A successful Web/IT developer recently said in his thought-provoking blog that he knows a lot of people who want to pull the plug on Facebook and other social media because the technologies set up a shell of who they really are. Folks upload pictures of their vacation without talking about the crumbling marriages they are trying to save by getting out of town for a while.
I’m sure there are people like that, but at least in terms of the young people I work with, I haven’t met them. Sure, everyone likes their privacy and they get antsy when their parents sign up for Facebook.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was recently maligned for stating in one interview that essentially he did not believe in privacy. It’s a fascinating thought, really. When Zuckerberg was asked to explain that statement, he said he felt that the beauty of Facebook – and other social technologies – is that it allows people to be themselves and to feel a connection to other people, to community, to a truer understanding of themselves, which I think might just be right.
The most honest people I know – the people I know who have been most captivated by Jesus – live radically honest lives. They are frail, imperfect human beings, but they are also capable of immense, powerful, beautiful things as well. They don’t act one way at the office and another way at home or at church. Yes, I suppose one could be “too” honest, but when that happens, I wonder if it says more about the community around the individual than it does the “sins” of the individual.
Consider the tale of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. According to the text, the woman is quite literally caught in the act. When she’s thrown before Jesus, it’s an open-and-shut case; she was clearly guilty. In a singular act, Jesus renders judgment – neither an affirmation nor a condemnation of the woman in front of him, but of her accusers.
I don’t have a clue what Jesus wrote in the sand (though I’ve long favored an old campus minister’s interpretation that it must have been the names of the Pharisees’ girlfriends: “Caiaphas-n-Joni 4EVER!”). Whatever it was, it was enough to expose the duplicity with which these so-called religious leaders carried on.
Can you imagine if people wore their Web histories like a teen mom carries her pregnancy? Or if they volunteered their family arguments as easily as they answered a question in Sunday school? Or if we looked at our self-medicating with food the same way we sneer at the smoker on the corner? Would we look at the people in our Sunday school classes differently if we knew the balance of their bank account or their credit score? Would Jesus?
Sure, it’s easy to talk about hypocrisy, even within myself, but it’s not about pointing out planks in anyone’s eye despite how big they may be. That kind of dishonesty and hypocrisy threatens community.
A relative told me recently of the pain caused by a former pastor carrying on affairs as she baby-sat his children. That breach of trust happens for a hundred reasons, but I know way too many so-called ministers who put on a face. In fairness, many do it because they serve a church that wants them to put it on and has taught them what it should look like. When we keep this mirage going, we destroy any real attempt at community.
Church ought to be the one place where the people who have been wrecked by life could come and be honest about their own junk. We shouldn’t have to hide the corners of our lives from people we say we care about. Yes, this kind of transparency isn’t easy, but I’m convinced it is right. If I go too far in an argument with a friend on Facebook, it’s a good thing that my other friends can see it and call me out on it. If someone is genuinely in pain, I’d rather know it than hear them say “I’m doing fine” in the hallway of the church.
I’m convinced at some point we’ll be able to hear the most horrific stories and not respond in judgment or condemnation, but in grace and acceptance. I think then we’ll find real community. Maybe then we can be honest with each other, with God and with ourselves.
It sure would keep Jesus from having to scribble in the sand.
Trey Lyon is associate pastor for faith development at Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Ga.