Friday, October 25, 2013

Thy Rod. Thy Staff. Thy Facebook.

Always watching

You knew it would happen. Start sharing your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter and before long, the Human Resource Department would find a way to use your social media to their advantage. Be careful what you post, they'll be sure to hear about what you did last weekend. Everyone's heard of this by now, so you shouldn't be surprised to find that Church officials do the same thing.

I've spoken with many elders and other church leaders. They mostly admit to the practice of following/subscribing to their flock's social media channels in order to keep their fingers on the pulse of their lives. For some, Facebook and Twitter opens a whole new world of issues—they see their congregation in their natural element, away from the Church pews.

This realization brings up a host of challenges. Should the clergy take such an aggressive role in the flock's lives? Is the activity they see on social media genuine, or just wish fulfillment? Should they meet online problems with an offline solution? These are issues for Christian Ethics.

Will the real user please stand up?

Here is the problem: The person you see on social media is not the person who lives out a life on planet earth. It has been documented that the lives lived on Facebook and Twitter are edited beyond recognition. We compare and contrast ourselves with our friends and end up depressed that we aren't as cool or smart or funny as others. So we fake a life online, a life we realize is fake and so we send ourselves into even deeper depression.

Chances are, the lives that our Pastor, Elder, Deacon, Priest, Clergyman sees online is not a real life. What they will see is an Instagram filter called "Holiness" or "Righteousness," they won't see the midnight of the soul. Like Petra said, we look through rose-colored, stained-glass windows. Just think, how many times have you posted something, thought better of it, and then edited or deleted it altogether?

Then again, we have seen those pictures that undeniably links a person with strictly un-Sunday-Morning-like behavior. We know the choice words that automatically trigger some kind of alert within the mind of an honestly upright Christian. Certainly your clergyman knows those signs as well. What should he do in that case?


Honestly, mercifully, I am not in that position. I don't have to approach brothers and sisters who appear to be heading in the wrong direction. I am not posed with the dilemma of having to hold an offline discussion of someone's online behavior. I have rarely had to confront someone about an online post that was in obvious, clear error. I have played The Devil's Advocate on posts before, but never a confrontation. (Besides, public confrontation is not really best practice for correction.)

But a shepherd (Pastor) of God's flock is mandated with the charge to care for the Lambs. In fact, their level of commitment is directly correlated with their love for Christ. A clergyman who loves Christ will do whatever they can to protect and feed the people of God. Even on Facebook and Twitter. I feel that whether or not a pastor seeks information on their congregation on social media, if they happen to see something that needs attention they are obligated to confront the problem. If they neglect to fulfill their responsibilities, they open themselves to judgement for that neglect.

The ability to balance these issues is (rightfully) called wisdom. That's an important quality for a leader. It's a quality that does not just appear at old age (notwithstanding James' prayer for wisdom), it must be cultivated. May we as Christians develop some wisdom where we are and be careful of the person we present ourselves to be on social media. We are sending a message about ourselves. People are watching what we say. What does your Facebook or Twitter feed say about you? If your Facebook condemns you, don't be surprised when your Pastor, Elder, Deacon, Priest, Clergyman sits you down for a little chat.

If you were part of the clergy, would you use Facebook/Twitter to monitor the flock? What ethical problems do you see in doing so?

Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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