Podcast #49: Terminator, Twitter, and Meaningless Fun

This Week: Here are some questions: Is it possible someone actually likes Terminator Salvation? Is there a spiritual benefit to watching “dark” films? Is Twittering in church really a good idea? Should we feel guilty about having fun? These questions have one thing in common: we try to answer them! If that doesn’t make you want to listen, how about our Top 5 Worst Ideas for a Twitter Update?

Every week, Richard Clark and Ben Bartlett sit back and discuss the posts of the previous week on Christ and Pop Culture, acknowledge and respond to the big issues in popular culture, and give a sneak peak at the week ahead. We love feedback! If you’d like to respond you can comment on the website, send an email to christandpopculture@gmail.com, or go to our contact page. We would love to respond to feedback on the show, so do it now! Subscribe to us in iTunes by clickinghere. While you’re at it, review us in iTunes! We’ll love you forever!

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  • David Dunham

    @ Ben, I wonder if your comparison between Ecclesiastes and Lamentations and “dark” films is right. Could you elaborate on how dark films can have the same effect as those books when they may or may not have redemptive elements, and when those redemptive elements may not be Christian?

  • David Dunham

    @ Ben, can you provide some scriptural support for your impression of the Corporate Worship service that you give?

  • David Dunham

    @ Rich, in many ways what it feels like you’re saying when you argue that Twittering during church causes you to think to hard about what you want to write that you shouldn’t carefully think and react and respond to what the sermon or the song or the Spirit is communicating to you. Which is absurd! I know that’s not really what you’re saying, but the argument that Twitter distracts you is not really a good argument, I think. After all, isn’t the worship service designed to get us to think and react and respond in all sorts of ways.

    @ Ben, I fail to see how Twitter is so vastly different from note taking. Could you elaborate on that point as well.

  • David Dunham

    Okay I think your Facebook rules are funny…but hopefully this is an exercise in meaningless fun and you’re not really trying to impose actual rules on Facebook users.

    Man I feel like I am really critical of this podcast, in all actuality I really enjoyed this one.

  • David- Yep, you’re really critical of this one. :-)

    Let’s see here…

    Regarding dark elements, my main point is that there is value to exploration of the sad and painful and questioning side of life. As we (you!) have discussed many times on the show, a piece of art is not required to express the entire redemptive-historical drama… it may often (usually?) only express one element of it.

    Take an example as simple as paintings of Jesus. They can show the hope of his birth, the beauty of his life, the love of his actions toward the hurting, the suffering of his death on the cross, or the victory when he rose from the grave. That’s the drama, but a single painting can and should only portray one element of that.

    In a similar way, I’m saying that full experience of the depth of God’s world requires that Christians be willing to interact with the dark and suffering side of the world as well… if they don’t they too easily fall into a shallow triumphalism that is not proportional to what we see in Scripture, and in many ways alienates us from a dying world. Watching movies or reading books that are good at expressing the darker side of life (even if individual books or movies express only one element of the drama) help us do that.

    Regarding the Corporate Worship service, I simply start with the fact that the gathered church is clearly called to worship God together. There are many things the church is called to do, and that is one of them. So the worship service in the church is, I think, the one consistent time that the church gathers to carry out that mission.

    To me, Twitter is fundamentally opposed (by it’s very structure) to that mission of God-centered worship.

    Again, I’m fine with Twitter at other times. But it’s like trying to play football in the middle of a soccer game… it can’t work, because the two run into each other and do not complement each other.

    Note taking is a personal way of assisting your own understanding of God for the purpose of worshiping and serving him better. Twitter is designed not for personal reminders, but to express something to other people. It structurally takes your focus off God, and onto what you are communicating to everyone else. It seems subtle, but I think it has the same effect as someone talking to you through the window of the church building while the pastor is preaching. The two just don’t go together.

    Finally (good grief!), our “Top 5 things not to say on twitter/facebook” was meant to be an exercise in wisdom, not an imposition of rules. Are you seriously going to tell me you thought we were trying to make actual rules?

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..People and Sadness

  • David Dunham

    I agree with you 100% on the dark film issue. I just wanted to be sure we were saying the same thing, and we clearly are.

    I am still not sure you’ve given a Biblical defense of the primary role of the corporate worship service. You haven’t really stated any Biblical evidence, just another thought. I am not trying to be contentious, just trying to work through the arguments for and against Twittering during church. I just don’t know how I feel about it. Usually I’d line right up with you guys on this sort of thing, but recently I am wondering if the arguments against such things are as solid as some think they are. The distinction you make between note taking and twittering seems strange (you can call it subtle), but it sounds like you’re saying Twittering requires more thought and is therefore bad, and that seems like a bad argument.

    Lastly, I don’t believe you guys ever try and “impose” rules, so that was a bad word choice on my part. I apologize, brothers. But it did seem like you were nitpicking about things (like, “don’t write something everyone else has already written).

    If you feel I am being overly critical you can tell me, but I am just trying to engage you guys on this one particular subject so I can understand better.

  • Fair enough. A couple points…

    The distinction between note taking and Twittering is, I think, both subtle AND clear. When a person takes notes, they are seeking to more effectively engage with what is being said- in this case, proclamation of the Word of God. In other words, they are seeking to even more effectively do exactly what that part of the service is designed to do; engage the individual with God’s Word and apply it to their lives.

    Twitter, though, inherently focuses the mind on the proclamation of personal feelings and responses to other individuals.

    It’s like the difference between talking with your wife, and talking with your wife in front of a hundred people. There is much greater intimacy and honesty and focus to the conversation when my wife and I talk one on one. But if there are a hundred people listening in AND I KNOW IT, then it will alter (often drastically) my focus from my wife and the conversation to how I am projecting myself to the hundred people. That is the difference between Twitter and note taking… one advances the purpose of the sermon, the other introduces a new and unintended element.

    One issue with the top 5 list is that Rich and I interpret it differently. If you’ll notice, my rules tended to be pastoral/protective, given as the perspective of an outsider (one who rarely uses those mediums). Rich’s “rules” were more humorous and born of richer experience. His tend to help improve the ability of Twitter and Facebook to be used for positive online community.

    So our different perspectives resulted in different directions for the lists. I would say use my list to avoid danger areas, and use Rich’s list to be more effective and constructive in using Facebook and Twitter as mediums for community.

    I confess to being a little frustrated that you’re being insistent about going to look up biblical passages on the importance of God-centered worship. Really? You can’t find those yourself?

    My first recommendation is the book edited by D.A. Carson, called, “Worship By the Book.” It is excellent at laying out the importance and purposes and methods of corporate worship.

    Here are some references…

    “You shall worship the Lord your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you.” (Exodus 23:25)

    “You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship, to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.” (Deuteronomy 10:20-21)

    “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:8-9)

    “O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6)

    “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

    “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29)

    “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17)

    “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41-47)

    “On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting.” (Acts 20:7-8)

    “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:26-30)

    “Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-29)

    “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, ‘God is really among you.’ ” (1 Corinthians 14:23-25)

  • One thing about Twitter (and texting) is that it’s rude and distracting to those around you as well as to the speaker.

    Especially in a church service, when your neighbour sees you feverishly typing on a handheld device, their first instinct is not to imagine that you’re taking notes to better edify the body. Instead they imagine that you’re texting someone else to find out about lunch plans for after the service.

    You create a distraction from the preaching of God’s word. People have a hard enough when the only distractions are coming from the pastor himself (as he employs whatever jokes or lame illustrations he feels the need to engage in order to pad out the sermon). The last thing your neighbour needs is to see you texting or playing video games or whatever it looks like you’re doing. For this reason, I don’t doodle in church—even though I concentrate better while doodling.

    Plus, people really don’t need the distraction of following a bunch of Twitter Feeds during the service either.

    I don’t really have any strong theological complaint against it beyond that on the surface its inconsiderate to both speaker and audience (though I can’t say I’m a huge fan of note-taking either). Further, I’ve come find it’s rare that a Twitter is actually worth following, and someone’s ill-considered, from the hip Tweet about what he heard two seconds ago during the sermon doesn’t strike me as a worthwhile pursuit. Twitter is, of course, what one makes of it—but I certainly don’t know anybody who makes wonderful use of it and the only Twitter-Maker I’ve read that is at all engaging is a comedy.

    From what I gather, the coming together of the saints in worship is not an instance of individuals coming before God, but an instance of the body-as-individual coming before God. As far as engaging goes, it is not meant to be us-as-individuals engaging each other, but us-as-one engaging God.

    As far as when I hear the news that churches are trying to Twitterfy their congregations, my only real thought is: Wow. Cheesy. Somebody’s trying a bit too hard to hop on the fad wagon.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • David Dunham


    I am not trying to upset you, but you’re list of Scripture quotations rather proves my point. Those lists do clearly speak about people worshiping God, but they are not clearly attached to the gathered, collective body of the local church for services once a week. Those verses represent the Biblical concept of worship as a “lifestyle.” In fact the Acts and 1 Corinthians passages suggest worship is more about mutual encouragement, building up, and challenging one antoher, not about one’s own personal relation to God during the service.

    My point here is that perhaps your opposition to Twitter during church is because you misunderstand the purpose of the corporate service, which is mutually building up one another. That happens through preaching, clearly, but also through speaking to one another about the content of the sermon…and Twitter could possible be a way to do that. I am not sure about that last part yet, but it’s an intersting idea if it could work.

  • But David, is there no precedence for preaching and teaching? Or singing spiritual songs? And do you think that Paul meant for everyone to be carrying on conversations amongst themselves during these things? If that’s the case, what exactly separates preaching from teaching?

  • David Dunham

    Rich, I do firmly believe in preaching and teaching, and spiritual songs. I am not sure I know what you’re asking.

    My point is that the corporate worship service is not about me and God…it’s about me and my fellow church members. What you’ve already pointed out in your discussion with Ben is that we could all stay home and worship God, there is something different and unique that happens at the corporate gathering, that while still being worship has a communal aspect that is at its very heart. And there is a possibility that Twittering thoughts on the sermon to one another is a way to possibly generate real community around the content of the service.

    Good comments have been made about the possibility of distraction, and temptation, etc. and so I hesitate to affirm it, but I am just not sure the theological arguments you and Ben have made are as solid as you think they are. So I am wrestling with it and pushing back on you guys a bit.

  • My point is that teaching is a decidedly different act than preaching, and that preaching is distinguished and defined by the fact that it’s received by the congregation, not participated in. Otherwise, it becomes a conversation, a bible lesson, etc. Preaching is what Stephen did on the day of Pentecost. It was modeled for us pretty distinctly and then commanded. To dilute that concept is dangerous territory.

  • David Dunham


    The distinction you draw between preaching and teaching is one that is fairly commonly debated among theologians and pastors. Some men beleive there is a difference others do not. So you’d have to prove your case for the division.

    But in any regard does the “reception” aspect of preaching or teaching totally eliminate the discussion aspect. I assume all preachers want their people to carefully think through and dialogue about the content of the sermon. No listening is truly passive. I do recognize the issue you’ve raised about whether or not that discussion should take place while the preaching is still going on. But I am wondering if Twitter allows us a place to do that dialogue while the actual preaching is going on and the content is fresh in our minds.

    As I typed that I am not thinking that practically speaking there are all sorts of issues that really make Twittering during the service complicated and therefore probably not worth it. That being said, I have to contend that theologically I don’t see the evidence you guys are suggesting prohibits it.

  • David Dunham

    *that should read “As I typed that I am NOW thinking…”

  • As far as preaching and teaching go, the terms are semantically distinct. That is they mean different things. The first concerns proclamation, the second concerns pedagogy.

    Now if theologians want to debate whether there’s any difference between the two, they’re welcome to do so. But it’s a kinda dumb argument to make. Akin to arguing that there is no difference between singing and dancing.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • It might be important to note that formal Christian worship (“going to church”) consists of far more than merely gathering and listening to a sermon. You guys are mostly arguing about whether or not Twitter is right/wrong, wise/unwise, helpful/frustrating for the purposes of listening to a sermon – which is fine – but when you consider that Christian worship also consists of things like confessing sins, singing, hearing Scripture read, prayer, and not to mention Communion, it seems way more obvious that Twitter simply has no place there.

    Scotts last blog post..WCF on Good Works