Many years ago when studying for the ministry, one of my professors said something that has stayed with me. “The prayers in worship are where the people of God fight,” he said. Some will pray for rain, some will pray for sunny skies. To which group of devotees should God grant the prayers’ fulfillment?
Today, I refuse to identify any single gathering as “the people of God.” Nobody owns that title; neither do I care about other people’s prayer subjects or what they fight about in church. But I thought long and hard about what my professor meant.
When I deconstruct Facebook postings to their most basic level (mine included), I see postings about self and opinion postings as prayer wrapped in a secular (and public) delivery system. My take on self-posting is that nobody is as happy as they want to appear and I apprehend most opinion as misdirected wishing, aimed at hope for a God that will grant my prayers and thereby make the world into what I want.
Take any issue today that sparks a deep reaction, something “prayer-worthy” if you will. When the Confederate Flag issue was hot, Facebook posts were filled with opinions about it. Most of my friends thought the Confederate flag should come down, but some disagreed.
Guns are again a popular subject on Facebook and there, the people fight . . . with passion. In that sense, most Facebook fighting is like prayer. Prayer by definition is passionate and heartfelt. It’s one’s deepest communication with their God about what they value to be important. And what is God if not that which will help me get rain or sun, gun control, or the right to fly a Confederate flag.
In the 1960’s, several theologians reframed Nietsche’s famous dictum that God is dead. This caused a stirring backlash with reactions that were immediate and passionate. What most people didn’t discern; however, is that both Nietsche and the reformulators of his ideas, rejected the idea of God as a caring being in the sky, the pre-Enlightenment notion of the Divine existing to judge and give or take away what humans want.
The “God is Dead” movement proclaimed that putting a God in that box was preposterous to begin with and that believers ought to grow up.
The God is dead statement was telling people to stop treating God as the Santa in residence up in Heaven for wish-fulfillment. Stop projecting your wishes onto something or someone else that will do for you what you want. That’s selfish, naïve and childlike. Mature theologians, like many of my classmates from the ‘80s, are well beyond this. Most of us learned that the God of our childhoods is indeed dead and we developed richer belief systems from there.
That’s why I think Facebook is dead too. The motivations for its creation are already in question, but more important I think, look at how Facebook postings have become a place where people fight. And the fight is an empty one.
I love something I’ve seen on Facebook, “Because of your multiple postings on Facebook, I’ve completely changed my political views.” Sarcasm writ large, that.
I believe Facebook can be a good tool. I’ve used it to reconnect with some people I hadn’t seen in many years. But more often, this social media ap reveals to me the veiled hope for God as the cooperative wish grantor. It has in many ways, replaced the sanctuary and become the place where friends fight. I state: if someone insults me by calling me an idiot because I believe X, Y, or Z, will that make me change my mind. Here’s my answer: hell no.
And Facebook . . . it’s dead too.