Note: In the past month, the six New Media Research Fellows have been blogging about their newly posted theological essays. Look for the link to Verity’s essay below.
Some of you have heard me say or read something I’ve written making the basic point that to faith communities, there is nothing new about social relationships. Christians have been spreading the Word of God by word of mouth through networks of relationships for millennia. We share the gospel of Jesus Christ with friends, co-workers, and relatives, and they in turn do likewise. It’s a fundamental aspect of our faith.
What I’ve learned through the New Media Project, and especially when writing my essay on the Trinity, is that what is new is that now many social relationships are visible in high relief. Social media can reveal details and connections between people that were once more obscure. Like a relief sculpture that shows the contours and depth of an image, social media can make visible new dimensions of people and their communities.
The case studies we conducted for the New Media Project reveal the depth and breadth of communities in high relief. From Countryside Community Church broadcasting their version of progressive Christianity for all the world to see to Community of Hope AME Church sharing prayer requests with prayer groups through text messaging, we have been able to gaze right into the vital lives these communities through technology.
For better or for worse, right? Sometimes shining light on the nitty-gritty of congregational life reveals more than we’d like to see—petty arguments over pew pads or hurtful comments about other church people.
Should we eschew social media because it may bring to light some problems, or even cause problems sometimes? If we interpret community through the lens of the Trinity, we can find some evaluative footholds for using social media as people of faith. I call it the six C’s of social media (a riff on comments my sister, Serene Jones from Union Theological Seminary, made to the New Media Project Research Fellows last Fall).
Ask yourself whether your use of social media serves to Collect people, Connect them, Convert them, Conspire them, Cultivate their faith formation, or Change societies for the better. Think theologically about these questions and your answers and go from there.
Verity A. Jones is the project director of the New Media Project, and a Research Fellow at Union Theological Seminary.
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