Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Church’s Message

By Chelsea Whitton

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Nick O'Malley/Collegian

Recently I officially signed up for Twitter, not that I hadn’t been on it before as I had about five different accounts under pseudo names for no apparent reason. So I got rid of those and signed up with my real name and started following some news organizations, magazines, environmental groups and political pundits.

Twitter, the social media network that enables individuals to receive newsfeeds from other persons and organizations, of course implies that you will “follow” people and organizations. It is designed to keep people up-to-date on news, events and keep track of people you find interesting through constructed messages. However, I signed up with the Internet site curious about the word “follow.” I found myself asking, “Does God have a verified account I can follow?” He doesn’t have a Twitter account, just incase you’re wondering.

But if he did, life’s answers surely could be found more easily this way. We could get quick updates on what he’s thinking about the world. He could send messages such as, “Folks today there’s going to be a lot of tectonic plate movement, brace yourselves, but I still love you,” or on Christmas, “Happy Birthday, Son.”

This questioning and deep inflection into social media platforms came to fruition after a weekend visit back home for Easter. The holiday inspired me to go to church. It’s not that I didn’t want to go, as I truly do believe Jesus died for my sins.

In any case, church opened up with the usual upbeat music. Then, the lights went down and we saw on the projection screens a multimedia slideshow that described the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Nothing new right?

Right, except the multimedia production was narrating the biblical resurrection story as if it were being posted on Twitter. Would Jesus approve? I really don’t know, but found it worthwhile to ponder.

The video, by Igniter Media, begins by someone typing into the Twitter box asking, “What’s happening?” and then tweeting, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” Next, the video displays tweets of disciples with photo icons speaking about the whereabouts and good-doings of Jesus right before his death, posting tweets and tiny URL photo links about Jesus’ work.

Then Jesus’ Twitter account pops up where his bio reads, “The Way. The Truth. The Life,” and the clicker on the page presses, “Follow,” in which a count of follower increases steadily into the thousands. The video includes hashtags “#Blashphemy” and “#Unbelievable.” The story told on Twitter in small sentences is a narrative loosely based on biblical accounts.

I guess my cringing during this presentation was due to the loose connection to the actual words recorded in scripture of what happened between the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Is it irresponsible of the church to use social media tools so familiar to them that they have not a choice but to be drawn to? Why is it that the church believes social media is much more captivating than just spreading the word about God by itself, in scripture form? If they held to normal tradition wouldn’t God’s word be powerful enough in itself?

While using Twitter and other forms of social media may not be the traditional way to spread the word of God, it could actually be the right thing. In the church’s mind it could prove to be a new easy-to-reach way of spreading the word about something they believe to be accurate and true. I wonder if churches have considered these ethical dilemmas about showing a 300-member church a powerful sideshow chronicling Jesus’ death, filled with both traditional imagery of God and imagery of new media, blended together.

Will this make God more approachable, visible and accessible in a world packed with tiny URLs and billions of messages? I’m not sure at all, but I am sure that it’s not a bad thing that people are finding God in some sort of way, in a world bogged down by disaster, financial burden and economic collapses.

It could make sense right? God changes with the times, I mean he hasn’t struck New Jersey with lightning after MTV’s airing of the “Jersey Shore” or Fox News for its informative “messages,” of truth. I want to believe he is a God changing the ways his messages get out too.

What do you think about God’s message in social networking tools? At first I was reluctant to admit to liking the use of social media for the church – to use a Christian cliché, for “worldly” reasons. However, “worldy” doesn’t necessarily mean without God.

The production and complete text of the Bible took three things – people who had faith and then people who were then willing to proclaim their faith. Lastly, it was completed by people who were willing to follow God, spread the word about him and then write about his word in day-to-day life. It took people connecting, inspiring, voicing the message, proclaiming what was held to be true, corresponding by travel to send letters, documents gospels and teachings to see the Bible as a highly influential piece of history. Maybe social media is what it takes in today’s world to communicate an ancient text and in my mind applicable text. Only God knows.

Chelsea Whitton is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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