We live in a technological world where everyone and everything is trying to grab our attention. It can drive us crazy, but we don’t have to accept it or put up with it.
Every app on your smartphone demands your attention and will notify you about all sorts of things, often distracting you from what you’re doing or important conversations you might be having. They’re designed to do this, to keep themselves at the forefront of your mind, to take you away from far more important things.
Default notification settings can increasingly irritate you and those around you.
Quality time you might be having with a loved one, or a person in need of your full attention, is far more deserving of your time and attention than the fact that someone might have laughed (or groaned) at your joke on Facebook or your opinion on Twitter.
All notifications can be turned off individually, and doing this can substantially improve your quality of life. For example, I choose when I check Facebook to see who has replied to me, rather than being disturbed all the time. I take control of my smartphone, instead of my smartphone controlling me.
Every time you get a notification, ask yourself if you actually needed it at that precise moment. If not, mute it in future.
You can also set the [Do Not Disturb] feature, so that even those notifications you do want during the day don’t disturb you at night. Technology is a truly wonderful thing, but can also be very intrusive.
Are you getting too many noisy notifications? The means to control them is in your own hands.
Whataboutery annoys me. It’s when someone responds to criticism, or an opposing view, by accusing someone else of similar or worse faults. Whataboutery is a shallow way of diverting attention away from yourself (often, but not always) when criticised. Irritating in children and pathetic in adults. You find it everywhere, in Facebook conversations, in politics, and in media interviews etc.
Often it’s simply trying to change the subject, at other times it’s trying to start a diversionary argument when the truth becomes too hot to handle. I think sometimes it comes out of instinct, a learned response, especially since it’s so prevalent today, not least in news media.
Equally, whataboutery is nothing new, it’s been around as long as humans have. In the third chapter of the first book of the Bible, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake! Genesis 3
When the Risen Jesus challenged Peter to follow him despite all the challenges, Peter pointed to another disciple and said, ‘Lord, what about him?’ John 21:21
But the Bible passage I have in mind is John 4:1-42, read it now and look for examples of whataboutery.
In this reading from John’s Gospel we see an act of kindness with enormous consequences, the fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman even began a conversation. For centuries Jews and Samaritans had been hostile to one another. The safest way to live together was to keep their distance, live in their own little world and not notice the other’s presence.
Most people would have considered Jesus to have been very brave, or very foolish, to have been in Samaritan territory at all. And to stop at a well was double trouble, because that was where the women came to draw water, and in a society where the sexes were carefully separated it wasn’t the place for a man and woman to be found on their own.
The modern equivalent of a well is the water cooler, an opportunity for conversation. But far from getting off to a good start, it looks like the conversation will get bogged down in whataboutery, misunderstanding, and cross purposes.
I’m not going to go over what you can read for yourself, but a careful reading and re-reading of the passage will pay dividends.
You’ll notice how Jesus wisely refuses to become engaged in an argument, and how often we fail in this respect when we want to score points on social media, for example. He doesn’t take the opportunity to reinforce a partisan position, but rather he proposes that the true worship that God desires is worship in spirit and truth, not dependent on any particular place or shrine. He keeps a level head.
The story is about evangelism, and how it can start with a simple encounter and a conversation that broke down prejudices, and allowing entry into a new world shaped by God.
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”John 4:11-14
Here is the universal longing of the human condition, that our spiritually emptiness might be filled, and this thirst is something Jesus satisfies. Here is God’s continuing presence with his people, and he nourishes us day by day in our journey of faith.
Jesus said, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6), but he also demonstrated the perfect example in his response to whataboutery.
Note: This Sunday (21 February 2021) is the first Sunday in Lent. I’ve not mentioned Lent in this devotional, but you can click here for one of today’s Lectionary readings and find out more here.