In my (extremely) occasional series on Preaching With Milliennials, I came across an article on ENS the other day. The writer speaks of going to a conference on the use of new technology to communicate in the business world, in which the conference leader undertook the Herculean task of explaining Twitter.
(I find this impressive. I recall once in seminary, when a colleague at the Church Center sat down at lunch and asked me to explain YouTube, and then, once I explained the concept, what one would do with such a thing. It’s a bit like explaining a screwdriver. It only works if you first have a concept of screws and their infinite uses.)
Anyway, the writer commented that this ‘following’ on Twitter, by which a user clicks a button, and signs up to read all the messages another user sends out, seems extremely shallow to her. By contrast, Jesus demands from us a more dedicated, engaged sense of following. The article is here, for your reading pleasure.
It’s not a bad article. Her point is well taken. Following Jesus should be more than skin deep, requires commitment, etc. Yes, good, fine, okay.
But it hits me sideways that she made that point by the Twitter-is-shallow-and-who-possibly-understands-it? route. The minute I found her on that particular road, I myself signaled for the nearest exit, and departed the caravan, however valid her eventual point.
Please, please, PLEASE do not bad-mouth technology. Just please don’t do it. I understand it can be off-putting, I understand it can be alienating, but you need to understand that for many of us, technology, and its rapid development has been a constant in our lives. Learning to use it is a constant curve.
Further, it makes about as much sense to me and most people I talk to, to disparage the Internet, or Twitter, in their entirety as it does to disparage wheels. Or levers. Or mechanized printing. (“Know what I can’t stand, Phineas? Damned interchangeable parts!” “Won’t someone think of the children!”) These things are tools, to be used in helpful or non-helpful ways. If you want to blame something, blame operator error.
For example: Twitter!
Some facts: Twitter users tend to be younger, less wealthy, and much more ethnically diverse (within the US). For over half of Twitter users surveyed, they access the service via cell phone. And, globally, only 33% of Twitter account holders live in the US. (Twitter’s short-burst form of communication, since it is harder to pinpoint by government censors, has been credited with facilitating the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, etc. During the Iranian Green Uprising in the spring of 2009, the US State Dept asked Twitter to delay server maintenance so that the protestors could continue to communicate.) Turns out, there is actually a lot going on here that is far from shallow.
For my money, Jesus would be having a blast on Twitter. (Though, to be fair, @JesusOfNaz316 already is.) Jesus didn’t hole up in a cave, waiting for people to come to him. Jesus wandered around, from town to town, preaching, teaching, and healing, as did every other traveling famous rabbi of the day. He did what he had to to get his message out there: commented on current events, used rudimentary amplification, you name it. The method of transmission wasn’t a concern, because if the story you’re telling is that important, then you’ll do whatever you have to so people can listen.
Oh. And I’m on Twitter. Right here.