This week we begin a six-week Easter season series, Celebration and social media.
Aside from a bit of hooping and hollering at a funny video clip on YouTube, I don’t often think about the relationship between celebration and social media, much less Christian celebration and social media. Computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones are objects we usually stare at and type upon, not dance with, sing to, or exclaim about. In the differently mediated world of digital communication, we may still be fully embodied persons (we don’t become any less real as human beings when we Tweet than when we talk on the telephone), but we don’t use our bodies in quite the same way as we do when hugging our neighbor at the passing of peace in worship.
I was as surprised as you (may be) when the New Media Project research fellows suggested celebration and social media as a series topic for this blog. Granted, we were influenced by the church year—the Easter season is a time of celebration in the Christian year, of course. If we are to consider theology and church practice in relation to social media, then why not consider what many Christians are doing this time of year and that is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it has not been easy to explain to our series guest writers, I must say.
Here’s the question for this series: Does the use of social media contribute to or hinder Christian celebration in its various forms and nuances? Embedded in that question is a theological one about whether human activities that can be described as Christian celebration are more properly focused upon the divine or meant for a human audience, or both? In other words, to whom are we giving the glory? Other interesting questions: What is the role of celebration in Christian worship and community in the first place? If there are dangers and benefits to celebration, theologically speaking, then what do those dangers and benefits look like in a world shaped by social media? For example, does exuberant music mask the role of confession in the Christian drama of worship?
Our guest writers will address these questions from a variety of angles, no doubt. We’ve asked them to consider the impact of social media on preaching as a form of celebration; on music, both created and performed; on worship as celebration; and on the role of visual art and imagery in celebration. Finally, we’ll wrap up the series with a post about resources, both those named in the series and others that readers might want to explore as they consider the theme of celebration and social media.
For now, when I watch the flash mob singing the Hallelujah Chorus in the middle of Macy’s, I’ll think about celebration and social media. And when Kid President’s pep talk makes me smile and feel grateful for the blessings and gifts of life, I’ll think about celebration and social media. And when a little Facebook update from a friend reminds me that I am not alone in my trials, I’ll say “Amen!”
Verity A. Jones is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, and project director of the New Media Project which is now part of this new Center.
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