I am a relatively recent convert from Android to iPhone. There are a bunch of things I really like about the iPhone, and some ways that iOS is inferior.

Case in point: autocorrect. I honestly never quite understood the phenomenon that gave rise to

I owe all you iPhone users an apology. I honestly thought that this was just a cover for people making their own stupid typos.

But no.

Here is perhaps the quintessential picture of the trademark Apple arrogance.

The people who thought that making an iPhone twice the size and removing the telephonic capability made a “magical” device, the people who want you to think that nobody has ever paired a phone with an adolescent looking watch before, the people who have decided for you that you no longer need a disc drive or the ability to carry a spare laptop battery–these self-same geniuses have decided that they actually know what you mean to say better than you yourself are capable of typing it.

As a friend of mine had “us” autocorrect to U.S. It happened to me the next day. God alone knows how many pings the NSA received for texts like, “Crap’s gonna start to get real for U.S.”

Thinking we know what someone is going to say before they say it is not something that Apple alone is guilty of. It is a major failings that besets many of us–at times, it besets all of us.

It interferes with our relationships.

We start to hear a story and we think we know where it’s going–how the person was affected by it, how they are feeling about it, where things went off the rails. We finish the story for them, either in our mind or out loud. And we miss the opportunity enter in. We miss the opportunity to learn. We miss the opportunity to allow that person’s experience to draw us outside of ourselves.

In our everyday interactions, we often have autocorrect switched on, so that without even knowing it we are bending the people around us into our own established realm of probability and even possibility.

I was part of a job interview once where autocorrect was in full force. One person in the room was deeply committed to hiring the person being interviewed. A couple of us were a bit more wary.

During the course of the interview, the person being interviewed said two damning things–one a racially insensitive comment (there was an African American as part of the interview team in the room) and the other an imperialistic comment about engagement overseas.

The person who was committed to hiring the candidate literally did not hear either answer. In fact, he autocorrected the imperialistic answer to a statement of mutuality–the answer he was expecting to hear.

We do this with the Bible and theology, too.

As human beings we have an almost infinite capacity to integrate into our existing paradigms data that does not actually fit.

We auto-correct passages about predestination into our core commitment to the notion that we have free will. (Spoiler: the latter is nowhere said anywhere in scripture, the former is discussed in various ways countless times.)

We auto-correct passages that talk about the final judgment such that they always tell us we’ll be judged based on what Jesus did for us. (Spoiler: every time the NT talks about the final judgment, it says that its basis is what we’ve done.)

As in personal relationships and in committee meetings, if we can’t learn to shut off the autocorrect we are going to miss out. We are going to miss out on the beautiful, if sometimes painful experience of realizing that our minds cannot contain the worlds they encounter.

We are going to miss out on the beautiful, if sometimes painful experience of discovering that there are other ways to experience, react to, and interpret the world.

We might miss out on the beautiful richness of people. We might miss out on the beautiful richness of God.

So let’s shut off the auto-correct. It takes discipline. It takes a lot of question asking. It might take entering every conversation, every reading of scripture, by telling ourselves, “What I’m about to engage with might show me that everything I think to be true is wrong, that everyone I disagree with or don’t understand is right, or that I have been living in a tunnel devoid of the light that is about to shine.”

Admittedly, most often the encounter will not be that dramatic. But whatever it is, the reality of the other is better and richer than my own construction of it.

The reality of the speaker is always better than the arrogance of autocorrect.

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4 thoughts on “Autocorrect

  1. I grew up in the Presbyterian Church and was never satisfied by anyone’s, even my mother’s, definition of predestination. In the mid 1980’s I became an Episcopalian and I have never heard predestination in any Episcopal church I have attended (and I have attended, worked for, and been a member of many). Of course the fact that I haven’t heard it preached or studied doesn’t mean it is not a theology of the Episcopal Church.

    Since you say we do not have free will then does that mean we are God’s puppets and that everything we do and say is controlled by God? If God has already written the script, then why does he have people raped, murdered, tortured and killed? He said Thou shalt not kill, but I guess God meant only he can kill when it suits his purposes. I always thought the Adam and Eve story was about free will. God told them what to do and not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That sounds like there is a choice to be had. To eat or not to eat. And then the snake convinced Eve it was alright she ate of it and gave it to Adam and original sin was born. But you are saying that Eve being swayed by the snake and giving it to Adam was God’s decision all along?

    I would appreciate any help.

  2. “these self-same geniuses have decided that they actually know what you mean to say better than you yourself are capable of typing it.”

    Um, er, you know you can turn this off right? So, this kind of renders the whole analogy as wrong. Autocorrect is insanely frustrating so I turn it off.

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