Citizenship Confusion: What did You Tweet when Osama was Killed?

Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.

As I watched the news coverage of the announcement of  Bin Laden’s death last night, I also diligently read my Facebook newsfeed to hear how people were reacting;  the results were quite telling.

At first,  the statuses were primarily factual: Bin Laden is dead. But they quickly became more opinionated. Some were thrilled at his death and viewed it as a cause for celebration. Others took the opportunity to chastise their friends by pointing out that Christians should never rejoice over the death of an enemy, citing Proverbs 24:17.  More than a few retorted that there are biblical examples of people rejoicing over the downfall of their enemies or that there are many verses which establish God’s justice, and certainly we can delight in God’s justice.

While this theological debate raged, some friends took a political route. Obama was able to accomplish what Bush was not!  Or, Obama is wrongly taking credit for the hard work of Bush, the CIA, and Special Forces. Or maybe Obama planned this to raise his approval rating before the election. Perhaps it was a conspiracy!

Finally, the statuses took a turn toward irony and humor, which seems to be inevitable for any discourse on the Internet. I admit, this is my own weakness, and when I heard the news, I wanted to post a status which exclaimed that Obama just won the future by defeating Bin Laden. Not so much to poke fun at the very serious matter, but to point out the absurdity of Obama’s new catchphrase. But it would have inevitably belittled the event and its significance, shifting the attention away from a significant moment in history which might have profound implications for our national security for decades and towards myself.

For most of us (myself, at least), when historic events like this happen our first reaction is to head to Facebook or Twitter. Part of this reaction seems to be a natural and healthy desire to share an important experience with those we love or to use our online community to learn more about the event. But these gatherings on social networks that occur right after a historic event seem to also encourage us to use the event to promote ourselves. Instead of sharing a historic moment with our community, where the focus is outward towards the event and around us towards our community, we can easily shift our focus to drawing our community towards ourselves–our wit, intelligence, spirituality, politics, etc–using the event primarily as a means to our own ends. (To preempt the inevitable comments: 1. I do not think this necessarily must happen. 2. This is a general tendency of all discourse on social networks, but it seems particularly inappropriate at times like these. 3. I am highly guilty of self-centered networking)

So, how should we react? Following Christ means a radical refocusing of our desires, loves, goals, hopes, and pleasures. While the world and our flesh might invite us to turn every event into opportunity to promote and delight in ourselves, Christ calls us to be outward oriented, towards God and our neighbors. This gratuitous giving of ourselves can take many forms, but it fundamentally requires that we question the orientation of our hearts and our words, and, in this situation, consider what it means to love one who cursed us, and to even love him after his death.

Update:

Stephen Smith (a close friend of CaPC) has a great post over at Christianity Today which analyzes the uses of Bible verses on Facebook and Twitter. His findings are well worth a read.

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I didn’t say anything because 1) I didn’t have anything to say about it, 2) FB was page after page of stuff expressing the range of reactions so what would have been the point, and 3) I didn’t really care that Osama had been killed as it doesn’t seem to have any meaning, having been so far overshadowed by the wake of tragedies since then.

  • http://www.TheCrossAndTheController.com Joshua Wise

    My initial reaction was identical to the one I pursued, though after giving it about 20 minutes thought, which was to tweet that Christians are under orders to pray for our enemies.

    This is a short version of my whole thought, which is that we should hope in Christ that Osama Bin Laden receives the forgiveness and love of God, as we should for every human being. If God does not desire the death of a sinner, why should we who are called to be Perfect as He is perfect? Is it our thirst for Justice and Vengeance? Well, if so, it helps to remember that they are the Lord’s.

    With reference to the Christian response “Biblical figures rejoiced over their enemies” we might do well to remember that we are called to emulate only Christ in Scripture. We may learn great lessons from others, but even Paul, when he calls us to emulate him, calls us to do so only in that he is one who emulates Christ.

  • RG

    I don’t care. To me he’s been MIA/KIA for years, and somebody finally managed to produce a body. I’ve seen quite a few people throwing around Ezekiel 33:11, though.

    I chose not to react on FB, partially because the massive number of responses from other folks and partially because those responses turned me off even further to caring about OBL getting killed. On Twitter I said something to the effect of the second sentence in my first ‘graph and that he will be judged by his actions accordingly.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I was amused that the worship music director at our church posted the ribald America song from Team America with pretty much no accompanying commentary. Mostly just because I have no idea what sentiment he was trying to get across, whether in line with the song’s satirical take or unknowingly in opposition to it. It was that mystery that made Facebook/Twitter at all worth visiting last night.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    I thought most of the jokes on Twitter were pretty good. Facebook just made me sad.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I didn’t see any difference, really. I did see a whole lot more people quoting other people’s jokes on Twitter. That might be because with Twitter’s character limitation, it’s much more difficult to present any cogent thought that isn’t a one-liner. FB probably made you more sad because your friends who are dumb have enough room to prove it, whereas Twitter cuts them off at Herp without leaving any room for Derp.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Maybe? I think most of the FB stuff was pretty short though.

  • Ben Pitseleh

    What? Bin Laden is dead!?
    Okay, seriously, I didn’t say anything. I got a text message from my friend (from across the country) so that’s how I found out. I went out to my living room where my wife was skyping with a friend in another country. I told her and she told her friend too. It was all very factual…he is dead.
    I then went online and looked up CNN, Fox, and AP to see what they had to say. Each said he is reported dead. I took it with a grain of salt since they all said “sources say” that he is dead. AP at least reported that the US had the body (which held a little more weight with me). Then I let it go.
    I don’t really have a strong opinion about it. I have some opinion, but none so strong I am set in it or feel the need to voice it. I just buckled up for the ride that other people are having with how to use it to promote their agenda or soapbox. Not that it isn’t important, but if it were Paris Hilton they would do the same thing.


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