PART II: The Tower of Babel and the Mobile Phone

Pieter Bruegel the Elder Dutch painter, mid 1500s

The cause for the Tower of Babel and the cause for the explosion of the mobile phone, though at least 4000 years apart have a lot in common. 

Genesis 11:1-5,8

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. …And the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”

Why was God against building the Tower of Babel? The two reasons are hinted at in verse 4.

  1. to make a name for themselves (a love of praise), and
  2. so they are not spread out over the whole earth, (a love of security).

In Part I of this blog series, we discussed God’s first concern both about the tower of Babel and how I that relates to the mobile phone. In this Part II of “The Tower of Babel and the Mobile Phone,” we’ll look at the issue of how the mobile phone can give us a false sense of security.

new study from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Jonathan Klick, along with

 colleagues at Penn and George Mason University, speculates that a one-third drop in crime rates in the 1990s might be due to cellphones providing a deterrent for criminals.

“Mobile phones allow for quicker reporting of crimes, and, in some cases, real time communication of details about the crime and the criminal,” the authors write in the study. “The perceived risk of apprehension could increase among motivated offenders when they notice potential targets are carrying a mobile phone. As technology has improved to allow the transmission of photographic images, identification, apprehension, prosecution, and conviction all presumably become even more likely.”

There are numerous instances today when our smartphones help us catch a perpetrator. During the London riots, young men assaulted a student who was riding his bike through the crowd. The incident was captured on the smartphone camera of someone watching and the men were prosecuted.

However, there is also a downside to the use of cellphones.

Officer Gordon Shy, media relations unit of the San Francisco Police Department, tells Mashable they don’t have any data about whether cellphones deterred crime in the 90s, but said today cellphone muggings are “an epidemic nationwide.”

From January 2012 through Nov. 30, 2012, there were approximately 1,732 cellphone related thefts reported in San Francisco out of a total of 3,487 robberies — making 50% of all robberies cellphone related.

And in another study the authors concluded; “Especially for women, cell phones offer a sense of security that may make them more willing to put themselves in risky situations,” Nasar said.

Another article concluded that there are 5 top reasons why the mobile phone makes us feel safer:

  1. Make calls
  2. Find out where you are
  3. Light your way
  4. Alerts us of emergencies
  5. Reduces crime

So how can this be a “bad” thing… security is good, right?

First it is a false security because as noted here:

  1. We tend to be less aware of our surroundings when using the phone.
  2. The expensive smart phones are attractive theft items.
  3. The use of the mobile phone can lead to less relational involvement.

Most importantly though, real security, can only be found in the arms of Jesus.

John 10:28-30

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

And according to the Psalmist;

Psalm 4:8

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Do you feel like your cellphone is keeping you secure or giving you a false sense of security? How can we establish a healthy routine in a society that lives and breathes on mobile devices? In Part III of this blog series “The Tower of Babel and the Mobile Phone,” I’ll talk about what’s so good about the mobile phone!

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