“Disconnect”
 We all know what’s been happening in our society lately:  we’re becoming more and more plugged in, while at the same time more tuned out.  We’re eating dinner with our family, but we’re looking at our iPad.  We’re checking messages while we’re in meetings.  We talk on our cell phones while we drive, and yes, we text then, too.  To make a generalization, the younger we are, the more important it is for us to be perpetually connected:  to Facebook, Twitter, and other social websites, so that in many ways our interpersonal interactions are….well, kind of impersonal.  Face to face is rare.  Uninterrupted face time is even rarer.
 In “Disconnect,” the tragedy of our peculiar form of isolation is all too apparent.  A busy lawyer spends most of his time at home talking on his cell phone about work, which means he pretty well ignores his teenage kids.  Not to mention his wife, but at least he talks to her in between phone calls.  The kids are in their rooms with the iPods blasting in their ears, online with their friends.  His quiet, sensitive adolescent son doesn’t even realize he’s being cyber-bullied, until his painful embarrassment literally spreads through the whole school.
 Another young teenager, whose Mom has died but whose Dad is always preoccupied with work, wears a smug, superior smirk just because he is so insecure, and gets into the anonymous online bullying because he’s so starved for affection that it almost feels like personal attention.
 Another young teenager, finding himself without much parental support or involvement, drifts toward a happy household of other unattached peers that’s presided over by a hard-edged, vigilant young man who shows them all how to make money on websites.  With sex cams.  Nobody really thinks there’s anything wrong with it.  Everybody’s getting what they want, and nobody’s hurt, right?  But when a thirty-something investigative reporter stumbles on the local sex trade, she’s just isolated and lonely enough to be tempted herself, as well as revel in being the whistle-blower.  But you can’t have it both ways.
 A teenage girl is going through some terrible family tragedy, and she’s telling her gum-popping friends about it in the school lunchroom, and suddenly one of them interrupts because she’s just received a text from a boy about a date, and she wants to know what everyone else at the table thinks, not even considering the inconsiderateness.  Attention span is seriously compromised.  Emotional empathy is difficult to find.  It’s all about what’s on the screen in front of you right now.
 A husband and wife are struggling in their marriage, and not just because they lost a baby.  He’s got an online gambling problem which he’s kept hidden from her. She’s gotten interested in someone she met in a chat room on her laptop, just because this anonymous sympathizer seemed to be more….well, available.  Their sudden identity theft adds to their financial burden; it happens so frequently that law enforcement is overwhelmed with complaints, and there’s nobody to really pursue it.  So what happens if the victimized couple decides to take matters into their own hands?
 “Disconnect” is the story of our times, and how, ironically, the more electronically committed we are, the more we are disconnected:  not only with others, but even with ourselves.  In light of this frantic emotional emptiness, does anybody here mention that the faith, fellowship, values, and perspective which church membership might provide could help supply the very things people are so hungry for, but don’t know it?  Of course not.  Too outdated.  Too old school.  Isn’t it ironic?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas