How the Devil has Created an “i-Culture”

Another frequent temptation that has gained speed in our modern world is how the devil has convinced us that everything is “mine.”

This is how Screwtape describes the devil’s devious plan:

You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption “My time is my own.” Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties….

We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different sense of the possessive pronouns-the finely graded differences that run from “my boots” through “my dog,” “my servant,” “my wife,” “my father,” “my master,” and “my country,” to “my God.” They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of “my boots,” the “my” of ownership….

And all the time the joke is that the word “Mine” in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. (Screwtape Letters, 113-114, emphasis added)

In our culture, this sense that everything is “mine” can even be seen in the way we name the technology we use. We all have “iPhones,” “iPads,” “iPods,” and each of these devices are geared at serving only one person: the “i.” We are not encouraged to share these gadgets with others; instead each member of the family is to possess their own and many dinner tables are witnesses of everyone looking down at their phones instead of talking to each other.

Additionally, we take “selfies” with our “iPhones,” which are meant to capture an individual in a specific setting. The focus is not so much the people or event that is taking place, but the “self” that is taking the picture.

The devil has successfully won over our culture and we don’t even notice it. We forget that everything is a gift from God.

One example of the Church’s teaching that everything is a gift from God comes in relation to our view of the poor. Saint Ambrose once said, “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.” All that we have is from God and it is meant to be shared with others. Whatever it may be, whether it is our time, money, or possessions; all is gift.

Also, we are designed to image the Holy Trinity and live in relation with others. We are not meant to only serve ourselves, but to serve others. This impacts the way we use our time, money or possessions and helps us to realize the proper way to use them.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s life was a great example of this simple truth. He did not believe that anything he had was due to him, but was only given to him to better serve those around him. In fact, the only person who is due anything is God. We owe Him everything.

Let us remember that we are not owed anything and that every good thing we receive is meant to be at the service of the common good of all. The world does not revolve around us…it revolves around the Son.

***If you would like to follow-along reading the The Screwtape Letters, I suggest to purchase your own copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you don’t like reading, I highly suggest buying the dramatization of the letters by Focus on the Family, called The Screwtape Letters: First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic (Radio Theatre). It features Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and is well produced.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Grn724

    Well stated article. If I may add this antidote, Christ gathers, satan scatters.

    • Philip Kosloski

      Thank you. That is very true indeed.

    • Dan Krischke

      Thanks for the reminder. How very true. Divide and conquer. No mention of iPray.

  • ‘My daughter, observe these three rules, namely: never say I will or I will not. Never say mine, but always ours. Never excuse yourself, but always accuse yourself.’

    The Lord, to St. Catherine of Genoa

    • Philip Kosloski

      Great quote!

  • Dan Krischke

    I am not a great thinker, but when the iPod first came out and they had the blacked-out person with the white earbuds dancing around, the thought of being isolated for my own pleasure stuck in my mind. The reality of that my thought has been multiplied by millions since then. Peace and God bless.
    ps: Sorry about all the I’s.

    • Rob B.

      Several cultural commentators had the same problem with the “Walkman” when it came out in the 1980s. While I agree with your point and the author’s, it’s not like these issues were just dropped on us by Steve Jobs…

  • Halny

    iLove, iPray, iCare, iFather, iMother, iParent, iCook, iFeed, iNurse, iServe, iProtect, iShare, iChoose….. iDie

    Everything we do in our lives is a matter of choice, free will. Let’s not go from one extreme to another. Everything is for people. It’s how we choose to use things and act, is what can create pathology. I believe the Good in us way outweighs the evil. Steve Jobs was right – Death is the best invention.
    I wouldn’t go as far as demonizing everything we do. The same gadgets you mention also save lives, and let us stay healthier. Let us pray more, and have instant access to our friends and loved ones. The devil has always tempted us, no matter whether we used rock or rock-and-roll, fireworks or gun powder. It all starts with the family, and no matter if you use the TV or the Internet, or the iPad for a babysitter, you cannot expect any good coming out of it. All in moderation. If God didn’t will certain things in our lives, we wouldn’t have them. We are not all that bad, Phil 🙂

    • Philip Kosloski

      Yes indeed, I agree. In writing this article I never said that Steve Jobs is from the Devil or that everyone who has an iPhone is a follower of Satan. I just hope the article helps us to step back and see our attitude towards things.

      An iPhone or iPad is not inherently evil (they are by their nature “neutral”). It is how we use them that is the important part of the equation. If they prevent us from connecting with others and causes us to sin, than we have to evaluate how we use them.

      Technology is a great tool, but one that we must use wisely.

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  • Marina

    Although I may agree in some extend with what you say, I believe “words” have a very particular meaning in the Christian context.

    This article judges me first of all.

    Based on my experience living my faith through my humanity, as a human experience, I believe there is a difference between what you call “i-culture” and what we see today which is the “me-me-me culture”.

    The way I understand is, my “I” as the center of my humanity; it is through my humanity how I experience Christ. He was a man; he had a flesh just like mine. He becomes a concrete Presence in reality through my humanity, Christ reaches me in a human way, through an other. This is why I look at my humanity with tenderness; because “I am YOU who made me” “it is no longer I who live but YOU who live in me”. The problem is not the “I” but rather the “me-me-me”, because otherwise we take the risk of reducing our humanity from our self, treating it as a problem, when in fact I need my humanity to experience Christ! God calls me by my name.So, I am very grateful for all the “I’s” but sad for all the “me-me-me” who are missing the best part.

    Because at the end of the day, with the true awareness of who I am; with the awareness of why I get up in the morning and engage in all of the challenges the day offers me for my growth; recognizing the true consistency of everything that keep me awake; I am free to decide if I want to remain in the “me-me-me” or take the challenge every day as a possibility to renew my self-awareness, my “I”.

    Rather than standing in front of reality as if I am in a battle field, constantly at war, and at the end of the day feeling exhausted, I like to see reality and my “I” as an opportunity offered to me by God, to enter in to a relationship with the Mystery, with life.

    “The Christian drama is the human drama”

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