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Confession: I love social media.
I am tired of people berating social media and proclaiming that it is the downfall of personal interaction. I just don’t believe it. Social media has enhanced my life. It has connected me to new friends, provided me opportunities to power sources and idea sharing, and it has democratized the flow of information which has aided in ensuring more voices are heard. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like provide the opportunity to stay connected, raise awareness, listen to voices that challenge our conclusions, and be inspired by new ideas.
One of the joys of social media is that it allows us to be storytellers and share stories about our life. So I will share some stories in this post and then offer a theological framework for social media.
No other social media network has directly impacted my IRL experiences more than Twitter in the last year. A year ago I met Krista Dalton on Twitter. She is a PhD student at Columbia University in Rabbinical Studies. She also has a fantastic blog, which I suggest you check out. Krista and I first met on Twitter, connected in the flesh over coffee, and now she is my neighbor in our apartment building in Manhattan and is one of my closet friends in New York City. Thank you, Twitter.
Last month I visited a plethora of places on my vacation. One of my destinations was Tennessee because of all the Twitter friends I have in the Nashville and Chattanooga areas. I met close to 15 people that I had a friendship with that I met for the first time in the flesh last month. I stayed in people’s homes, theologically argued, explored Nashville on the back of a scooter, and broke bread with people that I had only known by their Twitter handles and what they choose to post in 140 characters every day. Let me introduce you to @keegzz (Keegan), @curtisquatch (Curtis), and @HolaBrody (Broderick):
This picture represents two Nazarenes, one Episcopalian, one RCA minister, and an adorable pug (religious affiliation undefined but I’m sure he’s a firm believer that all dogs go to heaven). We broke bread, talked about an agrarian approach to Scripture, and wondered how we could help our denominations progress in the changing times. We are millennials tired of people telling us we are leaving the church. We aren’t, though we do have our critiques.
@curtisquatch, (the kind-looking bearded man), was in the kitchen, apron on, preparing a meal for us. We all agreed it was Eucharistic. We ordained Curtis the minister over the meal. He preceded and we partook in the body and blood of Christ together while we devoured fresh vegetables from the soil of Nashville. It was holy.
I asked Curtis to share with us what that night meant to him. Here’s what he has to say:
“When we gathered that evening I was able to share my joy for food and cooking, but I didn’t anticipate the support each individual expressed for each other’s passions in the ways we have been called to serve and to be a part of the Church. In addition to the nourishing food from the earthly soil, I felt nourished by the love and support of friends that I had met in person for the first time. I would have never anticipated cooking dinner for people I met on Twitter prior to moving to a new city, but I am grateful for the genuine relationships that have developed ever since Keegan and I have moved out of our comfort zone. It was a sacramental, Eucharistic evening that proved to be a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, for which I am truly grateful.”
All made possible because of Twitter.
There are many ways one could theologically reflect on social media but for my post today I want to frame it with Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 55.
Q. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
A. First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.
Social media has enabled me and many others to more fully participate in the communion of saints. I have been able to bring my gifts and glean from other people’s gifts and there has been much joy. I’m very, very tired of culture wars within my denomination: “They aren’t pure enough because they believe xyz” or “They are squelching the spirit because they don’t do xyz.” I am a liberal Reformed Christian who happens to believe the Spirit of God is alive in my conservative Reformed Christian friends. Social media has allowed me the opportunity to connect and share. Social media has been the home in which we share hospitality. We try hard to do that in our general synod or classis gatherings but often fumble. I wonder if social media could teach us how to love each other better?
@Keegzzz emailed me her thoughts on this. She says:
“Twitter challenges me to practice intellectual hospitality and critical engagement with people–real people!–whom I never would have met otherwise. It has opened doors to real-life opportunities and relationships that have changed the way I think and work, even in the analog world.”
We are practicing in what it means to be the communion of saints and I’ve been in church long enough to know we need to keep practicing our obligation to each other and I believe social media helps us do that. The communion of saints is rich full of diversity and on social media I actually get to experience this diversity. It doesn’t take a task force or commission; it’s just us sharing our ideas and who we are. It’s us learning how to be hospitable to different ways of practicing our faith. I believe social media helps us embody Heidelberg Q & A 55 and helps us share in Christ as we all grow in our discipleship as followers of The Way.