The Gospel According to Facebook (Part 1)

On Sunday I mentioned that “cultural gospels” bombard us with their version of what we need on a daily basis. This is obviously true of the internet and all the latest trends being developed in this sphere as well. So today, (as I promised in my last blog) lets ask the question, What is the gospel according to the most dominant internet trend in the last 5 years? What is the gospel according to Facebook?

Here is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook:

Our whole theory is that people have real connections in the world. … What we figured is that if we could model what those connections were, [we could] provide that information to a set of applications through which people want to share information, photos or videos or events. But that only works if those relationships are real.

Facebook was established with the assumption that we live in community and it’s goal, its gospel, is to enhance the level of that community by bringing it into a new sphere with new possibilities: the web.

So the gospel according to Facebook is that we need to promote community.

Actually, now that we speak about it in those terms, that doesn’t sound too dissimilar from God’s statement in Genesis 2:18, that “It is not good for man to be alone.”

The Bible, from the very beginning, makes it abundantly clear that we were intended to live in community with other people. God is a community within himself and, being made in His image, we carry the same innate need for intimate connections with other people. Many passages in the NT, in fact, are devoted to developing and enhancing the quality of our human community.

Consider all the “one another” statements we find there:
“Love one another.” (Rom. 12:10)
“Pray for one another.” (James 5:16)
“Be kind to one another…Forgiving one another.” (Eph 4:32)

One continuous thread that runs from the beginning of the Bible to the end is that we must fight to promote Biblical community.

So that is interesting…. Facebook and the Bible share the same fundamental assumption: we must promote human community.

I guess the question, then, is Does Facebook promote a Biblical version of community? Does it help us live more in line with the Bible’s vision for human interaction or less? Is it a help or a hindrance?

Before we answer that it would be helpful to know what, exactly, the Biblical picture of community is.

Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind and that the second is like it: to love others as our self. (Matt. 22:38,39).

To love others as we love ourselves is an interesting command. How do we love ourselves? We don’t always like ourselves. We aren’t always filled with happy feelings about ourselves. We do, however, always want and hope for our best.

Likewise, Christ is calling us to have an other-oriented view of relationships, to be concerned about the BEST for the other person, not just ourselves.

So how does the Facebook version of community match up to the Biblical version?
Some thoughtful Christian men and women have already chimed in on this very question. Here are a couple of opinions:

“The problem with the Facebook/myspace community is that it lives in cheap abundance, not invaluable scarcity. It provides the illusion that by being constantly in touch with a person, you can know them more.” –Requiem for Holy Moments, Brett McCracken

“I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do–which is admittedly already quite a bit. Does that make any sense? Without any help from the internet I’m inclined to give way too much time to evaluating myself, thinking about myself and wondering what other people think of me. If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness. I need to worry more about what God is thinking of me. I need to be preoccupied with what he’s written in his word, not what somebody just wrote on my “wall.”
Josh Harris, Pastor

Though there are definitely deficiencies in the kind of community that Facebook encourages (as these guys point out), but I am wary about giving up on it too quickly. I think, like everything in our world, Facebook has some features that naturally DO promote God’s design for us to live in Biblical community and others that naturally hider it. Facebook is a mixed bag.

Next week, I will lay out some of the specific ways I think the gospel of Facebook helps and hinders the Biblical command to promote other-centered community.

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