Sometimes “Christians” on Facebook just drive me nuts!
I came across an update on my Facebook news feed from one of my friends. The friend will remain nameless for the sake of this post and as a sign of respect to their privacy. The post appears to be a copy and pasting of another person’s post, and it was posted to suggest and request others to do the same. You know what I mean. It is one of those “Facebook Chain Letters” kind of deal. You have the qualifier, especially when it is done by people of faith, dedicated “Christians” in this case, who want to show how zealous they are for God, and so they take the bait, copy, and paste and send it off through the Interne universe to be posted on their Facebook wall for all to see and follow suit. I really personally don’t care if you do that, as I just don’t take that kind of bait with qualifiers and repeat the same mantra and pass it to others to follow my lead. I find this to be the ever so subtle act of manipulating others to conform to a set pattern of behaviors that others equate as a measurement of your fidelity to God. If you don’t repost it, you are somehow a lesser Christian. This particular one really took the cake. You can see it here for yourself.
Those news feed updates can rattle and shake you up and frustrate as much as exude great joy
First read the words carefully of this Facebook post by an anonymous Christian. Its format suggests it was a copycat email sent as a chain letter update to illicit and generate similar responses. I place no fault or blame on the poster of this update that came on my news feed. It did however challenge me to think about it and to discuss it as whether it is a deemed worthy practice to be followed by self-confessed Christians, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Should Christians even be engaged in this kind of activity? Here is here. Read it for yourself.
“I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. He said Deny me in front of your friends and I will deny you in front of my father.
If you are not ashamed Copy and Paste.”
Did you read that? Did you deconstruct what was being said? Do you understand the context and meaning of each segment of this statement?
I have some things to say about this post. First let us look at the meaning and implications of the meaning of these “words.”
Firstly, the person declares a position of faith in Jesus Christ, using the traditional contemporary Evangelical “Christianese” of allegiance to Christ
They say that they have “accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” This phraseology is unique to Evangelicalism. Other Christian traditions and faith communities do not use this kind of language to define and describe their faith in Jesus Christ. This is a reductionist construction to explain in the most basic language that to be a “Christian” is to be one who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is a presumption here that is unexplained and it is left for the person reading to determine the meaning. How does one “accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” That is not mentioned. You would think you would mention not only who you understand God to be, but also the means of what it is to “accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” I don’t think if you were serious about giving a challenge to others, that you would intentionally leave out the means of experiencing saving faith out of the equation. Whys is there no mention of repentance and saving faith?
Secondly, the person quotes Jesus in saying, “deny me in front of your friends and I will deny you in front of my father”
It would be more accurate to quote Jesus directly. Jesus said in Matthew 10: 33, “but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” [ESV]. The Message translation says it this way, “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?”
The context of this passage implies relationship
The whole idea of salvation with God is based on a relationship with God, and the resulting impact of that relationship on all other human relationships. If we learn anything at all from the Christian Scriptures, it is the ethical and relational implications of a relationship with God and people. Even as you make a cursory reading of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, you find that all the commandments are relationship focused, and the primacy is given to humanity’s relationship with God, and then the outflow of that relationship is revealed in the commandments that relate to relationships between people. Jesus reiterates this when he addresses the commandments in the Gospels. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible gives the clear implications of relationship when in discussing Matthew 10:33 he states:
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me … – The same word in the original is translated “confess” and “profess,” 1 Timothy 6:12-13; 2 John 1:7; Romans 10:10. It means to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and our dependence on him for salvation, and our attachment to him, in every proper manner. This profession may be made in uniting with a church, at the communion, in conversation, and in conduct. The Scriptures mean, by a profession of religion, an exhibition of it in every circumstance of the life and before all people. It is not merely in one act that we must do it, but in every act. We must be ashamed neither of the person, the character, the doctrines, nor the requirements of Christ. If we are; if we deny him in these things before people; if we are unwilling to express our attachment to him in every way possible, then it is right that he should “disown all connection with us,” or deny us before God, and he will do it.” 1
The difficult issue of how do we define confession and profession in light of social media?
You will notice in the quote above that Barnes states that confession and profession means to “acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and our dependence on him for salvation, and our attachment to him, in every proper manner.” That is simple enough to comprehend, but the more difficult issue is in applying that to life. If this profession is made in the face to face encounters and relationships with people, does social media actually merit being equal to face to face relationships?
I do not believe our engagement in social media in itself does anything other than reveal more about ourselves as people. Engagement in social media hardly defines our Christianity, but rather would define our character and witness by how we engage with people on social media, and our attitude that is displayed in our words, our postings, the photos we post and the comments we make on posts.
A case in point where character is revealed in our actions on social media
Canada as a nation embrace “marriage equality” over a decade ago. It did not destroy the fabric of our nation. It was a ripple effect on the national landscape. Over the decade the “church” has been unaffected by the change. There are progressive churches that fully embrace gay marriage and there are those who do not. The law of the land protects people of faith and clergy and churches do not have to perform or support marriage equality. There is still that freedom in Canada.
However in 2015 we bore witness to the ugly side of the debate on “marriage equality” south of the border in the United States. No matter what side of the debate you were on, the social media posts of people from across the divide could not keep up in their postings and comments on the happenings taking place in the USA.
There were Christians who posted who quite frankly were very arrogant, ignorant, and downright filled with anger and hatred towards the LGBTQ community and their supporters. Hear me out here. I am a social conservative when it comes to morality and sexuality. I have been consistent in my views for decades. I have been and will always be opposed to gay marriage/marriage equality as a form of Christian marriage. You want a civil ceremony of marriage, go ahead and have one. I would prefer another name be used for these civil unions other than “marriage.” But I cannot change that. What is done is done. But as a Christian I am opposed to same sex unions/marriage equality. So, for those who are conservative in their views and do not see gay marriage as a valid option for Christians, I understand your view, and I understand your pain and your frustrations. But…
Yes, here is the “BUT”…
But it does not give any conservative Christian the right to bash, insult, attack, degrade, hate or name call or ridicule or persecute people of the LGBTQ community. What I found on my social media feed was disgusting and disturbing and nothing that would ever give evidence of Christian love and faith. In fact it gave the opposite. It portrayed hatred in a way that was shocking and horrific. It made me cringe to ever consider people like that wielding or having political power and influence. I would never want to sit under the rule of these kinds of religious zealots who were filled with fear, hate and contempt for their fellow citizens. In fact, my stand in advocating love and acceptance of all people cost me friends on my social media feeds. So I know. I understand.
The conduct of all these people illustrates this point for all of us
How you act and behave with others reveals your heart and convictions, not what you say. I repeat that again. How we behave in public in our interactions and actions with others says more about us, and what we actually believe, than what we are saying with our words. What was on full display for everyone around the world was the reaction and responses of conservative Christians of every stripe and colour commenting on marriage equality. Most were polite in their discourse but many were not at all. It was the minority that unfortunately revealed the ugly side of the “Christian morality police” as they sought to stamp out what they believed to be a threat to the traditional family, Christian marriage, and “Christian America.” Their understanding of “Christian society” painted a very ugly and fear base religious morality that was as oppressive as it was a repugnant caricature of the authentic Christian Gospel. Love and grace were missing in most of their diatribes on social media.
The point for me is simple. Diatribes, short 140 character tweets, Facebook posts, and all the like, do not make for a good substitute for face to face, person to person interaction. No matter how much we may post in a tweet or status update, without the face to face contact and interaction, there really is not effective “witnessing” taking place. I say the word effective only in that, for a real dialog to take place, there needs to be a face to face interaction. You can have meaningful dialog to a degree over the phone, but you miss something out of body language, gestures and expressions and interaction. Even video conferencing or Skype or Facetime calls are limited. They are better, but they are limited.
If you are going to use social media, especially Facebook, then we, you and I, need to be mindful of what we post and why, and that it should be of a nature that builds up and encourages. We should not use social media to attack, ridicule or tear down people. That goes without saying, whether or not you are a person of faith or an atheist.
Thirdly, there is hashtag #ChallengeAccepted right there in your face to push your buttons
The intent is to provoke you to action, to challenge you to take the proverbial bait! Call it what it is. Manipulation. Provocation. It is coercive and really inappropriate to challenge people in this way. People take great liberalities on social media, from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media services, to spread their likes and dislikes, to comment and to ridicule to vent over people and events that are taking place in our world. There is really no need for Christians to imitate this kind of behavior and conduct. There is no need for Christians to become so narcistic and self-obsessed with our lives, our beliefs, our convictions, and what consumes us. Zealous believers tend to move away from authentic love and move toward a form of legalism and either/or categories of thinking. Social media is not so much the “real world” as the “perceptions of what the real world is” by people trying to live in and understand the real world. Social media is not the news as much as the commentary on the news by observers of what is going on in our world. For Christians to reduce their faith to a “hashtag” and to elicit responses and actions from others through social media postings is really highly subjective and surface level engagement. You need face to face encounter with people in order to truly communicate authentically.
Fourthly, there is the punch to the gut
The poster says, “If you are not ashamed Copy and Paste.” The implication is a position of no compromise. If you are a Christian and you read this, the onus is upon you to act, and to copy and paste, or you are really not a true follower and disciple of Christ. You are a pretender and false believer, a “backslider” who is ashamed of his faith, and ashamed of Jesus Christ. Do you that? Do you see the provocation and the push and the shove that is being done in the name of confessing genuine faith in Christ? Do you see the shameful act of manipulation in order to get the appropriate response, eliciting a response of copying and pasting the text and passing it on to your news feed for all the Facebook friends to see you bold and zealous act of devotion and love to God. Tell me that this is not ridiculous. It is truly laughable and disturbing to me that we have reduced true faith to the action of doing a digital chain letter (Facebook post) as a declaration of faith to Christ to the Facebook community. There are so many better ways to bear witness to Christ than doing these silly little digital provocative updates.
The false measurement of true discipleship
As I stated, the best we can hope from our use of social media, is that we can communicate authentically in a “Christ-like” manner, where we seek the best of people we communicate with, and seek to build up and encourage, rather than join in public rancor and inappropriate discourse that really puts our “Christian witness” in a bad light.
This is why I don’t believe that social media is the best vehicle for either witnessing to others, or as in the case of this particular post, it is a poor measurement of someone’s authentic faith. Just because I choose to not respond to your “challenge” and fall for the “bait” of your post, that does not make me a weak Christian, and nor does it show a betrayal of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. IF, and I say IF, I choose to bite the bait, and go on and repost the questionable post, it simply shows that I agree with being manipulated and coerced to continue the thread of what someone else believes to be a way of not denying Christ. IF I choose to argue with you over it in an overtly critical fashion, that too reveals my heart and more about me than about you. This is why I chose a blog post to discuss this phenomena, and what I see as an issue that should concern Christians and their use of social media in their day to day lives.
My closing thought
Social media postings can create chaos and provocations that are not necessary, and are not the best tool for “evangelizing” or “bearing witness” for Christ and the Gospel of grace. You still need human contact and interaction face to face. Using you smart phone, your tablet, or your laptop to post updates does not make a relationships. It barely makes an authentic connection. You need to get beyond the comfort zone of posting on your electronic device and actually engage in face to face relationships with people, and share meals, drinks, outings and movies and concerts, whatever gets you to connect with people, you need to do in order to make that connection. Find the ways and the means to meet and engage with people, especially people who are unlike you and you are interesting and engaging. Reach beyond your own comfort zone, your own interests and meet people. Join community clubs and organizations and connect face to face. Your electronic device should be used as a means of communicating basic information, not as a form of “digital evangelism” or “witnessing” or as a means of measuring the spirituality of other people.
~ Samuel M. Buick