Would Jesus Have Been on Facebook?
Jesus was a carpenter. His earthly father (Joseph) was a carpenter too. So, while Jesus was growing up he worked in the family business. Question: Do you think that Jesus learned about, and was willing to use, the tools of his trade? I can imagine so – can’t you? If that’s true, do you think that he would have been willing to use power tools (had they been available)? That may sound like a strange question, but it actually has substantial relevance for the case I’d like to make in this blog.
Here’s my proposition: If we are willing to accept that Jesus would have used the tools of the trade (as it related to carpentry), does it not stand to reason that he might have used the tools of the trade as it relates to communication as well? In other words, would Jesus have had a Facebook page for ministry purposes (if that were available to him)? Would Jesus have encouraged one of his disciples to open a Twitter account had that been an option in the day?
We can’t know any of that for sure. But, it seems conceivable that he might have been very open to using these technologies, because when we look at his teaching ministry he was quite committed to speaking in the language of the people. Therefore, should you see yourself as one of his modern day representatives might you consider the merits of the following statement regarding technology and its capacity as a tool of our trade?
The failure to engage modern technological platforms increases the likelihood that one will become isolated, ignorant, insulated, impotent and irrelevant.
Technology can be magical and playful. It can make life easier and more fun. Technology is therefore often put in the category of modern conveniences. The problem with “conveniences” is that we can assume they are peripheral, negotiable and maybe even non-essential. However, when discussing social media platforms there might not be a more important topic to be discussing today. What do we do with things like Facebook, Skype, Twitter, i-pads, i-phones, texting, and the like? Is there a definitive Christian position on any of this? If so, how do we understand it? How do we arrive at it?
Obviously, I have already declared my rather bold position on this, and I’d like to share a few (hopefully relevant) thoughts on why this is such an important topic to discuss.
For me, it all boils down to being a responsible Christ follower. This is about heeding Christ’s commissioning to be a light in the world. Therefore, it would be irresponsible not to engage technological platforms (language vehicles) that are so prevalent in our culture.
Jesus communicated creatively. In fact, it is the ministry of Jesus and the way he communicated, that is at the core of my own thinking about modern platforms and the opportunity they provide for us.
Studying Christ’s manner of communication is eye-opening. It can be as helpful as studying the specific things he said. In other words, when we study the life of Jesus, we typically spend considerable time looking at the content of his messages. So, we study what he said. Very important! But, I want to suggest that it is also extremely helpful to look at his communication practices. How he said what he said! When we do so, we are given some critical insight into the unique kind of authority he carries with people (Matthew 7:28-29). To summarize:
Jesus used the language “vehicles” of the culture to speak to the culture – and his usage of these vehicles gave him increased authority with those who listened to him.
To do the same in our day necessitates the engagement of technology. We cannot avoid it or we are in danger of losing any significant impact on the conversations that affect the trajectory of our culture. Technological engagement is at the heart of the age old Christian axiom of being in the world but not of it. Granted, there has always been a risk with technology, and the church has historically been slow to embrace it – often rejecting it – much to our own demise.
In 1609 Galileo constructed his first telescope, and in the 30 years that followed he made the most convincing case against an earth-centered solar system. His research (and the evidence he introduced) became the tipping point for the scientific community to embrace a sun-centered solar system – overturning the work of Aristotle and Ptolemy. Galileo’s conclusions are accepted as indisputable today. But, his position was revolutionary then – just 400 years ago! In fact, Galileo’s discoveries and conclusions were seen as heresy in the Church, because his findings seemed to be in conflict with certain passages from the Bible. So, he was dragged before an inquisition and he was told to recant his position.
He did not. Some religious scholars wouldn’t even look through the telescope because they saw it as a tool of the devil. The institutional Church put Galileo under house arrest and threatened him with torture or death if he didn’t recant. Many people blamed the technology. It was a tool of darkness! Leaders in the church (at the time) were unwilling to consider the tremendous potential that could come from this amazing piece of technology. They just saw it as a threat. Therefore, they had to squelch it and demonize it.
I don’t want to be that guy! Do you?
Conversely, what if the church – and by the church, I mean Christ followers collectively – could actually lead in technological innovation and leverage it for good? I realize that bucks a long-standing trend of what is typical for the Church, because we are usually known as the people who are against anything and everything new and different. That’s not new either. This tendency dates all the way back to the ministry of Jesus – where the religious leaders of Jesus’ time didn’t care for the “new ways” our Lord communicated either.
So, perhaps even in that, we need to be followers of Christ: Ready to buck a religious trend in order to accomplish a greater and more important purpose.