‘Facebook Christianity’ Misses the Whole Point

By JORDAN ECARMA

It’s a familiar Facebook status format: A declaration of some positive development in your life followed by “God is good” or “#blessed.”

Seeing this repeated in your News Feed countless times is what I think of as “Facebook Christianity.” It’s a charming but incomplete concept of the faith: Good things (and only good things) are of God. Anything we don’t want to blast to our network of friends doesn’t count. God is only invoked when it’s a “blessing.”

A New York Times piece last year explored one facet of the “#blessed” phenomenon, noting that the popular hashtag gives social media users a way to brag about accomplishments while appearing superficially humble.

Jessica Bennett writes:

There’s nothing quite like invoking holiness as a way to brag about your life. But calling something “blessed” has become the go-to term for those who want to boast about an accomplishment while pretending to be humble, fish for a compliment, acknowledge a success (without sounding too conceited), or purposely elicit envy. Blessed, “divine or supremely favored,” is now used to explain that coveted Ted talk invite as well as to celebrate your grandmother’s 91st birthday. It is carried out in hashtags (#blessed), acronyms (#BH, for the Hebrew “baruch hasem,” which means “blessed be God”), and even, God forbid, emoji.

She’s on point. But for Christians, there’s something far bigger at stake.

Does a Facebook status really matter in the scheme of things?

While scrolling through my News Feed, I sometimes wonder if people have forgotten that the promise was not “follow Me, and good things will happen to you”—it was “deny yourselves and take up your cross and follow Me.” We are promised hope that does not disappoint, but “tribulations” are its prerequisite.

C.S. Lewis speaks far more profoundly than I can in The Problem of Pain, reminding us that God loves in a truly terrible sense. He is no tame lion.  

“If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

Christ seems to be speaking of this “intolerable compliment” in John 15, where He uses the analogy of a vine to explain how believers are part of Him.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Imagine yourself as that branch. It would hurt terribly to exist as a sentient branch and to be pruned, wouldn’t it? But that’s how it works.

Maybe you already know what I’m talking about and you don’t have to imagine the pruning—you know. It hurts, and yet there is so much joy in knowing we are loved in the most incredible sense.

Lewis calls us “not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making.” That refining and shaping process cannot take place only through the happy things that call for a “#Godisgood” after our Facebook statuses. In a sense, pain and difficulty that shape us for heaven show even more love from God than ordinary happy blessings.

Lewis writes:

“Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”

The weight and wonder of that destiny can only be truly experienced through difficulty. Is there any more beautiful picture than the Christian who endures pain and loss but continues to “give thanks in all circumstances”?

I pray often for the strength to be that Christian.

And yes … I also pray that I will think twice about how I portray my faith to the rest of the world. 

Even in something as simple as a Facebook status. 

Jordan Ecarma is a former journalist now living the millennial dream: getting paid for writing Facebook statuses (that is, digital PR). She watches her use of the f-word (“feminism”) around conservatives and the c-word (“conservatism”) around feminists. Find her under @JordanEcarma.

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2 Responses

  1. Ricky says:

    Good post. When I think of "Facebook Christianity" I can’t help but think those pictures that sometimes show up on my feed that says "Share this and God will bless you." I have to resist the urge to start ranting when I see those. Almost as irksome is the "Share if you love Jesus." Those are even better if they include something that tries to guilt you into sharing.

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