Facebook Evangelization: To post or not to post?
I love Facebook. I love posting, adding, liking, and commenting. I’m a fairly regular tweeter, pinner and instagrammer. I generally embrace all things cool, hip, and/or trendy (in hopes that I might be considered some of those things). In short, social media is my jam.
But as a faithful Catholic, campus missionary, and lover of hot topics, I’m always asking myself, “Should I really post this?” After years of freely posting exactly what I thought exactly when I thought it, I’ve realized I’ve made some mistakes, turned some people away, and probably poured salt into one too many wounds. In fact, during campaign season this year, I wrote a note on my bulletin board reminding me to not post anything political unless I really thought about it. Pathetic, I know, but having to restrain myself like that got me thinking about the conversations that I’ve read (and sometimes started) on Facebook about the elections, the HSS mandate, abortion, gay marriage, etc.
In these conversations, I saw way too many Catholics posting and commenting in a way that did not always reflect truth in charity, especially when encountering opposition. I’m certain that our hearts are in the right place when this happens, but even good intentions can produce bad results.
To be clear, our primary means of evangelization should not be via social media. We know the most impactful means of conversion is a face-to-face encounter with Jesus, usually motivated through a face-to-face encounter with a human being. But we also know that in our world we should use the gifts and tools of technology to proclaim the Gospel as well. All disclaimers out of the way, we can get down to the heart of the matter. Does Facebook (and other social media) evangelization really work? Is this particular “public forum” the best way to spend our time and energy? Do the things we post do more harm than good?
Inspirational v. Controversial
I know what some of you might be thinking, “Are you telling me I shouldn’t post anything about my faith?” Well, no. I like to post cool quotes, verses, and articles, too, but let’s be real – I’m mostly doing that to inspire and lift up my friends who are in the faith. I don’t know of anyone who has given his or her life to Christ because of one status update (I mean, it could happen. I’m just saying I’ve never heard of it).
Those uplifting posts are perfectly fine. I’m talking about those things that get us really fired up – the issues that are so important to us, we will do just about anything to get others on our side. It’s here that I think we can get a little carried away. We try to convince the other side of truth, but unfortunately, there is no relational aspect to the conversation: just cold computer screens and vigorous typing. In these cases, my personal opinion is that we should give it a rest and focus on personal relationships and meaningful, thought-provoking conversation.
Obviously we can’t control or foresee the reactions our friends have to our Facebook posts, even if they are innocent and thought out well. My point is to not engage in cyber debate, especially when souls are at stake.
I’m sure many of you may disagree with me. You want to post radical things and start conversations, even if they could get uncivil. But ask yourself, is it really worth it? And are you willing to have those conversations one-on-one and in person if possible? If you are, then you should have them in person (and if you still disagree, I hope you keep reading anyway).
Can I get a witness?
When it comes down to it, the absolute best way to inspire conversion is by leading authentic Christian lives. This means your own life, both real and social media wise, is what you say it is. Do your posts, comments, and groups reflect the radical Christian life you say you’re living? Does your heart reflect it?
I fear the mask of the computer screen we hide behind hinders our ability to communicate effectively with each other and often times allows us to forget who we really are. In its Lineamenta document, the Synod for the New Evangelization warns us that the seemingly amazing cyber connections at our fingertips can quickly build a culture of “selfish concentration on oneself”, “the loss of the objective values”, and “a society which is incapable of remembering the past and with no sense of the future.” In fact, a recent article on foxnews.com explained that because of the “faux-celebrity” effects of social media, we are “raising a generation of deluded narcissists.”
That is bleak.
But that doesn’t have to be us.
Let’s not allow ourselves to be a people with no sense of past or future. Let’s not get caught up in politics and debates. Let’s not forget that OUR wants, needs, and opinions are not the “be all end all.” Let’s use social media, but not allow it to rule over us or our evangelization efforts.
Remember, our mission to make disciples of all nations came from a God who became man to meet us in a very personal, human way.
So now, stop reading this. Sign off of Facebook or Twitter (well, first, share this with your friends). Then go out, meet someone new, and be the light in the darkness.
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Facebook Evangelization: To post or not to post?
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Since the pontificates of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has been commissioned to engage and embrace the world with God's message of love once more with ‘new methods, new ardor and new expression.’ It has come to be phrased, 'the new evangelization.'
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