12.30.2009

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Blogs


The term "avatar" is pretty mainstream nowadays, what with a blockbuster movie by that name out in the theaters. I first remember it as it related to Second Life, a virtual world in which you could buy things, fall in love, and host meetings. Avatars, a sort of digital alter ego, allowed people to be what they wanted to be in the real world, in a virtual world.

Sounds kind of nerdy and perhaps even a little phony. But I wonder if we all have created avatars just the same, even if we aren't trolling around in Second Life. After all, very few of our Twitter updates and Facebook statuses are truly revealing; more often than not, they are part of a carefully crafted branding strategy intended to demonstrate our clever, cultured, and/or popular we are.

Looking in the mirror, I'd have to say "guilty as charged," as well. Even when I am trying to be vulnerable and transparent in sharing something personal, I am usually pretty mindful of controlling how I am read. To be sure, discretion is a necessity in the online world, but I have to admit that oftentimes it is not discretion but inauthenticity that I am demonstrating in my writing.

For those of us who are Christians and who keep blogs or otherwise engage others in social media, I wonder what those who do not share our life perspective or faith upbringing think of us when they read our words; and, on a not unrelated note, what is it that we want them to think of us? Do we come off as educated, insightful, or daring? Relievingly normal or stereotypically pushy? Do we have it all together or are our lives incongruous with what we purport to believe?

If Jesus blogged, I imagine he'd be as He was in the flesh: always on display, ever focused on His life mission, irresistibly engaging, often with a word of distress for the comfortable and a word a comfort for the distressed. He'd be comfortable with who He was, and yet able to let in his inner circle in moments of great pressure. And, whether you were attracted or repelled by Him, you'd never doubt that you were seeing Him authentically and not through a carefully constructed avatar.

Will they know we are Christians by our blogs? Maybe not, and maybe that's OK. There's nothing inherently wrong with being flippant and coy, biting and mocking, and with using social media to do so in a more public forum. And there's nothing wrong with keeping private details private, whether for the sake of discretion or any other reason.

But if you are a believer and you blog, by all means I encourage you as I encourage myself, towards more authenticity. We who follow Jesus are by no means perfect, and many of us bear many scars, both from the world and from our own mistakes. And yet, the good news is not that Christians are better people, less pock-marked and more desirable as a result; but rather that God somehow loves us through our blemishes, and even more incredibly, uses us through (and not just in spite of) those blemishes to love others. If we are in fact deeply fascinating living testimonies of such a great God, who wants to put forth a man-made, poorly-conceived avatar instead?

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