Published: Fyre Festival and Our Perpetual Facade of Perfection

Having watched the documentary film about Fyre Festival a couple of weeks back on Netflix I spent some time working on a cultural reflection piece. I don’t often do that, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever done it. Anyway, it seems to have turned out OK, and has been published on the Rooted Ministry blog.

“This power and influence of social media upon our world is highlighted in the recent Netflix documentary film, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. It’s a fascinating story. A story of deception and criminal activity on one hand, but also one that reflects more about humanity than we’d like to think.”

You can read the piece here.

You can read other posts published elsewhere through my ‘writing’ page.

Christian Blogging And Social Media

For the last three months I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a funk about this whole blogging and writing thing. And it’s not really the writing itself, it’s more about the way in which I should promote and share the things I write.

For a time I ended up deciding not to promote my writing on my personal Facebook profile because I felt it wasn’t who I wanted to become. I had noticed that in the previous few months nearly everything I shared was my own writing from my own blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. There’s a kind of arrogance to that, I think. There’s something not quite right only promoting and sharing the things I am doing.

Ironically (conveniently?), the last week or so has seen a few Christian bloggers commenting about the state of Christian blogs. It’s been an interesting conversation to follow.

Tim Challies’ kicked it off with a post about the kinds of blogs there are in the Christian blogosphere. He made the case that the decrease in Christian blogs is due to the rise of the rightfully named ‘ministry blog’, in amongst a brief point on the future of blogging. Samuel D. James at Letter & Liturgy then made some great points about the various effects of the ministry blog, but also raised concerns bloggers need to be aware of as they seek to have their content written. In the last few days Challies’ has again written about Christian blogging, this time encouraging more Christians to write and publish their own content on their own blog for the sake of the wider church. Again, he makes some great points and I certainly found it encouraging for my own blogging.

In this day and age of platform building through online presence, everyone being a brand, and the addictive nature of social media, it is worth thinking about the impact this has on Christian writing and blogging. For what it’s worth, here are a few more observations I believe worth consideration.

First, the temptation to stay perceptively relevant.

Years ago, when I started blogging myself, there was the belief that having your own blog helped you become a thought-leader in your field. This was, and still is, true. Sort of. The decrease in personal Christian blogs doesn’t mean there are less thought-leaders, it just means these leaders are more likely to be writing on larger ministry blogs. But for the Christian blogger who has a small audience the temptation is to try and impress others with their thoughts. To impress others usually means staying relevant and talking about topics that are ‘in the news’. In other words, writing what other big ministry sites are writing about (the irony of me making this commenting while referring to the ongoing Christian blogging conversation has not past me). I see this in the youth ministry sphere all the time. As posts comes through my RSS reader each day I find it amusing that 3-4 of the large youth ministry blogs are talking about similar things all within a few days of each other. In this way the big ministry sites are actually talking to themselves most of the time and the perception is that everyone is being relevant.

Second, the opportunity to share a message. 

Christian ministry is about the message not the man. The message is centred on the Good News, it’s not about the person who is delivering that message. Because of blogs and social media the opportunity to share this message is phenomenal.

Part of the difficulty in my wrestle to promote my own things isn’t the lack of opportunity to share whatever message I wrote about that week. It is the question of frequency and what other perceived. My own issue may have been solved if I only took time to share the writing of others. And while it is something I do, I don’t do it that often. I just don’t want to flood my own profile with my own articles, let alone other people. I also don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time curating content. Curating. It just sounds dirty. But, it is the reality of the blogger life.

Third, the meaning of humility. 

Humility is something we as Christians strive for because we recognise we’re not the centre of the universe. This is not to say we can’t say or do anything that will increase our own profile. This can naturally happen as our writing becomes more well-known and for the message that we proclaim. However, in seeking to be humble there is to be a constant checking of our own hearts as to where we’re leaning. The temptation to think that we are better than others somehow because we publish a blog post on a Monday and Thursday each week is real. It’s real because humility is difficult to cultivate when you’re seeking to write and publish and speak a message. Again, it’s not about the messenger, it’s about the message. But because they are intrinsically linked the temptation to redefine humility in our own minds becomes a reality.

Fourth, the slow-drip social media saturation. 

Again, my little break of self-promotion provided me with conversations with people who thought I was weird. And I say this because some people were almost angry at me for stopping the promotion of my own material. They just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t promote it. It was unfathomable to them that I stop promoting my blog posts on my personal profile and instead suggest people subscribe via email or follow my sites FB page.

To me, this pointed out how many of us Christians have been sucked into the culture of social media, platforming, and self-promotion. It has come to the point where we have no problem with any of this kind of behaviour and thinking. We don’t stop to think just how much we think of ourselves as a brand, instead this is now natural, it is what makes up personhood. Thankfully, we are able to reset ourselves when we realise that we haven’t been created as brands but as people; people who are created by God and for his purposes in this world.

Fifth, the settling of the self. 

After prayer and reflection, conversation and writing myself clear, I’ve come to a sense of peace about how I am to write, where I seek to write, and what I will and won’t promote on social media. There are, of course, no particular rules about all this, just like there are no rules in what you can read. But there is most likely a wiser course of action to take. In the end each Christian blogger needs to wrestle with who they are, who they are in light of God, and what they are seeking to get out of their own blog.

Like Samuel D. James comments, there are plenty of temptations to get more involved in social media-land because of blogging. But, there is also plenty of opportunity to find more of your own heart and character in amongst it all. When I say the ‘settling of self’, I mean finding where you are comfortable with right now as you seek to write and share for the glory of God.

The whole point in all of this has been to figure out what exactly is God calling me to do about my writing and sharing of said message. Surely, as we seek to improve our blogs as Christians, and have Christian bloggers speaking into the wider church in their own ways, we are seeking the benefit of others, serving the Church, and trying as best we can to articulate and highlight the grace and glory of God.

We Like It, But Do We Care?

We all see the photos.

You know, those photos that depict the perfect life someone else is living.

matthew-smith-100638Those photos of beautiful sunrises. Those photos of the legs on the beach. Those photos of nights out with friends. Those photos of perfect families, all smiling and joyful and happy. Those photos of food. Oh, those photos of food. The ‘amazing’ smashed avo for breakfast, the ‘delightful’ quinoa salad for lunch, and the ‘huge’ burger for dinner. OMG. Like. Like. Like.

We’ve all seen these photos. They pop up all the time.

And as we sit on our couches scrolling through our phones, feeling sorry for our self and jealous of our so-called friends, I wonder whether we care about the other side…?

Because there is another side.

This other side is the side of people we don’t see while traversing the inter-webs through the 5 different social media apps we have on our phone.

It’s the side of sadness, unhappiness, anxiety, hurt, and brokenness.

A little while ago I was struck by how social media changes my perception the relationship I have with others. I noticed one morning one of my friends was with a new partner. I was stopped in my tracks. The last time I saw a photo they were with their spouse and kids, looking happy. Yet, here in front of me is this person with another partner. It was a bit of a shock.

It’s not a shock because of the relationship breakdown. No, relationships fail and marriages breakdown, that’s not the shocking part. The shocking part is that I felt I was in a position where I could reach out and ask how they were.

In reality I haven’t seen this person in over 10 years. We’ve got no real relationship. Yet, because of the way social media comes at you it makes you feel like you know them, and know them well. What kind of response would they have if I did reach out?

“Oh, you’ve been stalking me on social media”.

“Oh, you’re not really a friend but more an acquaintance, and now you want the goss on what’s happened to my relationship”?

“I haven’t heard from you in 10 years and now you want to connect because something seems to have gone wrong. In my world it’s been heading that way for over 12 months and this is the end result, which every one of my actual friends knows about”.  

None of this comes across well.

We all have friends who we haven’t physically seen in years, and have nothing to do with them outside of our digital world. Yet, because of the nature of social media we find ourselves believing we’re closer to people than we actually are. What we perceive on social media may well be what is happening at the time, but underneath there’s a lot more going on.

There’s always another side.

And so, I wonder whether we actually care about those ‘friends’ with whom we have no outside relationship with?

Where are those friends of ours who don’t post?

Do we think of them?

Do we touch base with them?

Do we care enough to like them too?

Around The Grounds (01/08/14)

Around the Grounds is a list of articles or posts I found interesting this week. I hope you do too. 

The focus in this Around the Grounds is to do with the conflict in Gaza and the persecution of Christians in Iraq. They have been the main two things occupying my mind in the past few weeks.

Persecution of Christians in Iraq

“N” As A Social Media Movement – A post I wrote about showing some sort of solidarity with the Iraqi Christians being persecuted.

Painting On The Walls – The original post that highlighted the plight of Christians in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians Are Raped – An article highlighting the rape, murder and dispersion of Iraqi Christians because of ISIS from The Telegraph.

Lebanon Condemns World Action – The Lebanese governments response to Christian persecution in Iraq and the Gaza conflict.

Gaza Conflict

Eight-hundred Dead Palestinians –  “What’s the limit for Palestinian deaths before we have a ceasefire? Eight hundred? Or 8,000? Could we have a scorecard? The exchange rate for dead? Or would we just wait until our gorge rises at the blood and say enough – even for Israel’s war, enough is enough. It’s not as if we have not been through all this before.”

Israel Creates “No Man’s Land” – A revealing article about how the population of Gaza is slowly being squeezed into a tighter and tighter area.

The World Stands Disgraced – The shelling of a school by Israel.

“N” As A Social Media Movement

This past week has been horrific in world affairs, from the continuing Israel/Gaza conflict to the MH17 disaster.

On various social media outlets over the last 24 hours there have also been reports of Christian persecution in Iraq due to the over-powering presence of the ISIS group.

As a showing of support with fellow believers in this part of the world a number of friends have begun putting the Arabic letter ‘N’ as their profile picture. I’ve joined in as well and would encourage you to do the same.

arabicNazarene

The reason for this is because the Arabic letter ‘N’ (noon) for ‘nasara’ or ‘nazarene’ is being written on Christian homes in Iraq by the strict Muslims of ISIS. This is a warning sign, telling Christians to convert to Islam, pay a subjugation tax, or expect their death. Many of these believers have taken a fourth option, fleeing. Now, there are very few Christians in this area at all.

While it’s become a small movement, and some would say doesn’t bring much change, I believe it (1) highlights the need for people to be educated about the current situation and (2) reminds people to pray for them. At least we can do that.

The original article I read about this idea was from David Ould’s blog, while there are also a number of other outlets writing about this issue, including The Telegraph here, and Murray from Mentone Baptist has a few reflections here.