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Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.

Explosion of Narcissism in America. In an article for Real Clear Science, Ross Pomeroy surveys recent research indicating that Americans’ opinion of themselves has risen steeply in recent decades. Previous generations of Americans had more humility, were less self-centered, and were more willing to subjugate their own interests to those of a larger group. This was especially evidenced by the generation that lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and their children (the “Greatest Generation”), who soldiered and sacrificed through World War II. All that changed with the Baby Boomers, says Pomeroy. “By the time they were college-aged, Boomers eschewed the collectivist mindset of their elders in favor of individualism. The trend continued with Boomers’ kids. . . . One study comparing teenagers found that while only 12% of those aged 14-16 in the early 1950’s agreed with the statement ‘I am an important person,’ 77% of boys and more than 80% of girls of the same cohort by 1989 agreed with it.” And it’s only gotten worse since then, with the rise of cell phones and social media tending to put a laser focus on the self, rather than the group. Pomeroy, Ross. “What Are the Effects of America’s Narcissism Epidemic?” Blog., 9 Apr. 2022. Web. 9 Apr. 2022.

Professor Recommends Switching to a Dumb Phone. A lot has been said about how to cut down on the distraction, time wasting, and other dangers posed by smart phones. In a recent article for Christianity Today, Professor Dru Johnson described the improvements to his life (some of them surprising) after he switched to a so-called “dumb phone.” The phone, the Light Phone II, has only a paper white display (like a Kindle), and it only allows voice and text and a few other basic functions. It has no apps, no browser, and no social media. The makers say it is “designed to be used as little as possible.” Dr. Johnson said of his experience, “The first week, I kept pulling it out of my pocket as the iPhone had trained me to do. The dumb phone quickly re-trained me out of that old habit. It would just look at me, and I at it. Then, I’d realize that there was nothing to do. . . . I started having concentrated times where I could do more focused work. When I was away from the computer, I felt away—free from a sense of urgency to check. . . . Mainly, I feel as if I’ve gotten my brain back, but also my sensory attention. The number one benefit for me became clarity of mind and time to think. A month in and I feel much more coherent in my own headspace. After my body fully realized that there’s no need to pull out my phone for anything, I began attending to smells, sounds, and sights more than before. My prayers have also increased.” Johnson, Dru. “Spiritual Lessons from My Dumb Phone.” Spiritual Formation., 17 Mar. 2022. Web. 9 Apr. 2022.