Are we ‘cultivating an online evangelical culture of self-projection. Trying our hardest, of course, not to look like we’re self-promoting. This is not where God’s power lies.’
Dan Ortland asks some hard questions about our use of Social Media.
How would you know that someone was really afraid to die?
At a superficial level we are tempted to think of it in terms of a fear of the moment of death itself. Perhaps the last few weeks of a terminal disease or the moments on board a plane as it plummets to the ground after a major malfunction. It’s this kind of fear of death that made Woody Allen quip ‘I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’
So when we think of the fear of death we tend to reduce it to the fear of dying. But I’m not sure that does it justice. I want to argue that the fear of death is a much bigger idea that pervades more of life. It’s better expressed in another quote this time of Leo Tolstoy who said
My question – that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide – was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy.
To the secularist the vague notion that maybe we actually live on in the afterlife has been rejected. So what hope now? Well we find the fear of death at work in surprising ways. In the vain hope that we can continue to be present, if not in reality, then through a computer programme that interacts on Facebook, etc., on our behalf. That, if you like, pretends that we have not gone forever.
So here we find the fear of death expressed in surprising ways as exemplified in this TED talk by Adam Ostrow entitled After your final status update
The fear of death is seen in increasingly desperate attempts to hold onto life. In our unwillingness to leave this life.
How do we respond as Christians?
It’s easy to want to laugh, maybe it all makes us want to cry but surely it reminds us that our message of the one who has defeated death and promised life to all who are in him is a message every human soul is primed to need to hear.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says in chapter 3:10-11
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart
It is that burden we see expressed in the world and it is that burden that only the gospel answers. Peter in his first letter writes;
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you
Let us then be bold to continue to speak of him who alone has beaten death and conquered the grave. The one who alone has the answer to the fear of death however it might reveal itself.
A fascinating article on digital media and what it is doing to us in the New York Times.
Bill Keller, Executive editor of the Times, declares himself to be no luddite but in a week in which he introduced his 13 year old daughter to Facebook he writes of the unforeseen, unintended consequences of pursuing digital technology;
‘My inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.’
‘The shortcomings of social media would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect that Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg’s device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet — complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy — are things that matter.’
Great video. Mindblowing stats. Thanks to Andy Shudall for the link.
Slate has posted a great article called facebook is making us sad reporting on a study which reveals the sub-conscious impact that social networking sites can have on our sense of well-being. The article is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
The conclusion of the study is that we feel anxious and even depressed whenever we compare ourselves with others because we almost always think that our facebook friends are doing better in life than we are. There is nothing new in those feelings but maybe Facebook exacerbates the problem because it suggests that everyone else out there is leading the perfect life.
Brian Houston makes us sad
Houston’s book You need more money: Discovering God’s amazing financial plan for your life could only be written by a rich Western Christian. I would love to hear him try to persuade the persecuted Christians in various Islamic countries that God has a purpose to bless them financially and make them rich in this life!
Here’s a taster:
If you are applying the Word to your life, God will bless you with prosperity and good success.
And then again:
Take a bit of time to think this through and if you still aren’t sure that God wants you to prosper, ask yourself these questions:
If God didn’t want you to get wealth, why would he give you the power to get it?
If He didn’t want you to be wealthy, why would He take pleasure when His people prosper?
And why would He promise prosperity and success if He preferred us to remain poor? Continue reading »
1. Christianity is not just for Sunday. BIogs can help people connect their faith to what is going on in the world around them Monday to Saturday and yet do so in just a few minutes a day.
2. Nothing in the world is going to encourage Christians to keep thinking great thoughts about Christ through the week. Blogs can help lift our eyes so that we set our hearts and minds on Christ.
3. We need a Christian perspective and sometimes a Christian corrective on much that is broadcast in our media. Blogs offer a forum for a Christian response which would only come after a number of weeks for regular Christian newspapers.
4. Blogs help us in our evangelism by offering an apologetic against bad arguments and godless ideas as well as a response to hot topics (see 3 above).
5. Blogs can be a place for evangelism offering a shop window into the Christian faith as non-Christians stumble across our site.
6. Blogging as a form of public journaling keeps the author thinking and keeps their thoughts fresh as they write. Blogging is therefore a good discipline for pastors amongst others.
7. Blogging is a great way of teaching on topics best digested in bite-size pieces. So a series of posts on say parenting may work best over a short series with maybe one key application a day to work on and pray through.
8. Blogging can start a conversation on a topic that enables people to take it further. A review of a book encourages people to read it, links to other sites deepens an understanding by providing complimentary perspectives and more info.
10. Some issues are not for everyone so rather than a spot in a church meeting people can pick and choose from a variety of topics by using for example the tag cloud.
11. Blogging is a way of creating awareness of issues unknown to us eg. highlighting the needs of the suffering church.
12. Blogging is a great way to share ideas and develop ministries. eg. You might make new connections as you share what is going on in your own church with others.
True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value – Ben Johnson
A man of many companions may come to ruin,but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother – Proverbs 18:24
Where God gives us opportunity let us be true friends today.
I’ve been taking my iPhone to bed with me for the past few weeks. Not because I’m expecting an urgent call you understand nor in case of emergency but because I simply have to keep a check on the cricket score. Having a 12 day old baby means you know you’re going to be awake a fair bit of the night so why not see how England are doing and whilst I’m at it I might as well check my e-mails, twitter account and blog stats…..
But if that is a temporary feature brought on by a crying baby and a decent English cricket team my need to be connected isn’t. The reality is that if I leave home without my phone it feels as if I’ve had a limb amputated.
Are you addicted to technology or can you live without it?
The Winter of Our Disconnect is a new book written by Susan Maushart in which she and her family undergo a ‘digital detox’. They pull the plug and put themselves through a six month experiment without laptop and games consoles.
In interview with the Daily Telegraph she comments:
‘It’s a push-pull, isn’t it. There is a part of me that feels suffocated when the train goes into a tunnel and I lose signal for 10 seconds. I write about this stuff in the book because I fuly identify iwth it. But you also know that this stuff can compromise your life hugely.’
I’ve been listening to a BBC radio 4 serialisation of the book this week. It’s well worth a listen.
As Christians we have even more reason to take a look at how we are using or being used by technology. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12
“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.
Or as ESV renders it
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
How can I ensure I’m not mastered by my use of digital media?
Here are 6 actions that may help;
1. Take a break one day a week. If fasting from food is a helpful spiritual discipline for many fasting from technology might be even more beneficial.
An interesting article on one student’s attempt at a ‘Phone-free Friday’ can be found here.
2. Limit the time you (or your family) spend on computer games. Set yourself a maximum time eg. an hour a day?
3. Make an agreement with your family that you won’t check your phone or answer it when you’re having a family meal or meeting with someone or at church (!).
4. Don’t check your e-mails until you’ve addressed the more important matters of reading your Bible and praying in the morning. You could try and be even more radical and only check your emails between certain hours (it helps to let others know when to expect a reply).
5. Don’t see it as a chore but take note of all the benefits. Slow your brain down and see how much you gain.
6. Put the time you gain to good use. Reading, writing, praying, meditating, talking with friends.
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