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Why Bitstrips won't save you
One of Circle of Hope’s proverbs, what some have called our umbrella proverb, says that Jesus is best revealed incarnationally. That means that Jesus is best revealed in the flesh, in relationships. We think God agrees since He sent Jesus to the earth to inhabit the world in bodily form. God seems to have thought the best way for Jesus to be revealed to the earth was incarnationally too. Now that the Spirit of God inhabits us and the Kingdom of God is in our midst, we are responsible individually and communally for revealing God. And the best way to do that is in person.
It takes a relationship to know Jesus, and it takes a relationship to know Circle of Hope. I think Christians should use all the tools at their disposal to help people know Jesus, but the best one is the face-to-face one.
That’s extraordinarily radical, in my opinion. The whole thing is so intentional, so face-to-face, you might not figure us out in just a few visits to a cell or a PM—and certainly not be perusing our website. I hope our Facebook page and Twitter posts intrigue you, but you’ve gotta get personal to get the whole thing. You won’t understand it just by viewing a website, and I want it that way. I want to relate to you. I don’t want you to deconstruct me before you actually have a relationship. Relating to the world strictly through our experiences and our deconstruction is too limited for my taste, and too limited to really know Jesus.
But still, it’s not surprising that people want to do that. They barely want to reveal themselves to someone else through a relationship, let alone reveal Jesus through their personhood. It’s hard to be real, genuine, and vulnerable. It's hard to let Jesus in, and let a community love and disciple you.
Some radical followers of Jesus among us would prefer no online presence at all! They think it all has to happen relationally. I want to speak the language of the world (I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog at all), in hopes of reaching it. But I do know the best way for Jesus to impact the world is relationally. That’s why Circle of Hope is so radical. Why our cells, just by virtue of meeting at all, are world-changing.
Our world really hasn’t made it conducive for us to incarnationally relate. I was reading Post Secret the other day and here’s one that I saw:
How many of us are afraid to interview because of how we’ll be judged? Are nervous are résumés aren’t good enough? Or spruce them up so that they perfectly reflect how we want to be viewed? How nerve-wracking!
I feel for the people who think they are judged by our résumés, our Facebook or OK Cupid profiles, how clever are Tweets are, what music we listen to, what restaurants we eat in, what bars we frequent (Foobooz just gave us the top fifty, just to make sure you measure up to how cool they think you should be). The other day someone was judging me based on the philosophy she thought I needed to believe! I didn't fit into a box so I was hard to understand (I told her iIneeded to have a relationship first).
So you have two problems with this mentality. 1) The world judges us by how we showcase ourselves. 2) Actually afraid of showing our real selves, we continue to hide behind our images.
The most pressing examples of these I’ve noticed as-of-late are in the world of Facebook.
The first one is Bitstrips. You need a smart phone for this one. You can make an account and then literally reconstruct yourself as you see fit and then star in comic that you write or that the makers write for you. The process of making yourself was so amazingly weird and disturbing to me. Instead of posting a real picture of ourselves (or, let’s say, having a cup of coffee with a friend), we imitate what we look like! I felt bad when I had to make myself heavier than the normal figure was.
I experimented with it just to see what it was all about. Here’s what I came up with:
Amazingly, it got about 23 people to ‘like’ it (that’s pretty good for one of my posts) and the comments, of course, were further deconstructions of my false image. One person told me that only I would deconstruct a Bitstrip, and the others wonders why it was snowing on the lake, how I got a dog, and why there was an egg in the sky (someone didn’t understand altogether).
I thought it was fun to do it, but it is noteworthy how quickly it was judged for being stupid ( felt stupid then too). That’s what we sign up for when we put ourselves out there in a superficial manner—random criticism and certainly not a tangible relationship. In that zone, it’s not surprising that Jesus isn’t often revealed. It needs to be personal.
Since the online images we try to project of ourselves get torn apart, we might let a machine just do it for us. Enter the world of What Would I Say? This app generates Facebook statuses that are based on previous posts we made. It started as a joke between hackers, but now people are posting them. I’ll admit, I was enchanted by it (it was interesting just to see what the algorithm thought I would say—lots about Jesus and Philly sports!). My favorite one said “Don’t stop praying for Philadelphia sports, too!” Lord knows, they need it.
But again, instead of doing something real, we construct false images of ourselves, even when our construction fails, we let a robot do it!
The environment we create doesn’t really make it clear that the Spirit of God is in us and the Kingdom of God is among us. No amount of Emails or websites can really express who I am and what Jesus is doing in me. It takes a personal relationship, it takes a commitment, it takes real love. A robot won’t generate it for you, neither will a comic (even if I draw myself into it), it’ll take something tangible, something incarnational. And I think that’s how God does it too.