Facebook Object Lessons

I have suffered from a particular problem as I’ve limped along the cracked path of my spiritual walk for a long time. It’s something that has hindered me from progressing and getting closer to God. I speak of my habit of comparing myself to other Christians. I do this a lot. I’m a self-depreciating person; in most things I do, whether in regards to my writing, or singing or just overall “personality”, I can’t see the good in them. I’m well aware that there are better people than me and a lot of the time I wonder if I’m good enough to even bother pursuing the these things that I enjoy. When it comes to Christianity, where my salvation is at stake, this habit of mine is multiplied. It’s just so easy to look at someone and say “yes, she’s made it. She’ll definitely be in Heaven”, and then look at my life and feel completely wretched.

I didn’t realise how bad I was at this until I went to a prayer and fasting day at the Barnett church with some people from my church a few years ago. My prayer ministries leader gave a testimony and in this testimony she told everyone that every morning at 4 a.m. she gets up and prays for hours. I looked around the room and everyone just seemed to be of one accord, as if they all did similar things at home. I didn’t stay for the rest of the testimony; I went into a back room and started to cry (I was also in a very bad place mentally and such a testimony was the last thing I wanted to hear).

I prayed about this problem and asked others to pray for me as well. Funnily enough, the medium that has assuaged some of my hard feelings has been Facebook. It wasn’t this way at first, but after a nice discussion with two of my friends on Twitter (for shame; I’m on almost every social network), I realised something about Christians, especially young Christians.

I wrote a blog post ages ago about Facebook Preachers, but this was manly in regards to men who use Facebook as a way to draw in Christian women. But now, as I befriend more and more Christians on Facebook, I see this mentality of “preaching” on a wider scale. I’ve started to realise how superficial we all are, how we as Christians wear a mask of piety to show other Christians how well we’re doing. Facebook has become the biggest channel to do such a thing. A person could be listening to Lady Gaga all throughout the week and still post Youtube videos of Give me Jesus, giving everyone the impression that hymns are all they listen to. Shock photos of animal mutilation and corrupt abattoir footage is a way some Adventists “preach” to their church mates whilst simultaneously showing everyone what a great vegan they are and statuses broadcast how many prayers/devotions one gets through in a 24 hour period.

I know people who mainly use their Facebook for religious and witnessing purposes, so it’s understandable if their main output is religious material, but the majority of people don’t do this, yet they will throw religious matter at everyone and claim that it’s for religious purposes, even though all their Facebook friends are in the church anyway.

So who are these activities prepared for? Who are they trying to impress?

I’ve learned to be discerning. It’s actually quite easy to separate the statues/videos/messages that are there for encouragement and those whose sole purpose is to perpetuate an image of Godliness (even if the person responsible is unaware of what their inner motives are. The subconscious is a terrifying thing).  For example, this:

GUYS I’VE JUST HAD AN AMAZING DEVOTION THIS MORNING. 2 HOURS YES! MERCY! THIS DEVOTION TOPS THE ONE I HAD YESTERDAY WHICH WAS ONLY 1 HOUR!!!!!!!!!!

Compared to this:

Wow! In my devotion this morning, I was able to see Proverbs chapter 31 in a whole new light. Have any of you ever considered that this chapter is also speaking about a church? The woman of virtue is also a church that obeys God’s commandments, as we’ve seen that a “woman” in prophecy usually refers to churches. Thoughts?

There’s just a difference. The first one isn’t encouraging at all! What was this fictitious person hoping that others would say to their caps-lock? What more is there for anyone to add or discuss? It may help some people, but to me such things add nothing to my life and I just scroll past them.

I’ve started to understand now, that I really can’t pay too much attention to the outward displays of piety that others project. It’s just too easy to be spiritual online, when no one knows what you’re doing when you log off (or switch windows); I’m beginning to realise now that I’m not the only worrier; I’ve decided to take the above displays of Christendom as a sign of insecurity: the longing to show the truly spiritual ones that they can reserve another seat on the glory train for someone else.

It took my dad years to shake me out of this negative mindset, but it was something as trivial as Facebook that helped me make the first steps towards the door.

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Chain Link Fence

My week has been uneventful but revelatory. I opened up to the Rolling Prayer Request list that my friend set up on Facebook. I started to write my prayer request and deleted it several times. It dealt with an issue that I wasn’t keen on letting people know about—after all, I don’t know the majority of people in the group. I was aware that I would be recognisable as the girl with “that problem” if I ever went to a national church event. I’ve already made friends with people in the real world because they recognised me from the list. I didn’t want to be branded with anything.

I’ve really built this up haven’t I? Anyway, this is what I wrote:

 

Please pray for me. I suffer from low confidence and low self-esteem. It shows to other people and gets me in compromising situations, I guess. And I’m too sensitive. My sensitive nature has had me holding a grudge for years whilst the people involved just carried on with their merry lives. Basically, just pray for me to be more Esther-like or something. I feel as though my current personality, one of “fear” and “worry” completely contradicts the Bible’s standard of having faith and being bold. After all, if I have a strong relationship with God I shouldn’t be so emotionally weak. Thanks xXx

I got a lot of responses that really touched me. The same people I was weary of before took the time to message me privately with words of encouragement. It really gave me a boost. I then saw that there were people who were also going through the same state of mind but had been worried to ask for prayer about it before. I hope that this helped them in some way.

I would like to end on a thought about how we build and break each other in church. In a place where everyone wants to be seen to be doing something for the work of the Kingdom, I reckon it can be easy to heap too much praise on an individual when we like them or magnify their open sins when they look like a spiritual threat. This boils down to our natural sinful nature and is something we will only overcome by completely surrendering to Christ.

But it really hurts me when people say ridiculous and demeaning things just to ensure their own delusions of piety and status. I’ve just read a quote from an unknown person (and to be honest I don’t want to know them) fundamentally saying that the church needs men to stop the drama that women generate and this is why women don’t make good leaders.

As a young woman in church, when I hear things like that, how can I possibly have high self-esteem? If I’m being judged and broken down in such a way by the brothers in my own church, I don’t think it’s surprising if my morale is a little low. I feel more anger at such statements initially, along with the drive to prove the speaker wrong—at the same time, I feel terrified. I’m supposed to pick a husband out of this bunch.

I’ll be away for a week on Monday, so this is my last post until the 24th. I’m going to a church camp meeting in Wales. Hopefully I’ll have lots to talk about when I get back.

xXx

 

The Facebook Preacher.

Happy Sabbath.

I was talking to my friend yesterday about Facebook Christians. He’s a guy, so he knows how guys think. I wanted to know his opinion about someone from my local church who’s shown interest in me. It’s really useful having a close male friend…

He told me to be careful, gave his reasons, and thankfully confirmed my own apprehension.

‘Are you on Facebook?’ has become a casual greeting nowadays. You meet someone for the first time, ask the question, and hopefully get to know them more through Facebook chatting–or you probably never talk to them again, only reading snapshots of their lives when their status occasionally crops up on your newsfeed. That’s what Facebook is all about: giving people snapshots of your life. Look through the albums, see the pictures of what looks like an amazing scene at an amazing dinner party. How do you know the dinner party was amazing? There might have been stilted, dry conversation, awkward silences–perhaps an argument–but everyone’s managed to pull a smile together and give the spectators of said photograph the impression that the whole night was a success.

It’s actually quite an interesting sociological phenomenon. Anthony Giddens explores the concept of our Biographies in several essays. It’s all in relation to the concept of The Self in modern society. We try to maintain satisfactory biographies to gain respect and recognition from others; we feel shame when an exaggerated aspect of our biographies is exposed. In essence, Facebook helps us to maintain the appearance of an amazing, interesting life; a satisfactory biography.

How does this relate to Christianity?

Have you ever thought that someone must be crazily, unbelievably holy because of what they say on Facebook? There are a lot of Facebook preachers out there, writing Bible passages, quotes from Ellen White and warnings of the End Times as their statuses; they never forget to wish everyone a Happy Sabbath at the strike of sunset; when they post music, it’s strictly Gospel–and none of that jumpy Tye Tribbet, please. Old Skool hymns only. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with doing this. Many a time I’ve been uplifted by a poem or passage that someone has posted, but the question is, what does this person do when they’re not on Facebook publicly declaring their piety? Does their life reflect their Facebook status? The Facebook status only gives us a snapshot of the emotions and feelings of that person at any given time. In real life, would people ever know that they’re a Christian?

There are a lot of people on my Facebook that I don’t know personally. If I was to take them at face value, based on their Facebook Persona, I’d help them pack their bags for their First Class journey to Heaven. The thing is, we don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

So be beware of putting your entire trust in someone because they’re always spiritual on Facebook. Only God knows the heart.