The Gospel According to Facebook — Book Review
The Gospel According to Facebook: Social Media and the Good News
An Invitation to Think
With our lives being ever more submerged in advancing waves of technologies, intertwined in the far flung tentacles of the internet, and wrapped in the virtual, non-virtual society of Facebook and other social media, it should come as no surprise that the spiritual realm of our lives would ultimately be impacted, shaped, and/or reshaped by this perfect storm. In The Gospel According to Facebook: Social Media and the Good News, Bruce Joffe, communications professor and pastor, has combined his knowledge of both communications and spiritual matters and given us a glimpse into this emerging Facebook Gospel.
In essence Dr. Joffe has given us two books or a book in two parts. In the first part, “The Gospel According to Facebook: A New Testament,” Joffe delves into both communication and scriptural principles. He offers a well thought out and informative discussion of the message, the meaning, the messenger, and the medium and their impact on whether a “message” is truly “communicated” i.e. if and how well it is understood, does it elicit the intended purposes, does it become a standard, does it develop a following. (Following – there’s a Facebook word for you!) Joffe reports that by September 2011 Facebook had “reached over 750 million users in the world.” Wow! What a medium for delivering a multitude of messages with unique meanings from a diverse group of messengers! In “A New Testament” he offers some interesting and insightful commentaries on several issues of spiritual import – how we come before God; how we view God – large and full of grace or small and restricted by rules and regulations; the need for and value in sharing one’s spiritual journey; gender and sexual identity; and social justice in the kingdom of God. I thought his scriptural exegesis fresh and refreshing, and well, progressive. After all, Joffe openly states that he “considers himself a progressive Christian.”
Also, in “A New Testament” Joffe addresses issues of church per se with a provocative discussion of church branding and a challenge for churches to truly be welcoming, inclusive, and affirming of all. Are church and churches, as we have known them. “old wine skins” that no longer fit? Joffe proposes that the gospel according to Facebook is a gospel of love, grace, compassion, inclusion of all peoples, forgiveness, relationships over rules, and actions of social justice. He rallies this Facebook gospel around well known and often quoted traditional Old and New Testament scripture:
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God? –Micah 6:8
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 (In the Old Testament these same commandments are expressed in the law found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18)
Joffe suggests it’s time for new wine skins and new wine as the growing Facebook spiritual community seeks to do church differently even as “All Christian denominations and traditions are on the threshold of change and conflict, juxtaposing what their founders and followers traditionally have held sacrosanct with what God and God’s people find themselves believing today.”
“Social Media and the Good News”, Part Two of The Gospel According to Facebook is primarily a compilation of various sayings, quotes, and postings, titled “Collected Wisdom and Proverbs, that Joffe has gleaned from the Facebook spiritual community. He does, however, preface these with some remarks and illustrative Biblical scriptures that seem to support his thesis that “truth and reality in the Bible doesn’t mean that everything in its pages is necessarily factual,” nor are all its edicts relevant or worthy of being taken literally in today’s culture and context. For example: “Don’t cut your hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard.” – Leviticus 19:27 That doesn’t work today!
The collected wisdom and proverbs are of a mixed sort. Some are pithy. Some profound. Some both pithy and profound. Some are quite poignant; others rather humorous in a thoughtful kind of way. All are thought provoking, if one is inclined to think. Some might stir one to tears; hopefully, others will stir one to action. I would not recommend they be read one after another as I did in reading for review, but that they be read singly, perhaps one a day, with thoughtfulness, personal reflection, and consideration for application when appropriate. I will mention only a few here:
“Any prejudice, whether it is based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, cult or ritual purity, is finally nothing but a dagger aimed at the very heart of this gospel that arises from Jesus’ life.” — Bishop John Shelby Spong
If we could look into the hearts of others and understand the hardships that every one of us faces daily, I think that we would treat each other with more gentleness, patience, tolerance and care.
Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.
Sometimes, God calms the storm . . . sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms His children. (I have had this on my refrigerator for years!!)
And a final one:
According to the Bible, all of mankind descended from one man and one woman. . . who had two sons. Think about it. Take all the time that you need.
Now that grabs one’s attention and surely would initiate some thinking particularly if the information presented is assumed to be all the information. However, it is not all the information. According to Genesis 5:6, “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.” Given this added information, one would have to assume that all of mankind descended from multiple incestuous relationships. Now that thought is just as distasteful in today’s society as the “two sons” quip is impossible. That brings one back to Joffe’s thesis that the edicts, practices, and traditions espoused in the Bible are not all applicable, appropriate, nor relevant in today’s society and culture.
Do read Bruce Joffe’s The Gospel According to Facebook: Social Media and the Good News, and think about it. Take all the time that you need!