WWJT: What would Jesus tweet?
There are people in the church who imagine that were Jesus to return today, he’d walk around in Birkenstocks and linen robes, shunning technology in favor of agrarian living. Bah! Jesus was cutting edge in his day, and so was Paul — using the language, techniques, images, and technology of the day — to reach people wherever they were. James Martin, S.J., writing in today’s Washington Post gets it right:
It starts at the beginning. In the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth is peripatetic in the extreme, always moving from one town to the other, going to where the people are. (And for anyone who loudly laments the “speed” or “immediacy” of the new media, and prefer the slower–and therefore, theoretically, more reflective and so better–pace of the older forms, they should remember that Jesus often does things “immediately,” a word used over 40 times in the Gospel of Mark.)
More importantly, Jesus used the language of the day to communicate with people. He employed a medium that people would understand. C.H. Dodd, the great Protestant Scripture scholar, in his book The Parables and the Kingdom, defined a parable as follows: “At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.” That’s a long-winded, but accurate way of saying that Jesus used an accessible medium that people would understand–a story with familiar elements–to convey his truth.
I grow weary of people who say that priests shouldn’t use Facebook or that “real ministry” happens only in face-to-face meetings. Sure, I’ll grant that it’s better to be with people in person than to trade Facebook messages. But it’s also true that with Facebook, I am able to share some bits of my life with those I serve in parish ministry and to have a peek into the lives of people I might otherwise see only on Sundays.
We are charged with going into all the world to preach the Gospel. If we interpret that to mean that preachers should stand in the pulpit every Sunday to see who stops by, the church will continue to shrink and to become increasingly irrelevant in our culture. Twitter won’t save the church, but it can help us share the Good News with a world that desperately needs to hear it. We should not think that setting up a Facebook group is a replacement for creating real communities, but it is a necessary precursor to creating real communities if we hope to reach many people in our world today.
To those who think we should wait to see how all this technology shapes up, have a look at Jesus. He didn’t slow down much. He carried on his entire ministry with great urgency, and so should we. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some tweets to read.
Image from BeliefNet.