The young man’s parents brought him to the church for me to pray for him. When he walked in, I could see he looked quite defeated. I asked his parents what was wrong, and they said he was extremely suicidal. He was so depressed that he wouldn’t even come out of his bedroom to eat. They barely got him to the church. I took his face in my hands and forced him to look at me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I lost my phone.”
That’s all he said. I had to get his parents to explain the situation further. The young man was a fisherman, and he spent most of his days out in the South China Sea on his boat, but the week before, his boat sank and along with the boat, his phone had gone to the bottom of the sea. Apparently, all those days that he spent fishing, he also spent playing video games on his phone. He was so addicted to the video games that when he lost his phone; he went into a severe depression, stopped eating, and wanted to die.
After praying for him, I could ask him a few questions and I said, “what is your dream? What would you like to do with your life?”
He said I want to be a fisherman, but my boat is at the bottom of the sea and I have no phone, and now I can’t play my games. All he could think about was that he couldn’t play video games any more. To him, life without his media wasn’t worth living. In that moment, I realized we were in a battle like none we have ever been in before.
Lately, people have been talking about AI – Artificial Intelligence. People are afraid of artificial intelligence. They’re worried about computers dictating what we see and read.. And they are becoming fearful that we’re losing control to something we can’t stop. It seems like this has snuck up on us suddenly. But it hasn’t. It has been coming slow and steady.
About twenty years ago. I was visiting a friend. When I walked into their living room, I saw an infant, not quite three months old, with his crib placed only six inches from the television. Sponge Bob was playing on the screen. When the cartoon had finished, he fussed and cried until someone flipped the channel to another cartoon. Stunned, I watched the baby slowly become addicted to media. As a toddler, he was slow to speak and just barely made it through school.
Now he faces adulthood and struggles in relationships with family and friends. I recently spent the day with him and his family. His phone was always open to videos or games, even while we ate our dinner. His entire world is artificial. He relates to fake characters, invests his money in fake situations, and has no real life.
He wasn’t the only child I knew who had been babysat by television. I know others who grew up in the same situation. One has become addicted to pornography and the other to role-playing games. Some are so addicted they wear a diaper so they don’t have to leave the game, even to go to the toilet.
Only now, is there an abundance of research coming out, showing speech delay, cognitive development, and social skills, all influenced by the amount of media a child experiences. One study said this, “When all the confounding variables were adjusted, toddlers with more than 2 hours but less than 3 hours of TV watching time had around 2.7 times more risk of language delay than those with less than 1 hour, and those with more than 3 hours had about 3 times more risk. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365020/#:~:text=In this study, when all,about 3 times more risk.).
Emotional, social, and personal relationships are affected by too much media. It was no surprise to me that when I researched this recent phenomenon, that I discovered Prince George of the UK and his siblings are only allowed one hour of television a day. This includes video games. Why? Because it is artificial. They don’t want the future king to be influenced by something that isn’t real. My husband and I enforced rather severe restrictions of media for our son and daughter, that they both felt was unfair. However, just recently, they have each thanked me for those restrictions. They have seen the damage unrestrained media addiction can do and has done to their friends.
So how does this impact our world today and how do we, as Christians, address this situation? We are seeing the entrance of a new kingdom. The Kingdom of AI, artificial intelligence. Believe me, it may be called artificial, but it is far from that. It is a demonic stronghold that has attached itself to people from the affluent homes of the USA to the bamboo nipa huts in the Philippines. AI influenced children, and adults alike, are becoming suicidal, emotionless, uncontrollable, antisocial, violent, depressed, and filled with anxiety.
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” ESV
I have the opportunity to speak in many churches and I see adults and children playing games, checking their Facebook page, checking out the latest sporting event, or scrolling the news on their cell phones throughout the service. They seldom even look up when the music finishes and the pastor begins the message. Twenty years ago, this would have been unheard of, but unfortunately, today, it seems to be everywhere. This situation is quickly becoming critical, and only when we break this stronghold in ourselves can we take on the battle for someone else. Am I saying we can never use social media? No, on the contrary, we live in a worldwide culture immersed in media. What we need to do is use social media and guard against social media using us. We need to make AI kneel before the King of kings and submit to His authority.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Last, we need to humble ourselves and understand the nature of addiction. Addiction comes to everybody and looks for a place to live. It can sweep away older people and the young before they know it is even happening. Artificial Intelligence is the desire of the eyes. And, as the Apostle John puts it, because of this enticement, many are investing their lives with its desires (various forms of media), only to find themselves depressed and filled with anxiety.
1 John 2:16-17
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
But there is hope. All is not lost, and AI doesn’t have the last word. AI isn’t All Powerful. Only God is All Powerful, and God knows how to set the addicted free. AI can’t forgive sins, give eternal life, or break the stranglehold of addiction. AI has nothing to offer except a fake life and a fake world to live in. God gives abundant life, peace beyond understanding, and an eternity that is more real than the most graphic of video games