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Behold, I am tweeting a new thing!

As an elected deputy to General Convention 2012, I get to partake in an interesting exercise in in-box management known as the HoB/D listserv.  It’s an email listserv open to all deputies, bishops, and diocesan and Church Center staff (I think).

Thus, many, many people are on this email list.  Collectively, General Convention is the second-largest democratic body in the world.  (India’s parliament is no.1.  We’re no. 2.  T-shirts are on order.)
The conversations are great to read, but like many things in these here interwebz, people who read only, and do not post, greatly outnumber those who do post.  So most conversations get skewed pretty fast, in my opinion, towards the same few voices who protest.
This week, news broke into general consciousness that several people had been live-tweeting the recent Executive Council meeting.  This wasn’t news to those of us on Twitter.  But evidently, it’s news to people who aren’t on Twitter, and someone on Exec Council raised a (similarly public) objection.
So for the past two days now, a heated conversation has been flowing forth on the HoB/D listserv on the appropriateness of Twitter in meetings.
I should like to point out the following things:
1.) TWO DAYS.  This has been a conversation for TWO DAYS.  If the argument is that Twitter distracts from the business at hand, then I doubt you’re making that argument any more cogent by continuing to press it for TWO WHOLE DAYS.
 2.) I’m unclear on how tweeting reports of what’s happening is more distracting than taking private notes.  And I’m extremely hesitant to launch a blanket accusation of inattention against all committee secretaries.  Who would like to go there?  Line up, please.
But most importantly!
3.)  The argument I keep hearing repeated against Twitter as a source of information is that of bias.  Which is entirely true.  Twitter reports are biased.  It’s one person, or one group of people expressing their take on things.
Right.  And now I’d like to introduce you to Rupert Murdoch.
The thing is, this is not at all different from the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Times or Fox News.  Or the biases involved in books out of Intervarsity Press or Zondervan. All media is biased.  There is no such thing as non-biased media.  (Just like there’s no such thing as a impartial narrator. The Great Gatsby should have taught us that.)
The difference is that with Twitter, as with the new social media, there’s a little picture beside the words, with the person’s name, so that you know exactly who’s perspective you’re getting.  And with one click, you can get as many different perspectives on the same topic as you want. Presto!  Instant variety, instant perspective shift–if you want it.
Of course, that means that no one person/thing has control over the flow of information.  Which can be tricky. Information flowing all over the place means that leaders have to justify themselves and their decisions, and explain things so convincingly that people consciously support them.  Power suddenly becomes diffuse.
It’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t until the development of Guttenberg’s printing press that the Vatican invented the imprimatur: an official blessing that allowed the book to be printed and read.  In 2010, imprimaturs started being applied to iPhone apps as well.
There are ways around this new, diffuse power structure we’re moving into.  But they aren’t good ways.  And they aren’t Episcopal ways.  One of our strengths has been our giant, colorfully democratic method of governance.  Now is not the time to sacrifice that.

Please please please let me tweet what I want

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.

Collect for Star Wars Day

Today is May the Fourth, as in May the Fourth be with you, thus it is on this day that we celebrate the giving of Star Wars to the people of Earth. (Episodes 4-6. The rest is terrifying and trivial adiaphora.)
Written for this occasion is the following collect, by the ever-brilliant Rev. Robert Hendrickson.
For Star Wars Day:

The Force be With You.
And With Thy Spirit.
Let Us Pray.

Almighty God, who hast inspired the creation of the Star Wars for the entertainment, edification, and enjoyment of all humankind and hast adorned it with the power to make us merry; so inflame our affections for Episodes 4-6 that we may strive to imitate the way of the Jedi; so strengthen our endurance that we may read, mark, and inwardly digest each of Yoda’s manifold teachings with new and undending ardor; so nurse us with abundant midichlorians that our lightsabers may be guided by thy hand and the dark side dispersed. And when we have displeased thee, give to thy padawans patience and true repentance as we accept the humiliating chastisements of the dark one’s servant, Jar-Jar that we may not merit being offered to slake the hungers of the Sarlacc.