Archive for Sunday, September 9, 2012

Faith Forum: Is social media a good way for people to promote their religious views?

September 9, 2012

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The Rev. Josh Longbottom, associate pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

I don’t promote my religious views through social media, but I do speak from a religious viewpoint through social media. It is a pretty fine line, I guess.

I am not a Christian who thinks that being Christian is the only way to the good life. There are many ways. Someone can find their way through religion and others through no religion at all.

Being Christian is my thing. It was how I was raised, and it is the main way that I think about the world. Christianity answers questions for me, questions like: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there reason for hope?

I am glad I have a tradition that gives me ideas about how these questions might be answered without giving me the audacity to say that I have the answers to these questions.

Plenty of people want nothing to do with the church, and it is fine by me. They can find their own wisdom their own way. Plenty of my friends are from other religions, too. I would never ask someone to “convert” to my way of thinking or even to try to compare our traditions in a way that calls one better than the other.

But when I take a political stance in favor of the poor, gay rights, women’s rights, protecting the environment or against war, I express myself in a religious way. It is who I am, it is how I say things, and it is where I learned my values.

I don’t think I promote my religious views so much as my religion, which becomes evident when you interact with me. And after all, social media is just a new way that we interact with each other.

— Send email to Josh Longbottom at joshlongbottom@sunflower.com.

Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader and director of media and communications, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:

My short answer to this week’s question is “yes,” but as is often the case, I feel the need to qualify this affirmation. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook (frankly, I often find it confusing and annoying, but there’s no question that it has become quite a useful communication tool for many churches, mine included).

Most of my social media experience is with Twitter and blogging, and it has taken me quite a while to get to the place where I sort of understand it, and I don’t claim to understand it all that well.

But I do follow several Christian leaders and others on Twitter, and there are clearly some who understand how to use Twitter effectively and some who don’t. (I’m not naming any names.)

It is my opinion that the Christians who use social media well are the ones who are not merely promoting their religious views, but rather sharing bits and pieces of their lives as they live them in relationship with Christ and his Church.

Social media are extremely useful for sharing insights gained from Scripture, lessons learned from interactions with others, opinions or observations from books, blogs, articles, sermons, music, etc.

Social media clearly allow people to interact across many of the barriers that once separated us (e.g., geography), and in some cases provide connections among people from vastly different social strata. This is no small thing.

I’m constantly learning about new worship music through those I follow on Twitter. I’m often challenged to consider new ideas, or reminded of old truths as I peruse my Twitter feed each day.

When I see the faith of others lived out in meaningful ways, it increases my faith. This is much more than the mere promotion of religious views — this is something more akin to living in Christian community, albeit via technology.

Just be sure to choose carefully whom you follow.

— Send email to Doug Heacock at doug.heacock@gmail.com.

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