When I was in high school, my family finally got the internet. I entered the world of the dial-up modem with the annoyingly screechey sounds of the modem connecting followed by extremely slow loading time on any webpage I went to. It was awesome, I hadn’t experienced anything like it before! Since then, the internet has continued to work its way into my psyche, into the very way that I understand how to communicate. Now I carry a netbook with me, always ready to pick up a wireless internet signal. My phone has internet on it with applications for Facebook and Twitter, for CNN News and Instant Messenger. If I want to get in touch with people, I have multiple ways to choose from: text message, email, Facebook, and, oh yeah, I suppose I could give them a call on the phone. On days when the power would go out and I could not get on the internet (in my pre-Blackberry days), I would feel strangely disconnected and an inner-unease. How in the world was I supposed to know what was going on? How was I supposed to communicate with people? I say all of this to point to the fact that the way we communicate has been, is, and will continue to change. The way that we connect as people is changing as a consequence of this. This reality has implications for us as a church. As you’ve noticed, in the last year, there has been a push to explore and use social media at Dunbar United Methodist Church (of which this website and new blog are a part of) in order to not only adapt to, but also to find, as my former classmate at Duke calls them, “faithful possibilities” in the world of the internet.
The question that we need to ask is not, “what is bad about the internet” or “how is Facebook negatively affecting relationships outside of the internet.” Instead, for us as a community seeking to connect with one another and with people here and around the world is, we need to ask “what are the faithful possibilities?” My classmate from Duke, Amey Adkins, gives an illustration of the faithful possibilities:
A few months ago the world was shaken by the Iranian presidential election. But the driving force of the story was not policies or presidents but rather the global response via Twitter of support and solidarity for Iranian citizens. Media outlets around the world were shocked by the outpouring of tweets (the term for 140-word outputs for the micro-blogging service) that made the principles of freedom, voice and solidarity shine like gold. Many rallied for the Iranians protesting in the streets. But the grandeur of the real-time display wasn’t in the politics. It was in the witness.
This is perhaps the very heart of Christian community — connecting, confessing and witnessing together the work of God. True, the tweets from Tehran weren’t quoting Christian Scripture, but they signify the power and potential to be profoundly tied into the fabric of humanity. Though we are connected in immeasurable ways, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, we can’t always see our global neighbors face to face. But technology provides one way to still be touched and moved by another’s life. It also offers a chance for leadership to rise from the margins and the masses. In a world where many people have cell phones but no indoor plumbing, social networking leads the way in offering the ministry of presence and sharing in a common call to action. (To read all of Amey’s article, you can check it out here on Duke’s Faith & Leadership website).
Technology and social media are providing almost instantaneous connections, transmission of ideas, as well as giving more equal footing to those who would not otherwise have equal footing. We need to embrace these qualities and recognize that the world is changing; the very way that we communicate as changing. As communication and connection are central to our life as a Christian community, we need to continue together to search for the “faithful possibilities” of what lies before us. I encourage you to read all of Amey’s article, as she says it so much better than I can.