[Sayma-Discuss] FWD: Richard Beck - "Social Media as Sacrament: A Thought For Rachel"

Mike Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Sat Jan 25 22:15:00 EST 2014


Friends,

 

This is so on target.

 

Crow-signature

 

Blessings,

Mike

 

Social Media as Sacrament: A Thought For Rachel 

http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2014/01/social-media-as-sacrament-t
hought-for.html

Posted on 1.24.2014 

 

Rachel sent out this Tweet today. And since I'm not on Twitter or Facebook
this is the only location where I can venture a thought.

 



 

My two cents, but I think burnout is often the product of expectations. And
one of the expectations I think Christians get caught up in is that it's our
job to save or change the world.

 

This problem isn't new to social media. I see it a lot in my college
students and in my local church context. You get a passion, say, for the
poor and start pouring your life into that issue. But the needs are so
overwhelming and your time, energy, influence and bank account way too
limited to make a dent.

 

So you pull away from the big global challenges and focus on local
ministries that reach out to the poor. You make new friends. But these new
friends start asking you for money. Or they tell you lies to cover for their
drug addiction. Or they steal from you. Or they are just too socially
damaged to reciprocate the friendship. You give and give and give. And the
need out there--even in just one person--seems like a vast hole you're
throwing everything into. And getting nothing back. Eventually, you burn
out.

 

A lot of us started out on the Jesus-life as radical young idealists. And
then reality hit.

 

And I wonder--and I am just wondering here--if something similar doesn't
happen with social media. We start thinking our blogs or Twitter accounts
are "platforms," locations were social media influence can be used to make
the world a better place. 

 

So that's what you try to do. And sometimes it seems to work. You write
something and the world responds. Your post goes viral and the comments fill
up with words of gratitude.

 

Those are good days. I think I've helped people, in all sorts of ways, with
something I've written. Words can give life.

 

And yet, the opinions and positions out there in the world of social media
can be so calcified and dogmatic that conversation feels like banging your
head against a wall.

 

Add to this the fact that social media "debates" tend to be so
impersonalized that our worst selves get drawn to the surface. (The lack of
face-to-face relationality recently discussed by Jamie the Very Worst
Missionary <http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2014/01/say-anything.html>
.)

 

Which all adds up to the feeling that all our social media activity and
advocacy isn't changing the world much at all. It feels rather, as I said,
like we are banging our heads against the wall.

 

And sometimes it feels like we are making things worse, that the more we
argue on social media the more polarized and entrenched we're becoming.

 

We are not connecting or changing. We are drifting further and further apart
in confusion and anger.

 

So we get disillusioned with social media, like we do with any sort of
ministry that sets out to change the world. We start off as idealists but
when the world doesn't change as fast as we'd like it to we end up tired,
disillusioned and, well, burnt out.

 

So, what to do about all this?

 

I can only speak from my own experience, both as a blogger and as someone
who is working hard to make friendships "at the margins" as a part of a
local church plant.

 

I don't know how I can solve the problems of many of my friends. The issues
are daunting. Chronic poverty. Drug addiction. Mental illness. Physical
disability. Cognitive disability. In the face of all this crushing need for
the first time in my life I sort of get what Jesus meant when he said, "The
poor you will always have with you."

 

I can't fix it or make it go away. I can't change the world. I'm not the
Messiah. But I can be a sacrament. I can be sign of love, a sign of life. I
can be a friend. In a cruel and inhumane world I can be a location of
kindness.

 

I wonder if something similar might be necessary for social media.

 

I don't think I can change people's minds. I really don't. I don't think
people are all that persuadable. So trying to persuade people is sort of
like trying to address world poverty with your own checking account. If the
poor will always be with us so will dogmatists. Myself included.

 

So I'm wondering, as I'm learning with issues like poverty, if we might
learn to Tweet and blog sacramentally. The goal isn't to argue, debate, call
out or "win." Because that game, as best I can tell, isn't winable. Minds
don't change on social media. I've never seen it.

 

The goal is to use social media sacramentally. To be a sign, a sign of life
and grace.

 

Looking back, my blog has been at its best when it has been sacramental. I
wrote a post that told a story about love and grace. I shared something that
educated, shed some light, inspired thought or reflection.

 

True, sacramental isn't all that viral. But maybe it could be. Slowly and
quietly. A flicker here and a flicker there. Signs and sacraments.
Eventually. Everywhere.

 

Maybe that's the way the world changes. 

 

This entry was posted by Richard Beck.

 

 

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