In The Lutheran's July issue, Jon Sweeney asks: "Is Facebook church?"
His conclusion is that, no, it isn't. Sweeney notes that social networks are self-selected communities, while our congregations are not. We may choose a congregation with a specific culture, but we don't choose the individual members. Social networks are entirely self-selected — we decide who we let "in."
However — sooner or later — every Facebook user gets that one "friend request" they were dreading or the one they never expected. Your boss wants to be your friend. Or your former boyfriend. Or the person with whom you had a falling-out 10 years ago. Or the person who was a bully to you. Or the person to whom you were unkind. Or your estranged family member.
My direct supervisor and one of my ex-boyfriends are my "friends" on Facebook. And I'm blessed by those relationships in that virtual space.
But when I received a "friend request" from the person with whom I had a falling-out 10 years ago, I was conflicted. What if she reminded me of some of the less-than-considerate things I'd done when we were friends? For not being there for her when I should have been? What if she never forgave me for eventually giving up on our friendship a decade ago? Even though she's the one who requested we become friends on Facebook, I was afraid of opening old wounds.
After a week of deliberation, I clicked "accept." And I was delighted to reconnect, thankful that we both brought a decade of wisdom to our re-established friendship.
Despite the guilt we may feel at failed relationships or friendships, the opportunity to make amends in a neutral environment is a step toward our faith-inspired virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Isn't this what happens in our congregations when we share the peace before we come to the meal? We leave our grievances and failures behind as we shake the hand of our neighbor. We walk to the table reconciled, side-by-side with those with whom we live in imperfect community.
When we learn that the acquaintance we considered awkward in high school is 10 years later a self-confident man, we stop bearing false witness toward him. When we see that someone lists their "Religious views" as "Many" or "Yes" rather than "Lutheran" or "Roman Catholic," it opens the door to a conversation of faith.
Social networks will never be church. Some readers have left comments on The Lutheran's Facebook page noting that the bread and the wine cannot be blessed and distributed via the Internet. But others have commented there that Jesus is present wherever two or three are gathered in his name.
When I need to remember that the "W" in "Web" is capitalized, I'll mutter to myself: "The Web is a place, like Toledo." Too often we think of the Internet as a diversion or a place rife with vice. But it's also a place where, when two or three are gathered, Jesus is too. It's a place where we can share God's love with others.
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Check out this week's articles:
A berry good grower: Scientist creates varieties for flavor and resilience.
Is Facebook...church?: Meaningful connections may not be enough.
Now what? Should we insist our kids sit with us at worship?: My children want to be with their friends during worship.Also: In plain sight.
Also: Jazzed up for gathering.
Visit our Youth Gathering blog
No tickets, itineraries or luggage needed, just your prayers and good
wishes. This week, follow along as youth from across the church
experience Jesus, Justice, Jazz, the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering in New
Orleans, La.— as well as gathering pre-events for multicultural and
Read the blog...
Tell us: 'Mixed' marriage
Decades ago, a Lutheran-Roman Catholic marriage didn't always meet with favor. But in an increasing number of ELCA congregations and for many Lutheran-Roman Catholic couples, times have changed. If you are Lutheran or Roman Catholic (or formerly a Catholic), tell us your experience.
1. What made you decide to make a Lutheran church your faith community? Or have you made another arrangement?
2. What about your church makes this the right fit for you as a family?
3. What has this adjustment meant for you, your spouse or anyone else in your family?
Respond with 300 words maximum to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, Aug. 10. Include your name (and your spouse) and the congregation/city/state where you worship.
Tell us: Bible verses that made a difference
What Bible verse made a difference in your life and why?
Please explain in 250 words or less. Include your name; the Scripture
(book, chapter and verse); your congregation (provide town and state);
and your e-mail address or phone number.
Send to: The Lutheran magazine, attn: Elizabeth Hunter, 8765 W. Higgins
Road, Chicago, IL 60631; e-mail: email@example.com.
Deadline: Sept. 1
This week on our blog:
Julie Sevig (right) blogs about family rituals.
The Little Lutheran
(for children 6 and younger)
The Little Christian
(for children 6 and younger)
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers