As of today, Christ and Pop Culture has launched a Twitter account. You can access it and subscribe here. If you like this site at all, I think you’ll really like the twitter feed. Trust us, it will be more than just telling you when we’ve blogged (in fact, we’ll try and refrain from that sort of thing at least for now).
In honor of this new Twitter account, I thought I’d offer up this “Theology of Twitter”. Enjoy, and see you on Twitter.
For many, Twitter is just another sign of the internet’s ability to suck all of the time out of your life, leaving little room for anything of priority. For others, Twitter provides another opportunity to maintain and encourage community amongst people who they would otherwise not have the opportunity to know. I think the truth is something else.
This isn’t meant to be a defense or a condemnation of twitter. In this short blog, I merely want to point out some of the implications of twitter on the whole man. What does twitter say about us, and what can it do for us?
One observation that is foundational to the beginnings of twitter is the state we are in as a culture. If there is one thing that has suffered in our age it is relationships. People have very little time to cultivate relationships, share concerns and hopes, and make their needs known. When we do see one another, it’s hard to know what to say, because we simply don’t know where anyone is coming from. Instead, we spend most of our time hanging out, trying to get to that point where we can find some frame of reference or connection.
Christians and church members already know of one frame of reference in which they can interact: they have experienced the saving grace of the gospel of Christ and are living their lives in light of that truth. This is a great starting point, but we are fooling ourselves if we believe that’s all we need for deep fellowship. How many times can we have meaningful relationships asking the same tired questions that (supposedly) work on every Christian? The danger of such generic questions is that they treat every Christian as the same person with the same struggles and needs and worries. After a while, it’s time to move past questions like “How is work?” and “What have you been reading lately?”
So how did they do it in the early church? It’s safe to say Twitter had nothing to do with it. But it’s also hard to imagine them asking the same standard questions of one another every week before they head out in separate directions to carry on the rest of the work week. No, in that day, everyone had contact with various people throughout the day. You took walks, not car rides. You worked outside, not in cubicles. No one stayed inside and watched television or even read books. People spent time together. It wasn’t just a preference. It was a way of life.
Was that the better way? Probably. Can we simulate such a culture now as the church of God? Almost certainly not. We all have jobs in cubicles, things that have to get done, reasons to stay inside, and we don’t really take walks anymore. If we do, it’s rarely with one another. It’s all fine and good to say rather than watching television we ought to do something with real people, and this is a fine idea for much of the time, but social protocol gives us the real or imagined perception that if we call someone to hang out too often, we’re just annoying them. Because it’s often socially awkward to just say no to people, the perception is often real.
Twitter offers one way among many that we can compensate for these cultural flaws. While we need to acknowledge that a virtual, internet relationship is really no relationship at all, we also need to be honest and acknowledge what can be the real world benefit of knowing, for instance, that I’ve been thinking of doing some freelancing work, playing PS3 a LOT lately, and meditating on the vanity of life. This sort of knowledge makes the conversation a heck of a lot more meaningful and challenging when we come together on the weekend. By knowing what’s happening in one another’s lives, we know how to speak truth to one another, how to pray for one another, and how to serve one another.
Is it a waste of time? That’s your decision. When I get a spare moment, I’ll launch twitter. I’m currently following 20 people, and it usually takes me about 30 seconds maximum to digest whatever may be new. Then it takes another 30 seconds to tell twitter what I’m doing, thinking or feeling. The result? It could mean looking forward to fruitful, insightful conversations with a friend.
Instead of going in depth on other good and bad implications of twitter, I thought I’d share a few of the responses I got on twitter to the question: “Getting ready to blog a Theology of Twitter. Any thoughts on twitter’s theological implications?”
- “Some theology implications could be – narcissism (hey everybody look what I’m eating!) ouch – indictment”
- “Also, connectedness – people argue that it builds a relational tether with people and creates a springboard for relationship”
- “I believe it has great ministry appl.. I am going to twitter my mission trip to give people bursts of info so they can pray”
- “one bad implication may be that it lacks depth. It allows us to remain on the surface in terms of communication.”
- “Since twitter encourages trivial posts, I think it can allow us to revel in the beauty of common events”