Legalism and Twitter

Legalism and Twitter November 22, 2008

A quick word following up on the Twitter discussion began last week:

I’ve seen the word “legalism” attached to my blogs.  While I don’t think I’m immune to legalism by any stretch, I would note very quickly that I avoided attaching the word “sin” to my post.  I also strove to avoid an automatic equation of Twitter and narcissism (or a foolish waste of time, or other sins and problems).  It is my personal opinion that one can easily fall into these traps with Twitter use given its concise, self-driven nature.  But at no point did I say that one automatically falls into these patterns by using Twitter.

Furthermore, sometimes we can confuse a discussion of what is edifying and helpful with what is sinful.  Now, behavior that does not edify can easily become sinful.  But it need not be.  It may simply stay in the realm of unwise or unedifying.  It seems to me that Twitter can easily fall into this category.  Those who read my posts carefully will note that I spent the lion’s share of them discussing the vacuous nature of much Twitter usage.  It is not necessarily, inherently sinful to tell me you just watched Cinderella Man.  But neither is it necessarily edifying.  I would argue, to continue, that a pattern of such posting could well drag one into a pattern of time-wasting that could in the end prove unwise and even sinful.  Does this make sense?

With that said, my exhortation to not use Twitter was intended to be a bit startling.  As other sections of each blog articulated, many godly people use Twitter and do so for good reasons.  I don’t personally think one has to use Twitter to live an edifying life, and I push back against techno-obsession and an over-realized drive to redeem all aspects of culture, and I have seen few people use Twitter in a way that seems robustly edifying or meaningful.  But that’s not to say it can’t happen.

I guess at the end of the day I lean towards focusing one’s effort on the cultivation of face-to-face fellowship.  That, rather than an essentialist understanding of Twitter, is where my exhortation sprang from.

Thanks to all who’ve chimed in and to Rich Brooks for being an insightful discussion partner and the leader of a terrific website, Christ and Pop Culture.

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  • Thanks Owen! And that’s Rich Clark, not Brooks. Maybe we need some more face time. 😉

  • Al

    I know nothing about Twitter, but one point that has no been mentioned, I don’t believe, is that you may select your friends, or even block people from hearing from you.

    My coffee choice – oh, yes, I don’t drink coffee . . . doesn’t have to be broadcast any further than I wish it to be.

  • owenstrachan

    Wow. My apologies, Rich. Not sure where that came from. At least I have comments, if not Twitter, so you can catch this!

  • Owen,

    There is no question that face to face fellowship is best, but I personally don’t see Twitter trying to replace that face to face connection. As a community group leader at my church, I use twitter to stay in touch with people who, for the most part, I may not get to interact with during the week for various reasons. This helps me know more about what is happening in their life, and for me, helps me minister to them better, because I do know more details about their life and what has happened to them throughout the week. It’s not replacing my time with them, its connecting me with them when I normally would not have been able to connect with them.

    In several instances, Twitter has lead to MORE face to face time with people: maybe my friend just twittered that she is at a coffee shop around the corner – great! I am going to swing by and chat with her for 10 minutes before heading to work!

    I also enjoy Twitter for getting out important messages to people, for example, last week I connected a link to a petition to Fight the Freedom of Choice Act that Obama wants to pass removing limits to abortion. Twitter was another way for me to get the word out on this important topic and encourage participation.

    I think it’s incredibly wise to evaluate things like Facebook and Twitter, especially as Christians, which is why I appreciate your blog and others who write challenging things about our culture.

    I will continue to use Twitter for now, because I do find it to be a great way to stay in touch with people in my community, to learn more about them, to get important messages out to people (maybe even the sermon from my church on Sunday – who sends out the devotionals on twitter!), and even to learn and know more about people who I look up to as leaders – such as Dr. Moore and Dr. Mohler who I thoroughly enjoy following on Twitter.