Saturday, I participated in a gathering of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut called “Living Local; Joining God”. This is an effort by the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and a few other diocese to explore encountering God with our neighbors. The Episcopal Diocese of Maine describes it this way:
The world has changed. More and more of our neighbors are encountering God in places other than church buildings and services. And more and more, if we want to encounter God with our neighbors, we have to go out into our neighborhoods and see what God is up to.
At one point during the gathering we expressed concerns and I shared my concern that too often people think of their neighborhoods geographically. As a social media professional, I asked people to think about their digital neighborhoods. I asked people to talk about their community of interest neighborhoods and their professional association neighborhoods. My comments appeared to be appreciated and led to a great discussion over lunch.
During lunch, I talked a bit about Marc Prenskey’s great essay, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. I noted that it seemed like almost everyone at the gathering was a digital immigrant, someone who had grown up in a non-digital world but now lived in a digital world. I noted that I often identify as a digital aborigine. If you know where to look, you can find stuff I wrote online from 1982. There may be older stuff still online, but I haven’t found it.
As a digital aborigine, I often talk about living in a digital world, in digital communities and digital neighborhoods. My digital immigrant friends talked about a future that was becoming more and more digital, and often spoke of that as if it were a bad thing. I think some of that may simply be because of them looking at the world from a pre-digital perspective.
Prensky write, “The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first.” I pushed this a bit further and suggested that viewing online relationships as being inferior to face to face relationships may also be part of digital immigrant thinking. I met my wife online. We were married in an online community before we were married in a church. Our relationship is enhanced by both its online and its physical aspects.
Online relationships often lead to face to face relationships. They have advantages for people who have problems communicating face to face, including people on the autism spectrum, or even simply introverts. My fourteen year old daughter has many deep meaningful online relationships. Some have not yet led to face to face interaction, for example because of distance. Others have started off online and have become empowering face to face relationships. We need to be connecting with people online, even if we are digital immigrants or digital introverts.
Another issue that people expressed was the concern about sacred space. I’ve visited physical spaces considered so sacred that you must take off your shoes before entering them. Surely, people suggest, there are places so sacred that digital technology should not come in. I think this is an important point. We need to think about how we view sacred spaces in relationship to digital technology. We also need to think about sacred digital spaces. It is an area I haven’t thought enough about. Like a good digital aborigine, as I wrote this, I did a quick Google search of sacred digital spaces and found various links I’ll explore later:
Intervarsity has MINISTRY IN DIGITAL SPACES with the hashtag #thisisreallife. It reminded me of discussions back in the nineties I had talking about “real life” and “virtual worlds”. I maintained back then, and today, that our interactions in virtual worlds are part of our real lives.
As I explored their website, their digital neighborhood, if you will, I found, Pokemon Go: a modern day well. At the event this morning, when we went out to ‘map the neighborhood’. One of the first things I noted was that the church we were starting out from, like many churches, is a Pokestop. Churches should own this part of their space.
Another article that caught my attention was Thin Places in Digital Spaces written by Kimberly Knight who describes herself as a “Minister of Digital Communities”. It is an article I want to go back and read more closely later and includes this:
We at Extravagance—myself and the other two ministers, Jo Hudson and Lawrence Tanner Richardson—work to create and sustain community through a variety of online ministries, such as live Bible studies on Zoom.us, asynchronous Facebook retreats, and ancient spiritual practices using Livestream.com. We even engage in frequent pastoral care through private messaging on Facebook, email, and text messages.
The discussion about digital sacred spaces is an important one to have.
So, people asked me if I was posting during Social Media Sunday. Yes, I intend to, although as I’ve written elsewhere, I am a little ambivalent about it. It often feels to me like digital immigrants promoting physical spaces instead of living digitally. To use the language of Living Local; Joining God”, it feels a bit developmental instead of transformational. It feels like one of those programs we feel we should be doing to reach the unchurched, instead of something we are doing to transform ourselves and our relationships with our neighbors. It doesn’t feel, to me, at least, especially missional.
Yet it is very important, just like attracting young families with checkbooks to church on Sunday morning is important. I offer these comments as a challenge, to invite people to try on a more missional approach to social media, as well as part of my own search for people who are living and worshiping in digital spaces.
So, I ask you, if you’ve managed to make it to the end of this long blog post, “What sort of transformational digital sacred spaces do you seek, envision, or participate in?”
This coming Sunday is Social Media Sunday (#SMS16) and I’ve been seeing a lot of activity around it. I am glad to see people sharing ways to proclaim God’s love through social media and I worry that often the discussions end up being about social media, and not about God’s love.
This thought came back to me as I read AT&T #InspiredMobility and #SMS16 Twitter Party. When corporate marketing and social responsibility people get involved, when I see phrases like “Thanks to AT&T there is an easy way to find inspiration online” I get concerned.
When I speak about communications and social media, I often urge people to go back to the mission statement of the organization. What are you trying to accomplish? In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we find
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
A recent tweet, highlighted in discussions about #SMS16 said, “God loves selfies! So post your selfies cause God loves selfies (and you)!” This was, in my opinion, a great tweet. From a communications perspective, it focused on the mission statement. From my religious perspective, it focused on what really matters, God’s love. I commented
As a social media professional and activist, I've always been ambivalent about #chsocm, #sms16, and related efforts. Too often, at least to me, they feel like they are about social media and marketing, and not about God's love.
So this tweet caught my attention. It returns our focus onto what really matters. God loves you. We need to boldly proclaim this. We need to ask, in all of our media how it helps "to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.".
I’ve been thinking along the same lines in my political discourse recently. I am generally avoiding political discourse online these days, because it seems too toxic, too far removed from what really matters. Yet two posts caught my attention yesterday.
The first was Craig Casey’s Facebook post that starts "If I gave you a bowl of skittles and three of them were poison would you still eat them?"
"Are the other skittles human lives?"…
Go out and read it.
I shared the post, saying
Generally, in spite of running for office yet again, I'm trying to stay out of most of the political discussions this year. They have become too toxic, too counter-productive. What is needed is proclaiming the Gospel.
This, perhaps, puts the Gospel into a post-modern construct that addresses the underlying issue that has gotten lost in so much of our current political discourse.
As one friend put it, very succinctly, "Eating the skittles is following the way of the cross."
One friend responded asking
Or is it because you favor Jill Stein or miss Bernie? I've never known you to not have a preference.
I have a very strong preference. I am voting for Hillary. I've been pretty clear about this in my writings for months. She isn't the perfect candidate, but I believe voting for her is closest to voting my beliefs.
Yet there is a much bigger issue. I believe our whole political process has become horribly corrupted. We have lost our focus in politics about what really matters. Our politics is driven way too much by a sick combination of fear and greed. I suspect most people don't think of the politics of who will do the best for our economy or who will best protect our way of life as being based on fear and greed, but that is really what it is.
We, as a nation, appear to have lost touch with our fundamental moral character. It is that moral character, that love of neighbor and welcoming the stranger that is the real basis for making America great again.
The reason I avoid most of the political discussions is that they seem to be arguing, in a destructive toxic manner, which response to greed and fear is best, instead of challenging the underlying dynamic.
This leads to the second article I shared yesterday.
School lunch worker quits after being forced to refuse hot meal to poor student.
The title pretty much says it all, but you should read the full story.
“As a Christian, I have an issue with this,” said Koltiska, of Canonsburg, Pa. “It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.” …
“God is love, and we should love one another and be kind,” Koltiska said. “There’s enough wealth in this world that no child should go hungry, especially in school. To me this is just wrong.”
With both of these, we return to the underlying mission, in a language that the unchurched can more easily understand. God is love. We are called to love one another. It is pretty simple and is a stark contrast to the political discourse of the day. It illustrates, I believe, very vividly, the Gospel lesson for Social Media Sunday, Luke 16:19-31 which starts
Jesus said, "There was a [well tanned] rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table [including Skittles and cheese sandwiches]; even the dogs would come and lick his sores….
On October 23rd, the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will have its Fall Convocation. (More on this coming very soon). We are asking people, “What do you bring to the table?” as we talk about how we support one another’s ministries.
Perhaps I’ll post a picture of some Skittles and a cheese sandwich from the Convocation on social media, a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will feast on what truly nourishes us, God’s love, a love we are called to share with one another, even, or perhaps these days, especially, online.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Robert Burns, “To A Louse”
I’ve always loved this quote and it came to mind this week a couple different times. One was when a person wrote what they perceived as some of my strengths in a way different from how I tend to think of myself. It has given me a lot to think about which I expect I’ll write more about later.
The other time was when I read articles about how Facebook perceives us, particularly our political leanings, as part of its advertising. If you are on Facebook, you can see some of this by going to facebook.com/ads/preferences. In particularly, look at “Livestyle and culture”. This is where your political interests are reflected. It is also where your religious interests are reflected. It is not always particularly accurate.
Many of my friends reported that Facebook lists them as “Very Liberal”. Yeah. I’m listed the same way too. However, that is towards the very bottom. For politics, Facebook lists me as being interested in Florida Democratic Party, Massachusetts Democratic Party, Conservative Party of Canada, Working Family Party, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal Party of Canada, Ontario New Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Labor Party, and Labor Party (Ireland), among others. It also lists Socialism and nonpartisanism. It isn’t a bad representation of my interests. I would like to see more on politics from non-English countries, but since I don’t read other languages very well, it isn’t too surprising they don’t show up on my interests list.
For religion, I find it very interesting what Facebook lists. I strongly identify as Episcopalian, yet when I look at what Facebook thinks I’m interested in, I get Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of North America, and American Jewish culture before I get any Christian beliefs. The first Christian belief I get is United Church of Christ, or Congregationalists, which is how I grew up, and I find that many Congregationalists reflect my political views. This is followed Christianity, and then About General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. This isn’t an area of Episcopalianism that does not seem to me to be as high on my interests as Facebook thinks, but perhaps all of this is helpful in thinking about ecumenical and inter-faith issues, as well as my relationship to Religious organizations.
Continuing on, I get African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Religion, Calvinism, Churches of Christ, Celtic Christianity, and Norse mythology.
Then, there are the other topics that get mixed in. It is an odd mix of cremation, books, singing, community issues, web conferencing, Scratch (Programming Language), culture, cemetery, arts and music, happiness, and road.
There are other tabs as well, and they have similar interesting suggestions. At the top of the travel section is Fleadh Cheoil. Clark Art Institute, Provincetown, MA, Amtrak, and Falcon Ridge Folk Music Festival. Interestingly, these showed up under travel, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival showed up under news and entertainment.
For people, I get Nicholas Kristof, Barbara Brown Taylor, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Booker.
There are other tabs, like Education, which include Elgin Community College, Stanford University School of Medicine, UC Davis, Barry University, Sweet Briar College, College of Wooster, and Wesleyan University.
I am wondering how much I can change this (without clicking on the “I’m not interested” buttons). For example, poetry and various poets doesn’t seem to come up.
This summer, students and teachers at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The Facebook Cliff Notes version of this says:
A Malawian teenage, William Kamkwamba, taught himself how to build a windmill out of junk and bring power to his village. He then went on to build a second, larger windmill to power irrigation pumps. He did this all from books he read in the library.
A slightly longer version can be found in this Ted Talk.
This could be a great starting point for a discussion of colonial and post-colonial literature, perhaps starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, followed by Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. This could then be followed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Those looking for other forms of accessing some of this might want to watch the movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, or Adichie’s TED talk, The danger of a single story . Yes, I realize that Conrad’s Congo, Achebe and Adichie’s Nigeria and Kamkwamba’s Malawi are very different places, but I’m guessing some important things could be discovered.
Perhaps part of that lesson is that what we make matters, and how we make it happens matters. The bigger question is why. Perhaps it could lead to discussions of business ethics, or even deeper into existential questions.
I might start with Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
To me, this is what it all boils down to. The problem is, that in our post-modern secular world, if you start talking about the Bible, God, Prophets, and commandments, you are likely to lose a lot of people. What might this be like in today’s post-modern secular world?
If you were to choose a few videos that grappled with these bigger questions, that go to the core of your existence, what would they be? What would you want people to watch? Would it be some of these TED talks? Talks about creativity?
There are a couple that I would suggest. I might start off with the abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water. This challenges us to think about who are neighbor really is. Yes, it starts off with the privileged white college graduate as a neighbor and doesn’t get to issues of racism and post colonialism, but it is an important start.
Once you have started thinking about having a little more empathy for those around you, the next video I would watch might be Validation. We need to find out how the people around us need validation and start there.
Without really thinking about those around us, about loving God and neighbor, we may end up just building bankrupt casinos ruining the lives of customers and vendors as we try to make American great again.
What videos would you recommend? What do you make? How do you make it happen? Why?
Normally, when asked what I make, I would say blog posts, in addition to other poems like poems, or hard cider. Yet this is only my fourth blog post of the week, behind my average of a post a day, and it does little to catch up with a full week with no blog posts while I was out on Cape Cod, and an expected dearth of blog posts while I am at Falcon Ridge.
On our way out to Cape Cod, we stopped at the 2nd BIG Tiny House Festival in Concord, MA, that my middle daughter helped organize with her friends from Miranda’s Hearth. At one of the tables there were #WhatIMake cards and colored pencils. Take a blank card, draw what you make. Leave it in the box of completed cards and take a different card. Connect with other makers.
This week has been #BreakWeek in the #CLMOOC I’m somewhat participating in. Being offline at the Cape left me less connected or involved that I would have liked to have been and I was hoping to use #BreakWeek to catch up. There’s been a lot of talk about postcards in #CLMOOC, very much like the #WhatIMake cards from Miranda’s Hearth. At some point, when I feel like things are better under control, I hope to join the postcard project. I hope some of my friends at Miranda’s Hearth will too.
Some of the stuff in #CLMOOC has been about ‘Animator’ and various other tools for creating animated GIFs. People have talked about Paper by Fiftythree. Unfortunately that is iPhone only. Someone else mentioned Sketch on Android. I looked briefly at Sketch and similar sketching and animation tools for Android and for laptops. Sketch has the ability to collaboratively sketch, and I think it may have timelines as well. Seems like a nice digital parallel to the postcard and #WhatIMake projects.
Another project that has caught my eye is #CLMOOC #DAILYCONNECT: THE CONNECTED POEM. I would love to spend some time in the connected poem, or perhaps set up a few connected poems myself. It uses Titanpad which appears to be based on Etherpad. Both are worth exploring.
I typically leave pages I’ve been browsing up to come back to them later and perhaps write about them a little. Often I try to connect them to different themes. I’ve been trying to avoid getting too drawn into the political fray, but I have been wondering if “You have sacrificed nothing and no one” will be the “Have you no sense of decency left” line from the 2016 election. Various people have been writing about it. Ezra Klein wrote, Donald Trump’s slander of Captain Humayun Khan’s family is horrifying, even for Trump. The Washington Post had Backlash for Trump after he lashes out at the Muslim parents of a dead U.S. soldier.
I’ve been getting into some discussions about Trump and religion. On Facebook I shared Opinion: Denying the Imago Dei: The triumph of Donald Trump. It was written by Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary.
We should always recognize that when we talk about human lives we are talking about men and women who are made in the image of God. People are of infinite value. This debased and coarse language is totally inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong; it is sinful; indeed it is evil.
I often also point people to 7 conservative Christians who are not supporting Trump. There are lots of good comments there. Another window I had open was TRUMP ANNOUNCES HIS DEBATE ESCAPE PLAN. Not a lot of content there but it voices something people are talking about. Also, If Politicians Had Man Buns has some funny pictures.
It is getting late, and I won’t make it through all the open windows, but I thought I’d highlight two last articles I have up. I was talking with my eldest daughter whose classmates are now hearing “weird dad” stories. I pointed her to Impression Formation in Cyberspace: Online Expectations and Offline Experiences in Text-based Virtual Communities in which I am a case study. There is also an article which I believe I originally found from my middle daughter, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett And Oprah All Use The 5-Hour Rule :
Top business leaders often spend five hours per week doing deliberate learning.
While I’m not keen on the business focus, I think it has an interesting point which expands upon nicely.
More continuous connected learning later…