The Israelites said to Moses, “Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” - Exodus 14:12 (NRSV)
You know that red bubble in the corner of your apps telling you how many unread emails, ignored messages, or missed calls you have? There’s a term for what it’s doing.
Persuasive design. All the ingenious little ways our technology has for keeping us engaged. Likes that provide a hit of dopamine. Bubbles that give us the sense we’re accomplishing something. That giant 1-click button that makes it so easy to buy. All persuasive design.
And ease is the point. To clear the path the designer wants you to take. To lower the friction between you and what you’ve been made to want, and to put up obstacles to anything else.
It was always that way with systems of exploitation and oppression. Ask the Israelites.
For every taskmaster, there is also a fleshpot. Sure, the Egyptian system wasn’t perfect, but how much effort will it take to set up a new one?
Liberation is work. Clearing the path to something new without the machinery of empire. Creating friction by refusing to do what is expected. Earning rewards slowly, with great effort. And in the meantime, all that wandering.
Wouldn’t it just be easier…
But as Moses reminds the Israelites, there is one who is working to make a way for us: “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that God will accomplish for you today.”
Liberator, set me on the right path. And give me strength for the work you designed me to do.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.