Experiments

Righteousness in the Age of Technology

Standing near the bus stop on Common Street in New Orleans, I am watching an interaction between a tourist in cargo shorts and a man who hasn’t showered, it seems, in weeks. The unwashed man’s name is Mike.

Silver and gold have I none, says the tourist (okay, he phrases it differently), but (and here he jabs at his iPhone), there is a shelter just that way. Six blocks on the left. Can’t miss it.

The tourist gives a friendly wave, and turns into the French Quarter, still punching with a thumb at his iPhone. Maybe tweeting about the homeless guy he helped.

It reminds me of politics, really. Hey, here’s a road map. Just walk this road, and it’ll be better. Maybe “better” isn’t buried in those layers of hip architecture, or those piles of pages in .pdfs on my liberal MacBook. It’s just information. Information is nice. It’s good.

But as I look appraisingly at Mike, I’m not so sure it’s much use here. A map to the shelter might be a good thing.But here is a man who needs somebody to walk with him to the shelter, to lie down next to him in the hot stench of dereliction, to wake up and wash him.

There’s no app for that.

Mike stays where he is. He knows where the shelter is, and the pavement is too hot for his feet. He marks me for a local, and tells me frankly, “I need a drink.”

When he looks at me with those watery blue eyes, and I look back, and he looks away, I’m tempted to buy him one.

Riparian Church is a blog that grew out of conversations with evangelicals, atheists, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians about the nature of faith and thinking in this age. It’s maintained by The Otter, a PhD, father, husband, musician, writer, teacher and dog-trainer living two blocks from the Mississippi River. Visit the blog here .

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Issue 20, Winter 2010

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