When I signed on to Facebook it was with the expectation of connecting with my family who live far away. In some cases old friends were also a welcome addition to a list. Like many others, though, I found my list of friends growing nearly out of control as Facebook introduced not just a means of connecting with people but whole new implications of social politics. What does it mean to "friend" someone? What are the implications for real world friendships if I virutually "unfriend" someone? Who are all these people who want so badly to friend me?
In some cases, the growth of this list has introduced a new dynamic to my spiritual life. Some of my friends post things I never thought they would. Some of the videos and graphics and propaganda that are posted contain profane, filthy, and perverse words and images. To some people, I am sure, they are just light humor, but I, when I see them, I am authentically distressed. Sometimes it is not the wording of the graphic that is objectionable, but even the name of the original site from which it is posted is crass. I can't help wondering what else is on that site. Of course, many of the graphics that get posted are simply shared from another friend's post, so who knows where or by whom the post was started. This is the nature of social networking gone viral.
I used to take these things very personally, and sometimes would object to them on site. I soon realized that I was a very minority voice, and began wondering if I was just taking things too seriously. I don't think I was, but I am much quieter now. I am realizing a few facts:
For some folks, it is a darker side leaking out. Hey, I have one too. So does everyone. But social networking provides a new and interesting way to let down our guard and allow our darker side a measure of freedom we would not indulge in person, especially around all the people on our friend list. This is not the good thing some people will think it is.
But for all my network friends out there, be aware. Whether it is spoken or posted, sin is still sin. Crudeness is still crude. Words are still associated with you and should be thought through before being put out there in public. We are concerned about the physical safety implications of social networking and hear about them all the time. I'm not so sure people are paying as close attention to the moral safety of the tech. Even on line, the Devil is stalking around looking for someone to byte. So, my friends, let's be careful out there.
Ok, I believe God is a real person. This is much more complicated than it sounds. I don't believe in the Mystery or the Light, or a Construct, or the 62,527 names of God. I don't believe all roads lead to Heaven or that it doesn't really matter what you believe. That is because I believe He is a real, objective, living person.
Now the reason this is complicated is that it opens Him up to a bunch the same ideosyncratic problems of other people. These include: being misrepresented, being misunderstood, being purposely disrespected, being used, and being accidentally overlooked.
So, like a bunch of other people, God says stuff. The stuff He says is meant to convey, to varying degrees, what He is like and what is on His mind, His likes, dislikes, and closely held values. So, in the same ways we write essays or articles or letters, God has written a book in various genres and styles.
It puts me in mind of the Register of Wills office. We often had a will sitting in front of us with a family on the other side of the counter saying things like, "I know this is not what he really wanted, why can't we just do what we know he wanted?" Our answer was always the same. "We have to do what is in the will." People did not get it sometimes. "Even if that's not what he really wanted?" Our answer again was always the same. "We have to assume he knew what he meant when he wrote the will." We were not allowed to just do what the people wanted to do in disregard of what the person had written for themselves.
You may not believe it, but I do, that God reveals Himself in the Bible. He knew what He was saying when He wrote it. Some people try to reinterpret it, rewrite it for our modern times, disregard parts of it, and try to fit God into their own conceptions in spite of it. Thus, the complications. That means that some people, when it comes to God, are wrong. This is especially true when a person, like God, has gone to great lengths to explain themselves and we just can't see past our own conceptions. Just as much as we can be wrong about the personality of our teacher, our child, our boss, our spouse, we can be wrong about God, because He is not a construct of our imagination, our psychology, our anthropological context. He is a real, objective person.
God knew what He was writing when He put ideas in the Bible: His loving nature, His justice, His holiness, His patience, and His desire for all people to come to Him. And He told us what that means, How we go about it, What is acceptable and what is not, His intentions for eternity, and His plan for the world in the here and now.
Go back to God's Word. Find what He says, even if we don't fully understand why He says it. Try to get to know God in this way, to dispel your misconceptions and renew the wonder of discovery. Get to know the Real God.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.