massive horse designed to hide an elite force of their best fighters. The rest of the Greek army sailed off into the sunset, leaving their enemies to believe that they had given up the fight. Relieved that the conflict was finally over and assuming that the giant horse was an offering to the god Athena, the Trojans wheeled the beast into the fortified walls of their city.

Night fell, and the Greek special forces climbed out of their hiding place and unlocked the gates for their fellow soldiers who had returned under the cloak of darkness. Troy was destroyed. The war ended. The Greeks won.

No, this blog hasn’t taken a hard right turn into the subject of ancient mythology. This is a post about loneliness. And to tackle that big subject, we need to revisit the Trojan horse, because too many of us have pulled our own version of that horse into the gates of our lives.

For our purposes, a Trojan horse is simply this: Something we invite into our lives thinking it’s a gift, but in time, it turns and attacks the things we most treasure. Here are three Trojan horses that are attacking the depth and quality of our relationships, leaving many of us disconnected in a connected world.

Trojan horse #1: Technology

If we are going to be honest about the ways loneliness rears its ugly head in our modern lives, we must take a hard look at technology. Don’t worry, there will be no witch hunts for your iStuff. I won’t propose a ceremonial burning of everything with an on/off switch or suggest that if we all moved to a TV-free hippie commune, then loneliness would cease to exist in our lives.

The reality is that technology is both a cause of loneliness and a false cure. It’s impacting our relationships, and the impact overall isn’t good. But technology is here to stay (it’s how you’re reading this post!). Over-romanticizing life without a screen won’t scratch our itch to be known. Instead, the answer is to rethink the difference between authentic human connection and connection to the virtual world.

When I’m not writing about technology’s role in our relationships, I largely consider the media consumption habits of others to be none of my business, but I have marveled at the consistency with which others feel the need to defend themselves in this area. The fact that we are all so testy about our media usage should throw up a red flag or two. The truth is, we’re all addicted, and our denial about this fact isn’t doing us much good.

Here are the hard facts:

What is the result of being constantly plugged in? More than half of us admit we find it difficult to make friends in “real life” compared with online. “Skin-hunger” is a real condition that is growing like wildfire. Think of skin hunger as the adult version of failure to thrive. For the first time in history, deep, devastating loneliness is making young people as lonely as the elderly, the group typically seen as the loneliest among us. Despite the fact that most young people have an average of 243 Facebook friends, it’s not translating into real-life friendships. Researchers theorize we are spending so much time online that we no longer have time to go out with our non-Facebook friends.

It’s time that we all get real about the opportunity cost of so much clicking. What aren’t we doing by spending time on Facebook, Words with Friends, Internet news, Twitter, email and watching television?

Society, as a whole, has chosen its side of the fence. The masses will continue to worship technology and work toward faster and faster pings. While technology can be used for much good, if you want to be truly connected with others, you will have to break away from the pack.

Trojan horse #2: Convenience

If we were to build an altar to our worship of convenience, I think it might be sponsored by Google.

Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine life without Google. What would you do if you needed to know how to make a pie crust? You would have to call your momma. What if some new friends from church invited you over for dinner? How would you know how to get there? You would pick up a phone and ask. What if you wanted to learn how to garden, or how to build a treehouse, or how to paint with watercolors? You would have to take a class, ask an expert, or at the very least, enter a bookstore. You would be unable to learn how to do things by watching a YouTube video or reading an answer from Ask.com. Human contact would be required to solve basic, everyday problems.

Instead, we, as a society, have removed the need for connection. Our iPhones know everything, so there’s no need to ask questions of others. But what if convenience isn’t as great as we all think it is? Is it possible that inconvenience is the real sweet spot?

As I read the Gospels, one fact is undeniable to me—Jesus valued people. Over and over, he allowed himself to be stopped, inconvenienced, and used by the people around him. There is a lesson to be learned here. Valuing people means adopting an overt willingness to be inconvenienced. It means doing things that cannot be measured. It means developing relationships based on who people really are and not who we want them to be.

Trojan horse #3: Busyness

This idol may not look like a giant horse. It’s more likely to resemble your job or your church or your kid’s sports schedule. But I am convinced that in the war for true connectedness, the Trojan horse sitting outside our gates that poses the biggest threat is busyness.

Here’s a look at just how big this idol has become:

Yep, we are a busy bunch, and our breakneck pace is hitting us where it hurts. One study found that 60 percent of Christians around the world feel that their hectic schedule prevents them from spending more time with God. That trend is also reflected in our relationships with others. The simple truth is this: The roots of our relationships cannot grow deep when we don’t have time for true, meaningful connection off the clock.

Sending the Trojan horse back

Allow me to rewrite history for a moment. After a 10 year war, the Greeks retreat with no warning and leave a giant wooden horse in their place. The Trojans have a moment of clarity and realize this doesn’t make sense. The small team of Greeks is easily defeated once exposed. Troy wins.

You can revise your own story, too. You don’t have to keep pace with the rest of the world. As a Christian, God deserves the firstfruits of your time and energy, not another excuse about why there is no time left to know and be known. As a parent, your children deserve to have the best of you, not the scraps left over by a bulging schedule. As someone with only one life to live, you deserve to know that rich relationships are possible. The world will keep on spinning. Our iStuff will keep on beeping. The offers to go and do and be will keep coming, but a peaceful life full of deep relationships is possible, and it’s worth fighting for.

Erin Davis

Erin is a speaker, author and blogger who addresses women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s Truth with others. She is the mother of three boys and the author of 13 books which can be found on her website. Erin lives on a small farm in rural Missouri and … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24