Today I will be posting sections of my paper called “Social Media in light of Trinitarian Ethics” that I did for my Contemporary Theology and Ethics.
Introducing Social Media and Trinitarian Ethics
In our technological age we have expanded our ability to use a variety of mediums to communicate messages to the greatest number of people possible. One of the forms of mass communication that has heavily expanded in the last decade is social media through the use of online webpages and communities. Social media is explicitly consumeristic in its uses as a way to network, advertise products, and persuade and entertain people based on their likes. The ethical dilemma that this raises for the church in regards to consumerism is the way that we utilize this technology. Certainly there are examples of benefits, drawbacks, and abuses in the use of social media by Christian pastors, bloggers, and lay people.
I want to consider how to apply a Trinitarian model of ethical engagement that uses social media to uplift and unite the body of Christ. The way this is done is by sharing the work of ministry done in a local church context, engaging culture and theology through discussion on social media websites, and challenging those who are entrenched in the evangelical sub-culture of celebrity pastors and worship rock stars to simply “follow” Jesus, the suffering servant. I will do this by recognizing that Trinitarian ethics are motivated by doing all things to glorify God, within the context of a community of grace, communicated by our lives moving through the truth-encounters of God’s word, and based in the truth of Jesus’ incarnation that motivates us to imitate his compassion and love to the world.
I am passionate about this topic because I believe that social media effects attitudes, opinions, and actions in relationship to ourselves, others, and God. I know that as I continue to work with teenagers and college students understanding and using these social media outlets will help me to share, engage, and challenge those around me.
A crucial step before we begin our journey is to define and recognize the threat of consumerism in the church and how social media is related to this issue. Churches engage in consumerism when they “cater to people’s consumer passions of getting what they want, when they want it, and at the least perceived cost to themselves.”
This can be done through targeting a specific audience to give them an experience that will satisfy their personal preferences as the basis of affiliation for the specific group or church. Good examples of this are attraction-based children’s ministry and Warren’s Saddleback Sam and Samantha.
The way consumerism can be avoided more consistently is for the leadership to continue to reemphasize the missional purpose and objective of each program, ministry, and event. The constant reminders and development of purposes and objectives provide the leaders and congregation with a rubric through which to see what they share, engage, and challenge others with.
Social media plays into the clutches of consumerism by giving people the ability to develop a network of like-minded and desirable individuals, get the information they want, and be entertained by people and products at any location, and any time with just the click of a button. Yet, in some ways social media has left us lonelier than ever because the “friends” we have are very superficial.
While it can be beneficial to make connections that would never have been possible, there is a risk that those connections can be severed based on the disapproval of a person’s display of words and images without any warning. Unfortunately, the power of convenience and choice overcome the need for relational discipleship and grace in a Christ-following community.
1 Metzger, Paul. Consuming Jesus: beyond race and class divisions in a consumer church. Grand Rapids. Eerdmans Publishing. 2007.10.
2 Warren, Rick. Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 1995. 169.
3 Journal Watchdog: http://www.journalwatchdog.com/schools/968-people-are-lonelier-than-ever (Viewed 11/28/12).