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Facebook and Church

01/28/2011
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This article is well worth reading –Why Facebook and Your Church Might Be Making You Sad.

“By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ heel of human nature,” Copeland writes. “And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.”

Yes, Copeland writes, Facebook can chronicle cute kids, and warm moments, but that is never the whole, or even most, of the story of anyone’s life. “Tearful falls and tantrums are rarely recorded, nor are the stretches of sheer mind-blowing,” she writes.

Now, in one sense, I want to say, who really cares about Facebook. If you are that absorbed in comparing yourselves to others in this way, shut the computer screen and detox from the blue glow. But, it seems to me, the very same phenomenon is present in the pews of our Christian churches.

There are two things worth discussing here: Facebook and the church.

I’m on Facebook. I created my account when Facebook opened up to students without a valid school email account, but before it opened up to literally everyone. I quickly began using Facebook over Myspace, feeling it was a much cleaner, more secure, and more enjoyable social media platform to use. Yet in the last year I’ve begun to secretly resent Facebook and have spent numerous weekends away from it in self-imposed exile.

Why? In a way, Facebook increases or effects my own outlook on life, either posively or negatively. I would like Facebook a hundred times better if they removed the photos from the website. I, like nearly everyone else on Facebook (and I mean that literally, I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t admitted to this), engage in “creeping” from time to time, looking at other’s photos and feeling twinges of envy, jealousy, anger, or whatever. Facebook allows each of us to have private access to other’s photo albums that historically were stored in their private homes. Instead of a friend inviting us over to see pictures of their exciting vacation, we are now inviting hundreds of our “friends” over for that same experience, and often without our direct supervision and explanations. For my own sanity, I avoid Facebook at times.

I’m not saying that Facebook is evil, or that Facebook should remove the photos from the website. Photos is the application that everyone loves and uses, for better or for worse. I’m just cautious about it personally.

My other main complaint with Facebook, which is another thing that everyone else loves about Facebook, is that it is a closed system. You are really only friends with people you sorta know. At times, this can lead to a sense of isolation or hostility. The reason why I embraced Twitter so completely was that it was an open-system. I can talk to literally anyone else on Twitter, and they can talk to me. It facilitates discussion. It’s writer-driven. Most days, I’d rather meet someone new then just talk out at people I already know who will come up to me later in the week and discuss how they are praying for me and didn’t appreciate what I posted, what’s wrong, we’re concerned for you…

Moving on.

wise kitteh is wise

Facebook is like jail...

The second part of this article is about the church. I’m a big fan of Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity, and I feel it’s the antidote to more syrupy party line offerings such as Stop Dating the Church. I’m currently reading through a book about the history and formation of the Protestant reformation, and if there is one thing that that book is teaching me, is that it is absolutely ok to criticize your church, the leaders, and the theology.

I think Russell D. Moore’s criticism is spot on. Churches today are more prozac than grace. We’ve thrown off liturgy in favor of…spontaneous liturgy? So any time there is scripture reading and organized prayer or call and response, it’s a sign of cold dead worship? The frozen chosen? Oh really. Afraid that, once again, I don’t buy your rhetorical crap.

This sense of forced cheeriness is seen in the ad hoc “liturgy” of most evangelical churches in the greeting and the dismissal. As the service begins a grinning pastor or worship leader chirps, “It’s great to see you today!” or “We’re glad you’re here!” As the service closes the same toothy visage says, “See you next Sunday! Have a great week!”

The gospel speaks a different word though. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). In the kingdom, we receive comfort in a very different way than we’re taught to in American culture. We receive comfort not by, on the one hand, whining in our sense of entitlement or, on the other hand, pretending as though we’re happy. We are comforted when we see our sin, our brokenness, our desperate circumstances, and we grieve, we weep, we cry out for deliverance.

That’s why James, the brother of our Lord, seems so out of step with the contemporary evangelical ethos. “Be wretched and mourn and weep,” he writes. “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (Jas. 4:9). What would happen to a church leader who ended his service by saying to his people, “Have a wretched day!” or “I hope you all cry your eyes out this week!” It would sound crazy. Jesus always does sound crazy to us, at first (Jn. 7:15, 20).

Nobody is as happy as he seems on Facebook. And no one is as “spiritual” as he seems in what we deem as “spiritual” enough for Christian worship. Maybe what we need in our churches is more tears, more failure, more confession of sin, more prayers of desperation that are too deep for words.

I don’t really have a whole lot to add here. I think you should read the article. It’s pretty good.

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