Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?
The culture continues to be atwitter about Twitter and other electron-based social media. It's easy to find both scathing critiques and passionate defenses of the Internet. But as we approach what many churches celebrate as Trinity Sunday this weekend, there is another angle to ponder.
When we think of the Trinity we tend to think of doctrinethat Jesus' relation to the father is homoousios (Greek: of the same essence) and not homoiousios (Greek: of similar essence); that, as the Nicene Creed puts it, Jesus is "God from God, light from light, true God from true God … ."and so forth.
But the heart of the Trinity is not fine theological distinctions but a relation of love, a fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit, a super-community that is so unified in love that it counts as one being.
The nature of this love overflows—love begets love and even more beings to love. And for some reason, God—who is spirit—nonetheless wishes to make this love a tangible reality in the things he creates. This starts from "the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" to "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," to
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Rev. 21:2-3)
The movement of God is toward deeper and deeper incarnation, enfleshment. It appears that the glory of our existence as beings created, redeemed, and blessed by God is a tangible, physical existence, in which we live together and love one another in an embodied way.
One can even define sin as anything that undermines shared embodied love. Murder is the most obvious example. But so does gossip or lust or theft or unrighteous anger, and so forth. The many catalogues of vices in the Old and New Testaments have this in common: they undermine in one way or another a shared embodied life of love.
And so we come to the age of the Internet. For all its obvious flaws, it does seem to bring people together to communicate, collaborate, and create community. As Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine, waxed eloquent recently, "Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide." He noted Wikipedia as "just one remarkable example of an emerging collectivism," and also pointed to collaborative sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, the Hype Machine, Twine, Wesabe, and of course Twitter. "Nearly every day," Kelly concludes, "another startup proudly heralds a new way to harness community action."
In this essay, Kelly compares the "collectivism" of the internet with classic socialism. Along the way he says things like this:
Instead of gathering on collective farms, we gather in collective worlds. Instead of state factories, we have desktop factories connected to virtual co-ops. Instead of sharing drill bits, picks, and shovels, we share apps, scripts, and APIs.
It's at this point that we spot the great weakness of this technology. The type of community that can quickly and easily be fostered on the Internet is a disembodied one, one in which only minds meet, and that works at cross purposes to the movement of God in history.
This need not alarm us or prompt us to shut down our computers. Every technology has the ability to enhance embodied life or to subvert it. Take transportation. Planes, trains, and automobiles allow us to enjoy embodied fellowship with people who live far away from us. This is a great good. But speedy, cheap transportation also makes possible the transient culture we live in, where people struggle to put down roots in one place and ground themselves in their neighborhood.
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
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