Spirituality and Facebook

Last night a group of Disciples on Campus students met at Potter’s House, a local Christian coffee house. The topic was the “spirituality of Facebook.” “So,” I asked them, ”what do you like about Facebook?” They laughed. It has become an important part of daily life for most college students. They mentioned the value of staying connected with family, the fun of knowing what friends were doing, and the simple pleasure of doing something other than studying.

I, then, asked, “What don’t you like about Facebook?” One lamented the time drain. Another complained about the bullying. A third worried about the pressure on kids. Teens and pre-teens often spend hours concocting inflated images of themselves for their Facebook pages. They regularly shift short-term relationships in and out of “Facebook official” status. As one said, kids need to be kids.

Can Facebook be a good source for our spiritual lives? Theologian Bruce Epperly thinks so. In a brief essay, “The Spirituality of Facebook,” Epperly extolls the virtues of social media for our faith journeys. As Epperly contends, Facebook helps us to celebrate the “radical and dynamic interdependence of life.” When we connect with others, we have a lived experience of community. Facebook also reminds us of the “incarnational nature of life.” It is full of all kinds of basic activities which can be sources of spiritual insight. Finally, social media can help us see “the importance of daily life as revelatory of the holy.” We often dismiss our daily living as mundane, yet it is often the habitual which reveals what we value most.

There is another gift in Facebook. It helps us to find our internal voice. Saying what we think requires courage. We spend much of our lives being silent. Facebook forces us to express ourselves. It can also nurture empathy. Not long ago I saw a Facebook sight of a former student. She had lost her two beloved dogs. As a dog-lover myself, I identified. Our pets are full members of our families. When we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves. The Facebook post was so eloquent and heartfelt, it could have been taken out of the Biblical book of Lamentations. By reading those remarks, I connected into an experience of common humanity, life tragedy, and the fragility of our relationships with all of the most important people and animals in our lives.

So, post away and do it with spirit. Know that your communication can be a source of transcendence, hope, consolation, and connection. When used with balance and discretion, it can remind us that the spiritual life is very much a part of our lives right now, in this moment, on this day, and that those daily experiences matter.

Peace be with you.
~ Peter


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