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    drawing of a couple on a park bench

    Plough Quarterly No. 15: Staying Human

    Winter 2018


    Featured Articles

    All Articles

    From the Editor

    The Joys of Tech Asceticism Elon Musk, the man who started four billion-dollar tech companies, is worried that computers are on course to kill us.


    The Pen and the Keyboard A vintage pen signifies much more than just another tool, even to the tuned-in and logged-on Millennial.


    How to Homestead a Hermitage “How far is it to Bethlehem?” Not very far indeed, say fifteen minutes’ walk. See, there it is through the olive trees.


    The Immortality Machine Is transhumanism, with its dreams of immortality, acceptable to Christians? Simulating Religion “Strange and surprising subcultures are thriving in Silicon Valley, among them a loose-knit community calling themselves rationalists.” The Gods of Progress We speak of progress, but where are we progressing to? In 1948, a British farmer-poet penned this prophetic essay. Anabaptist Technology In 1998, Community Playthings, the church-run manufacturing business based in New York in which I work, tried abandoning email... Your Neighbor Lives Next Door When folks ask us what it’s like to live without the conveniences of modern technology, our best answer is that it has localized our lives. Endangered Habitat Just as we protect endangered natural habitats, so we must preserve silence, the space that allows both speech and the soul to flourish. Meet a True Story Technology fails to satisfy our need for real human connection. A boom in live storytelling could be changing that.


    The Immortality Delusion A prescient reading on technology from C. S. Lewis’s novel, That Hideous Strength. The Pencil Box “God bless the craftsmen who give their fellow men such feelings even out of pieces of wood.” Why Children Need White Space Just as books require white space, so do children. They need room to grow, in a space shielded from the onslaught of the information age. The Soul of Work Love is work, work of muscle and mind, heart and soul. Therefore this kingdom of love – this kingdom of the church and of the coming rule of God – must be a kingdom of work.


    A poem for my son about grace My son slouches when he walks,/ shoulders rounded, chin jutted/ forward, his self moving slow . . .

    Editors’ Picks

    Editors’ Picks Issue 15 Discover three good reads from 2017, recommended by Plough’s editors: The Souls of China, Folk Song in England, and Bach’s Major Vocal Works.

    Family and Friends

    Family and Friends Return to sender, Augsburg; remembering the martyrs of Alcatraz; Puerto Rico Se Levante.


    The Ministry of Reconciliation Conversation: Celebrating the legacy of Johann Christoph Arnold, with R. R. Reno, John M. Perkins, Robert P. George, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and others.

    Another View

    Go On, Inner Man “I began this painting while living as a hermit in Kansas. By the time it was finished it had grown into a wedding gift to my wife.”

    Community Snapshot

    Awake the Harp The story of a family that made a harp: “Everyone helped, scrambling around in the lumber shed for lengths of cherry wood, sanding, gluing, painting, and staining. Oh, and tuning!”


    Readers Respond: Issue 15 Anabaptist triumphalism; Church, state, and monarchy; Iraq’s Christians; remembering the elderly; and Early Christian hope.

    Digging Deeper

    Digging Deeper: Issue 15 Books that help us think well about technology: Shop Class as Soulcraft, The Abolition of Man, Brave New World, Technopoly, and Devices of the Soul.


    The Perfect Tool “The axe is the perfect tool. It is the tool. It is tool. Every woodworking tool is resting there in the axe waiting to be born.”


    Insight: Finding Someone to Worship Have you ever looked at the world to see what is driving it, what it has dreamed up in the way of worshiping God in some way? Insight: Friedrich Froebel “You, who roam through garden and field, through meadow and grove, why do you close your mind to the silent teaching of nature?” Insight: Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer As a farmer, I do almost all of my work with horses. As a writer, I work with a pencil or a pen and a piece of paper.


    The Technology of Gender What’s at stake when we artificially alter a human being in regard to something as fundamental as biological sex? An interview with Dr. Paul R. McHugh.


    Viktor Frankl Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who survived concentration camp, and learned that the key to survival was having a sense of purpose, something to live for.

    Featured Authors

    drawing of a couple on a park bench

    About This Issue

    Whether it’s artificial intelligence, genome editing, Big Tech monopolies, or Facebook-induced depression: we moderns live in a world that is being reshaped by technology from the ground up. In the process, it’s become dangerously easy to forget who we are. How do we stay human?

    This issue addresses challenges ranging from the lure of transhumanism to the science of transgenderism to the erosion of silence by the smartphone. Technophobia is no answer, our contributors agree – but neither is a refusal to tackle real dangers. They ask: Why not try living without a computer or a television? Why give tablets to children when Steve Jobs refused to give them to his kids? Why write using a keyboard when you could wield a fountain pen?

    Technological asceticism of this kind won’t solve society-wide dilemmas. But it can help us maintain the spiritual independence needed to respond to them rightly. The reward is worth having: the prize of staying human.