Monday, September 10, 2012

Facebook Christianity

     It is amazing that ten years ago most Americans had never heard of Facebook and now over 750 million subscribers visit it regularly. There can be no doubt that social media sites have had a significant effect our society and it may be years before we truly understand the extent of these changes. Much has been written about the potential dangers of social media as it pertains to its effects on real interpersonal relationships. Dr. Alex Lickerman recently noted that the problem “…comes when we find ourselves gradually substituting electronic relationships for physical ones or mistaking our electronic relationships for physical ones.”

     The interweaving of social media has even affected the modern vernacular. For generations the title ‘friend’ has been understood to include some type of affection, esteem or connectedness. While for most it does still convey this same meaning, it now needs to be clarified. Social media “friends” are quite often not connected by the same feelings of affection or esteem. In fact, it is not uncommon for these “friends” to have almost no connection at all. In cyberspace friendship can consist of only a few mouse clicks. Of course, these “friendships” can be severed just as easily. Whereas once a person would only have a few close friendships in which they would invest themselves, now they can have thousands of “friendships” that require no effort at all.

     It is this minimal commitment that makes these cyber-relationships so problematic for Christianity. The idea of relationship is central to the Christian faith. Christ died to pay for our sins so that we might enter into a relationship with God. He established the church so that we might be in covenant relationship with one another. These relationships however, cannot be reduced to a click of a mouse or an occasional pithy comment on a computer screen. They require commitment; they require investment. Our devotion to Christ cannot be limited to a “religious view” on our profile page or by “liking” the Bible. Jesus said that if anyone wanted to follow Him, “he must deny himself, take up his cross daily.” (Lk 9:23). This must be a real-life commitment, not just a few clicks of the mouse.

     While my respect for God’s Word prevents me from carelessly translating Scripture, I cannot help but believe that a modern version of Matthew 7:22 might be, “On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we “friend” you on Facebook, post Christian comments, and “like” many stories that included Your name?” Our fear should be that His response would be the same as it is written, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

     There is nothing inherently wrong with Christians expressing their faith on the internet. On the contrary, if we are truly in love with Christ then we cannot help but share that with the world. The problem comes, as noted by Dr. Lickerman, when we substitute the electronic relationship with Christ with for the real relationship with Him.

In His Service,