The Writing as Worship series continues, albeit not as I would have expected.
If the internet is any indication of human goodness, then let us all now agree that total depravity is indeed the default setting of our species. On a daily basis online, I encounter things I wish I didn’t, be they words, images, or ideas. Behind a facade of seeming privacy and anonymity, folks stare at screens and act as they choose, each doing and saying whatever is right in his/her own eyes. When I am online, it feels like a digital Wild West, a land of quickly drawn verbal shootings with no regard for life or human flourishing.
I’m not much of a fan of westerns.
So I’ve asked myself time and time again, “what’s a Christian’s place on this tumultuous frontier?” Frankly, I’ve found few answers, and when I rephrased the question, “what would Christ do online?” I had even less direction. So, I kept questioning and considered another framing point, “How do you want to be treated online?”
See Christ’s example can be difficult to emulate; relating to him as a person can be odd, given, you know his sinlessness. But his teachings—-oh, his challenging teachings—-they get to the core of things.
Brass tacs: part of my own online engagement has always been based in a desire to be known and affirmed. I want to be seen, acknowledged, and valued. I want to become part of digital communities with like-minded persons, maybe even form some real relationships that begin in a digital saloon (if we are keeping with the Western analogy).
So, I have been trying to do just that—-to fulfill those needs for others. I have been trying to review more podcasts on iTunes, offer encouraging comments on Flickr, and wishing folks a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook (since I love having a feed full of greetings)–to name a few.
Funny thing. I have been feeling satisfaction in my online social engagement, even thought my efforts have gone seemingly ignored. Suddenly, my online activity has not been so much about me; it’s been about making another person’s day a bit better because I can. I am taking Christ’s words and directly applying them in tangible and small but, hopefully, meaningful ways—-at least for that Lego builder who knows I liked their work or that distant acquaintance who smiled at my well-wishes. I do this to bless them, as I have been blessed and like to be blessed.
And in some form or fashion, I feel this is worship. I believe that God is honored in these acts, that he takes some pleasure in my refraining from pithy retorts, offhanded mockery, and cynical pontificating in favor of offering encouraging words, kind responses, or general silence in the face of being baited.
Many of us complain about the internet; this post makes me as guilty as anyone, but we can be part of the solution rather than the problem. We can be salt and light, even in one’s and zero’s.
Who knows, enough of us making that our standard practice, and we might tame the Wild West yet.