11.05.2011

Following Jesus in a World Saturated by Social Media


The image above is something a friend of mine sent to me a while back. It got an immediate chuckle from me, but also made me wonder what it is like to convince a young person in 2011 to follow Jesus. In a world in which fundamentalist Christianity is so often mocked and dismissed, when young people find it completely normal to constantly multi-task, have scores of extra-curricular activities, and "follow" hundreds of people, how does one make a compelling case for dropping everything and following an itinerant preacher who lived and died 2000 years ago?

My casual observations below have probably been recited countless times already in the blogosphere, so I realize I'm not breaking new ground here. But humor me, as I'm writing this as much for myself as others.

It seems to me that "the long obedience in the same direction" that Eugene Peterson talks about is still, in an attention deficit disordered world, what God calls us to, and still what many of us may desperately long for, our outward behavior notwithstanding. That is to say, pruning down from too many endeavors to just those that are meaningful is still a good word.

It also seems to me that the various media by which we send and receive information must be engaged in by followers of Jesus. Somewhere in between being captured by it and self-righteously boycotting it (and who doesn't know people who represent either extreme, or hasn't themselves represented either extreme?), there's a happy medium that acknowledges that media matters, that media is inherently neutral, that media can be negative (and therefore we should take caution), and that media can also be positive (and therefore we should try to use it in those ways).

Would Jesus tweet? Do you imagine him having more followers than anyone else, or do you imagine him speaking a condemning word against the whole exercise? Again, I think it's somewhere in between, although I will note that while he had his mass-audience moments, he was much more likely to trade in more intimate groupings. (Maybe he would "direct message" more often than tweet?)

Of course, there's more to social media than just the big three of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and youngsters are increasingly spending hours and hours interacting with each other on a whole host of apps and platforms. I'm not sure that Jesus would be completely ignorant or avoiding of such things, but I think he would probably lean on the side of seeking out fewer, deeper, more intimate contacts: less sermons on the mount, and more concentrating on 12 men. Without going overboard and incorrectly dismissing the whole industry, we should probably do something like that as well.
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