On Jesus and Social Media

There are weeks that I want to completely avoid social media. Not because it consumes too much time or changes the way we communicate or draws us in to read a ton of stuff we don’t really need to (hello, distractify and buzzfeed and the million “what kind of _________ are you” quizzes). Though there are some really good arguments to be made for some of those things, the real reason I am reluctant to sign in some weeks are the “Christian” causes. You know, the articles and hot topics and current (or not so current) events that suddenly sweep the church culture by storm and fill our newsfeeds for a few, hectic, passionate days.

It’s Hobby Lobby

It’s Victoria Osteen

It’s Gungor and their (recently unearthed, but not new) views on how old the world is

It’s Duck Dynasty and Chick-Fil-A and the Noah movie and…should the Duggars have more children?!

It’s Kirk Cameron and his views on Halloween.

It’s Shai LaBeouf and his conversion –and, wait, does it count as a conversion if he uses the f-word to describe the experience?

It’s the articles. The comments. The blog posts. The news reels. The memes.

And it’s the fights, the insults, the finger-pointing, and the “if you don’t see things my way you’re dumb (or worse)” kinds of posts that go along with it all.

I know you’ve seen it too. That post that someone made about Hobby Lobby that now has 47 comments underneath it? The link that you posted in support of Gungor that now has quite a few of your friends (or…other people’s friends? Seriously who are all these people commenting?) questioning your very salvation? Hey, at least if they’re questioning it, you and Shai are in good company…right?

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m ALL FOR having – and sharing – opinions on topics regardless of whether or not they’re popular, or controversial. The Christian life IS controversial. It goes against the grain in a lot of ways. It calls us to be IN the world but not of it. To be led by the Spirit, and by the Word of God – not by the culture around us.

But, are we really having a constructive conversation? Defining our theology? Growing together in community? Or are we just arguing circles around each other until we’ve insulted or offended or just plain disregarded one another and someone finally taps out of the fight?

Are we bringing loving correction or helpful clarification when someone’s theology isn’t lining up with scripture, or are we ridiculing and passing judgment from our easy chairs?

And, what’s more, have you also noticed that once the popularity wanes, once the meme ideas are worn out and the commenting has turned sour, once we get a few days beyond the initial shock that has everyone posting like crazy…that’s it? It’s done? It’s like the second something like this hits, everyone is fired up and indignantly posting all over the place, but by next week, we’ve forgotten all about it. We rally behind the latest “Christian” cause for a few days and then go back to living our normal lives.

And I think that’s unfortunate too.

I mean, think about it. Where are the REST of the posts? The ones not tied to a specific, trending, cause? Where are the volunteer hours at a local non-profit? Where are the people in Town Hall meetings discussing what’s happening at schools and local businesses rather than just hashtagging their facebook posts in disgust. Are we (myself included) standing to fight for what we believe beyond our witty social media posts?

Have we heard anything about Hobby Lobby lately? Do we even know if they won their case? Do we know what it was about, really, or did we just hear “plan-B” and jump aboard the posting train? Did we ever shop there or show our support? And, if we support the sanctity of life – shouldn’t we be doing something more about it than just posting that WE ❤ Hobby Lobby?!

Does boycotting Gungor and making them seem like they’re on the “fringe” really help our Christian walk (or that of those around us)?

Are we rallying behind a Duck Dynasty member because we agree with their view on homosexuality…or because we like to watch their crazy frog-eating, duck-whistling shows late at night and don’t want them cancelled (and, what’s more…have we read the interview in its entirety before we make our comments)?

Do we care enough about what people hear from Victoria Osteen’s words to clarify the theology a bit, or are we content to label her a heretic and condemn her on social media from the comfort of our living rooms?

Now, I have NO problem with someone standing up for, or supporting, a company that they feel is doing things right – or boycotting one that is doing or supporting things that they DON’T feel is right. We SHOULD be doing these things! But I think it sends an unfortunate message about Christianity as a whole if we’re taking to social media to protest or picket or post pictures and opinions for one whirlwind week on the latest hot topic and we think that’s enough. That we’ve done our duty. That Jesus will be happy that we chose Chick-Fil-A over McDonalds – and tweeted about it to show where we stand.

“Eat More Chik-N! Jesus would!”

… I mean, really?

That’s it?

…really?

The truth of the matter is, we don’t need some hot new “cause” to rally behind.

Our cause is Christ.

Our mission, our message, is Christ – and sharing him with the world.

And yes, we should be taking a stand on important issues, and we should be talking about and defining and clarifying our theology – but, based on what I’ve seen (on the whole)…I’m not sure we’re doing it right when it comes to the online/social media world.

It’s why I don’t post much beyond pictures of my kids. It’s why I pretty much avoid Facebook some weeks.

And it’s something that hasn’t sat right in my spirit for a long, long time.

And I think that the biggest reason it doesn’t feel quite right is that we’re trying to fit Jesus – and Christianity – into this live-tweeting, hashtag-happy, short pithy saying, internet meme subculture that I don’t think He really fits into. That I don’t think the message of Christianity fits into. Not fully.

If Jesus had a PR person when he walked this earth, someone who was keeping the social networking sites happy with continuous updates – what do you think it’d sound like?

  • Crushing me some Pharisees at 4pm. Meet me at the temple. #badboysbadboys #whatchagonnado #headsaregonnaroll
  • Just fed a multitude with two measly fish & some bread. #nbd #boom #forthewin
  • Wrote this in the sand today. Kept the men with rocks away. #womangoandsinnomore
  • A whole bottle of (insert expensive perfume name here) and my feet are smellin’ SOOOOO nice. #bestpedicureever
  • Riding in on a donkey. #betchadidntseethatcoming #royalchariot #king #surprise
  • Pete shoulda worn his swim trunks before trying this #walkonwater #herefishyfishyfishy

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I mean, ok, it’s kind of funny…but does it portray Christianity the right way? Or is it…missing something? Does it leave a little to be desired?

Where is the love of a Savior that died for the lost? You. Me. The broken, the bruised, heterosexual or homosexual. Those in the Hollywood subculture that are so obviously searching, seeking, yearning for truth. That gave his life for you – and for me.  That blasted the Pharisees’ ideals and legalism right out of the water and ate with tax collectors and sinners? That told Martha to chill out, take Mary’s example, and just sit with Him a while.

Where is the love of a Savior that would look at Peter, and choose him – though he knew he’d deny him? That stood next to a woman condemned for adultery and asked the crowd which sinless one among them would throw the first stone? That knew that often, even as Christ-followers, we’re quick to point out the speck in the eye of a brother, without seeing the log in our own.

And where is all of this in our posts…or in our comments?

I can’t help looking at facebook, at twitter, at the memes, at the arguing and the calling out and the hurtful, divisive comments, and wondering…

What are we really accomplishing here?

Are we really portraying a Christ that people would want to meet? A Christianity that would draw people in? Is the Love coming through the truth? Is it Jesus or is it judgement? Is it hashtag-worthy or heaven-worthy?

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have some “22 steps to using social media correctly as a modern Christian in a modern world.” I am by no means saying that we should attempt to water down our faith or create an online Christian presence that doesn’t speak the truth in an effort to not cause offense to anyone. I think it IS important for us to take a stand and to present things in a different light than it’s presented in the media. And with the amount of time that our culture spends on social media sites, we really should use it as a platform for the gospel, for conversation, for connecting. It’s the world we live in. It’s where a good chunk of the population “hangs out.”

And, I’ve seen a handful of people or ministries that do it right. That write well-thought out, thoroughly researched responses. That take a stand ALWAYS – not just following the latest fad, and regardless of whether it’s a popular opinion. And, that do so in a non-judgmental, not argumentative, non-hurtful way.

But perhaps it’s time to consider if, on the whole, we’re going about it wrong. If we’re fueled more by our opinions and momentary passions – or the buttons that mainstream media pushes in us, rather than the Spirit within us.

Having worked in the marketing/promotional department for a Bible school, I know what it’s like to be partially “responsible” for the public image of an institution. To comb through the pictures and the posts and the quotes and build brochures and websites and flyers. I’ve sat in the meetings and the discussions about “what do we want people to take away? What message should our website convey? Is this Facebook post consistent with who we are?”

Knowing the pressure that was there even on that scale, I can’t really begin to imagine what it would be like to be hired as the PR person on Jesus’ team. To be the one responsible for his “online” presence, to portray the face of Christ to the world through what I did or did not choose to post.

And yet. . .whether or not I signed up for the job, I’ve got it.

You’ve got it.

We ARE the face of Christ on the internet. We ARE his online communications/promotional committee. Jesus doesn’t have Instagram. Or twitter. Or Facebook.

But he has us. And WE do.

Read through your Facebook news feed or your Instagram/twitter feed and take an honest look at the posts (and the comments) that go beyond cute kids and funny cats…and then you tell me:

What do you think? Are we getting across the right message? Are we portraying Him correctly?

Or do we have some work to do?

 

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