Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

The latest craze of our information age is the emergence of social networking sites. Several are notable, but Facebook is particularly popular and has caught on even with folks who are otherwise adverse to technology. I succumbed to the pressure to join a long time ago. In all honesty I was dragged to it kicking and screaming, but signed up for the sake of becoming all things to all men that by ALL MEANS I might save some. I’m sure some will think I am trying to sound super-spiritual, but it is the truth. I think it is important for Christians—especially pastors—to be on the front end of effective new ways to communicate to and influence others.

It is crazy to me how many people I have “reconnected” with on Facebook. People from every school I attended (Elementary to Seminary); people from every church of which I was a part as a member, on staff, or as pastor; family members; people I played or coached with—over 800 of them and growing! It is crazy! But I’ve got to get some things off my chest:

Like any other form of communication, there is the potential for both good and bad on Facebook. It’s cool to see how folks are doing and to have another way to encourage people. It’s cool to be able to keep up with my high school son’s friends and interests. There is much potential for creating virtual community and informing/uniting people for/against certain causes. That’s all cool. But wow, there are some things that are really hard for me. Like, I can’t spend much time on it without seeing pictures of people who claim to be Christians in all kinds of potentially compromising positions. You know what I’m saying. There’s the skimpy clothing and the “aren’t I cool” poses, and, perhaps more conspicuous than anything, the pics of folks drinking alcohol. I don’t know what it is. Does everyone take pictures when they go to a drinking party or a bar? What is it about the “look at me, I drink” pictures of themselves that people like—and publish for the world to see? Is that really what you want people to know about you? Really? Forget for a moment the very real biblical issues. What about the message being sent to the many kids who are on Facebook? Kids who are impressionable, who could see someone they know or who attend their church drinking as a justifying factor to try drinking for themselves. Do we just ignore the damage alcohol does to people’s lives? I know it first hand. Call me an old fogy (I’ve blogged before on Christians and drinking so I’ll resist).

One of the hardest things for me is the way people gossip and spread falsehood for all the world to see. Or maybe not gossip, maybe just saying things that are hurtful about their church. One couple that had been a part of our church for about a year and then disappeared posted how our church was the coldest place they had ever been and how they were never talked to and nobody wanted to be their friend, etc. The bad thing is that many of us know this couple and had made MANY attempts to befriend them—some felt that they had BECOME friends (ouch!). But what are we to do? Get into an argument on someone’s “wall,” calling out the wrongness of their perception? Of course not. People sometimes get hurt and lash out. People make mistakes. Once I heard Bill O’Reilly say that with the Internet, if you make a mistake, you do it for the entire world to see. I’m afraid that’s true.

I think Facebook attracts a lot of people who just like to know what people are doing. Is this the definition of a busybody? A nosey person? Or just someone who enjoys socializing with others? Maybe some of each, I don’t know. Truth is, I simply don’t have time for it. That sounds kind of heartless doesn’t it? I rarely get to check up on others or update my “status” because I’ve rarely got time to just mess around by myself on the internet, and I’m not sure I really want people knowing what I’m doing all the time. Life is too busy. I’m a dad of three busy kids who have to be places and who need me in their lives. I’m a husband (not that Darla always NEEDS me, but she does have honey-do lists for me!). I’m also a pastor. I don’t think I need to describe the busyness of THAT job. I barely find the time to blog. What makes blogging hard is I feel I need to cover something with some degree of conclusive thoroughness and I write way too much. Sounds like my sermons!! When I do have extra time, the last thing I want to do is to be disappointed by seeing someone I care about glorying over a beer! Ahhh...Facebook. It’s a love-hate thing for me.

Ok, I’m quitting. Not facebook, just this blog post. I do feel a little better having vented!


Lisa said...

I have my own soapboxes that I feel as strongly about as you do about alcohol so I sympathize with your feelings. Also, I have extended family members that I believe would be much better off if they abstained completely because they have a proven record of abuse on an almost daily basis. I will not have even one drink with them because of it.

But overall, I just don't see the alcohol issue like you do. I think alcohol (biblically speaking, wine) is a gift from the Lord, in much the same way as sex is. Both can be abused, but it doesn't make them wrong or doesn't make a case to avoid them altogether. Sexual perversion and fornication cause many, many problems in the divorce, violent crime, child molestation, abuse of women, sexually transmitted diseases,etc. (I could go on and on) Even those who don't practice such things are more than likely watching them for entertainment on their tvs and on the movie screens, even allowing their children to watch, while calling themselves Christians (even as dedicated Christians in church leadership)and don't think anything of it.

More than avoiding alcohol or sex completely, I think it benefits Christians to see both issues handled in the way God intended. Just a thought...

Chad Sparks said...

Thanks for the comment Lisa!
As I said in the other blog, Christians are free to drink! That's why I don't hold it against Christians who choose to drink in moderation (Indeed, I met with a pastor recently who had a beer at our lunch meeting!). So that's not the issue. The issue is 1Cor. 10:31, "whether [we] eat or drink or whatever [we] do, [we are to] do it all for the glory of God." I'm only asking, "Is it to God's glory for a believer to display their drinking to the world on the web when there are weaker brothers and unbelievers who might not understand their freedom?" and “Is it to God’s glory if my public drinking might encourage young people or people with addictive tendencies to drink?” Your wise decision not to drink around those who struggle with abuse makes me think you would concur.
I like the sex analogy! Like all analogies it breaks down on some points (we are commanded to have sex with our spouse-we are never commanded to drink alcohol, etc.). But I think your analogy makes my point! Although sex in marriage is certainly good, we practice it in privacy! In other words, a Christian married couple would never think of having sex in front of unmarried people, certainly not on the web! Like my parents used to say, there's a proper time and place for everything. My whole point is that Facebook is not (in my opinion) the time or the place for flaunting our freedom to drink.

Lisa said...

Boy, our whole big church and I'm the only one commenting? Your blog must be a well kept secret! lol

Yes, I think you are right about the facebook issue. I would not put pictures of myself drinking on the web. I wouldn't like the message it might that I had a "party lifestyle" when, in fact, I hate that lifestyle.

And I like the privacy point. That is something I very much agree with. While I may participate in something like you mentioned, a glass of wine at dinner with close friends, it is a closely guarded practice and a rare occurrence.

I think our main goal as Christians should be that we are controlled by the Holy Spirit and not some other element, be it drink, food, or some form of entertainment. It's hard enough to "walk in the Spirit" without ingesting substances that make it more difficult! Even too much coffee can make it more difficult for me! haha

<>< Victor ><> said...

Hey guys,

I am just reading Chad's blogs for the first time today, and this one entry in particular caught my attention, especially since I have deep convictions regarding alcohol.

I think you guys already took this conversation in the right direction, so I will refrain from making any points that might confuse the subject. I would nonetheless like to submit an abridged insight from John McArthur regarding Christians and alcohol for your private consideration. I can share other resources that expand on the subject if you're interested, but here it goes:

What I like about it is that he draws insight from Church history and tradition, which in my personal experience helps establish a proper mindset when interpreting Scripture. As a closing thought, I always like to submit these "gray" areas of Scripture to the test of 1 Corinthians 10:23, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict me one way or another. Having said that, I am quickly to point out that I am hopeless sinner, who rests solely on the grace and power of Christ for forgiveness and ultimate salvation.

I (perhaps presumptuously) hope this gives you a new light on such an old subject in the Church :-)

Love y'all!