Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Why Facebook is Hurting Christianity

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I love Facebook. I have been on Facebook for eight years now. I first created an account in 2006, and I have used it for various purposes. It is great for keeping up with friends, whom I never get to see. I interact with people I went to high school with, and I haven’t seen most of them in over 10 years. Ever since my wife and I moved to another state we began using Facebook to update our family on what is happening in our lives. It is easier to upload a picture to Facebook, than to send an e-mail out to various people. I also use Facebook as a way to communicate with people in my congregation. I use it to send out messages about potluck, classes, special events, and prayer requests. I have met new people on Facebook and made connections I would not have made otherwise. Facebook has been a blessing in my life. It has been a tool that I have used to connect with people all around the world. I think Facebook is great, but there are some things about it that concern me.

I believe in someways Facebook is hurting Christianity. This is not Facebook’s fault. Facebook is a neutral website that can be used for good or bad. It is how we use Facebook that is sometimes doing harm to the cause of Christianity. Facebook is a tool for us to use. The content and the messages on Facebook come from human beings. We post things we find on the internet. We like certain articles or comments. We update our statuses and put it out there for the whole world to see. Facebook is us. It is what we are doing, what we are feeling, and what we like and don’t like. We are putting a version of ourselves on the internet for everyone to see. Instead of expressing our opinion to one or two people, we are now broadcasting it to the world.

Social media is new to us. We haven’t thought through all the pros and cons yet. We haven’t seen how this is going to affect our society or future generations. We haven’t seriously contemplated how it should be used by Christians and the church. The newness is part of the problem, and I think it would be wise for us to begin to have some of these conversations. There are some problems with what I see on Facebook, but I believe these problems are fixable and Facebook can be used for good.

So, how is Facebook doing harm to the cause of Christ? Here are a few things I see that we need to work on. The problem is not with Facebook. The problem is with how we use it and it is up to us to make it better.

Christians are primarily known for what we are against – Anytime a big controversy arises, Facebook explodes. Whether it be Chick-fil-A or Phil Robertson, Christians are ready to give our opinion and we do. We update our statuses and post links, sometimes for days and weeks after a controversy. There does not even have to be a controversy for Christians to fill up a news feed with what we think about something. This happened recently with the Grammy’s and the State of the Union. I saw Christians post numerous things, mostly negative, concerning their feelings about these events. I did not watch either event, but I could pretty much tell you what was coming. If you don’t like it or you find it offensive, then don’t watch and certainly don’t post about it on Facebook. People are watching us, and I am afraid we are known more for what we are against than what we are for. People who are lost don’t need to hear what we thought about the President’s speech. In fact, the vast majority of people don’t want to hear our opinions concerning politics at all (If you don’t believe me, then just read David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ book UnChristian). People need to know what we believe, not what we are against. They need to hear about God’s love. They need to receive kindness and mercy from us. The first word people need to hear from us is not judgment, which is what we are doing when we tell them what we are against. The first word they need to hear from us is a word of grace. Grace is what will change the world!

Christians are easily drawn into debates and arguments – I love debating ideas and challenging other people as they challenge me, but Facebook is not the place for debate. It often turns ugly and rarely accomplishes anything. I have never known anyone to be persuaded by a debate on Facebook. I have known several people who have been offended and gotten their feelings hurt by debates on Facebook. Often these debates are between Christians. We see something another Christian posted that we don’t like and so the debate begins. Typically, the debate goes back and forth and instead of convincing anyone of anything, each side becomes more entrenched in the beliefs they already held. Instead of coming to any sort of agreement, most of the time it ends with someone getting tired or mad and giving up. This would be one thing if these debates happened in private or only among Christians, but they happen out in the open for everyone to see. Instead of being known for our love for one another (John 13:35), we are known for getting into debates over frivolous things. I have a no-debate policy for anything I post on Facebook. If you want to send me a private message and discuss an issue with me, then I would be happy to discuss it with you. I will listen to what you have to say and I will consider it, but I will not have a public debate on Facebook for all of my non-Christian friends to see. I want them to know the good things about Christianity. I want them to see our love for one another, not how much we like to argue.

Our public faith often lacks depth – We have all seen the posts on Facebook that say, “Hit like for Jesus” or something similar. My faith cannot be boiled down to a meme. It is more complex than that. When all we share on Facebook is a cheap version of Christianity, people are not convinced. They are looking for something more than platitudes. They need to hear what true Christianity is all about. I realize we are sometimes limited as to what we can post on social media. Twitter only allows a person 140 characters or less. It is hard to accurately sum up the gospel in such a brief way, but this doesn’t mean we should stop trying. I try and post true statements about the Christian faith that cause people to think. One of the easiest ways to do this is to read a great Christian thinker, like C.S. Lewis, and share quotes from his works. Lewis has some great quotes that are brief, but deep. Our goal should be to accurately convey the Christian faith in as brief a statement as we can without cheapening it in anyway.

Sometimes we forget to listen – One of the biggest problems with social media is that you have a lot of people talking, and not many people listening. I love the quote by Paul Tillich that says, “The first duty of love is to listen.” We need to be people who listen to others on Facebook. One of the greatest insults to another human being is to fail to listen to someone when they are trying to say something to us. This can happen in a conversation, or it can happen when someone makes a comment on a Facebook post. We also need to listen to people who aren’t directly engaging us in conversation. The people who are on our Facebook are supposedly our friends. Do we treat them this way? There may be someone who is hurting or someone who is lonely and they simply need someone to listen to them. Sometimes I will be feeling down about something and someone will send me a private message and it will lift my spirits. Sending someone a message only takes a few minutes and it can have a tremendous impact. People need to know that we care, and it is evident that we care if they know we are listening.

Can Facebook be redeemed? Absolutely! If we commit to acting like Christians should on Facebook and using it for good, then Facebook can be a great tool for us. We could use it not only to make connections with others, but also to promote the Christian faith. We live in a lost and dying world, and that world includes the people we know and interact with on Facebook.

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