Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The problem I have with Twitter

Well, I don't really have a problem with Twitter per se. I just said that to get your attention. What I have a problem with is slogans. Especially when the slogans are Christian. And when the slogan-er thinks that by dropping a cute little saying or quoting a Bible verse or famous person he or she has just done a slam-dunk, given the last word, and solved the problem.

I tweet, and I read other people's tweets. But I wonder what culture we are creating with our new adroitness at 140-character sayings. Christians seem the best at it. I've done it myself. "Jesus is all you need." "God is good all the time; all the time God is good." "Let go and let God." "God works all things together for good." "Hate the sin but love the sinner." "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship." And the worst offender? I saw it again just the other day on a bumper sticker: "Try God."

It's not that there's not truth in each of these cliches. (Well, except that last one.) And I know what Ecclesiastes 5:2 says: "Let your words be few." But God himself took 66 books to tell us what we need to know. If it's evangelism we're after, I suspect what non-believers are really looking for these days is conversation - the chance to ask us questions and get reasoned, thoughtful answers. Not one-liners. Not Thomas Kinkade-ish pearls of "wisdom."

What got me thinking about this today is Rosaria Butterfield's excellent book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In that book the author chronicles her journey out of lesbianism and atheism to Jesus. She credits her conversion not to slogans, Scripture references on football players' eye black, a quick presentation of the Romans Road, a tract, or even a dramatic evangelistic sermon, but to a long, patient relationship with a Reformed pastor, his wife, and several members of their local church. These Christians embraced her, welcomed her into their homes, and cultivated extended conversations that eventually led to her asking THE question: "What must I do to be saved?"

Butterfield writes that when she came to faith, she began to devour the Bible - "huge chunks at a time." But soon she observed that even seasoned believers liked to pull a few words of Scripture out of their context and display them on placards. To her, this made Scripture verses seem "like sneaky little raids, quick and insulated targets into culture, with no sense that a worldview of care lay behind them."

I know that we don't always have time for the kind of relationship-building that brought Rosaria Butterfield to the Savior. (Hmm, could that be the real problem?) I also realize that some of Jesus' teachings were tweet-like. He was a master at packing profound truth into bite-size pieces. "The first will be last and the last, first." "It is more blessed to give than to receive." "I am the Bread of life," etc. But these sayings were not intended to be printed on bumper stickers or Precious Moments figurines. They were most often said in the context of extended dialogues with disciples, inquirers, and foes. Besides, Jesus is...well, God.

I'll keep tweeting. Twitter serves a purpose. But let's invest time in words and in people, that the culture we leave the next generation is an intelligent one.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

I have been reading Rosaria Butterfield's book, and I have a question for you that is really sort of out of the way of the overall focus of her book.

What is your opinion on this whole "psalms only" form of worship that the Reformed Presbyterians apparently espouse? I was doing some reading about it--the book wasn't as clear as I would have preferred--and I think it sounds a bit ridiculous.

Would love to hear your thoughts.



Mike said...

Some, but by no means all or even most, Reformed Presbyterians sing only the psalms in corporate worship. But the Scriptures themselves command us to sing "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," and the psalms themselves tell us to "sing a new song to the Lord." Most people I know believe that God is glorified by the diverse voices and songs of the church, not just the Psalms. And I'm a Reformed Presbyterian.