“Repost if You Love God”

Almost every day my Facebook newsfeed contains a “repost if…” post from one of my Facebook friends. Repost if you have a child you think is the cat’s meow. Repost if you have someone you love has died. Repost if you think your cousins are the best friends anyone could ever have. Share if you have the best brother in the world. Etc. Etc. And so forth. (By the way, for those of you who are my FB friends, I never repost any of these memes.)

The ones I find the most offensive are the religious ones, which take varied forms:”Repost if you love Jesus.” “Send to all your friends if you love God.” “Only true Christians will repost this.” And perhaps the one that disturbs me most: “If you love God, repost and you will receive a great favor.”

The last is the worst because it conveys a small image of God. A God who engages in quid pro quos with us. A God whose love for and goodness toward us depends on how we deal with a chain letter. God just doesn’t work like that.

But all of them, whether or not they promise a quid pro quo, bother me. Because if you read between the lines what they all really sound like they are saying is “I am such a good Christian and I know most of you aren’t, and my belief that I am a better Christian than you are will be proven because most of you won’t repost this.” In my understanding of Christianity, saying “I’m a good Christian” on Facebook is not what makes a good Christian.

So instead of “repost if you love God” or “only true Christians will repost this” how about if our meme for the day is: “If you love God, perform a random act of kindness for someone today.” Or “Call a loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while if you love Jesus.” Or simply, “If you are a true Christian, Be Love in the world.”


Lent and Facebook

Last year, several people told me they were planning to give up Facebook for Lent. (Other friends of mine have “fasted” from Facebook at other times for varying lengths of time.)

To the extent that any discipline provides some benefit to us, I can’t quarrel with those who pick this particular form of Lenten discipline. But I came across what seems to me a potentially far batter Facebook Lenten practice in a short piece by a Jesuit named Jim McDermott in a rectne issue of a Jesuit newsletter.

Fr. McDermott suggests sitting in front of one’s computer and beginning (as we always begin our prayer) by becoming aware that one is in the presence of God. He then suggests wandering through the status updates and walls of your friends without any particular aim in mind. Just be aware and let your self be affected by what you read, sitting with whatever reactions are stirred up.

After doing this for 10 or 15 minutes, Fr. Mc Dermott suggests turning off the program and just sitting, noting where your attention is drawn and what emotions are stirring. Allow whatever desire is in you to surface. It may be a desire to say a prayer for someone. Perhaps it is a desire to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe there is a kindness you want to perform for someone. “Whatever you desire, commit yourself to doing it.

End your practice with a prayer of gratitude.

My recommendation with all prayer practices that are new to you is to try it. If you like it, keep doing it. If not, don’t. But it strikes me that this offers a potentially more meaningful way to turn Facebook into a spiritual practice than simply staying away from it for a period of time.