Monday, February 7, 2011

Facebook Responsibly.

There are some things in our lives that could be deemed as "necessary evils." These are not the evils that are, in fact, actually evil. The real kinds of evils in the world today are unnecessary and should be stopped (i.e. murders, adultery, etc. etc.). However, there are some things in this world that may just be bothersome or frustrating, but they are a necessary evil because, well, maybe we just need to put up with them. For example, to some people, Obama is a necessary evil (well, to others he's unnecessary, but I won't address that one. Can of worms...). For some, cell phones and texting are a necessary evil. They don't like texting, but it seems to be the form of communication that many people like to use, so they do it anyway (Or, they try to run away from it, only to find out that they're giving in later on).

Here's another thing that might just be one of those necessary evils: Facebook. Yes, I said it. We've all had our moments where we are so frustrated and angry with Facebook and things that have happened on it that have caused us to write statuses like, "Facebook is so stupid. I'm considering deleting mine," or "I want to have friends in real life, not on the internet." (PS - I'm including myself in this one.) However, as much as I would very often like to say that I'm deleting my Facebook and never looking back, I'm not exactly sure how possible that is anymore.

Props to Mark Zuckerburg on that one.
(whose movie, by the way, I've heard is actually pretty good).

I know that so many of us wish that we could delete our Facebooks and never have to deal with them again. It feels silly to be upset if someone didn't accept our friend request, didn't respond to our wall post or our message, or even, *gasp* deleted us! Trust me when I say that I have been upset about all of these things and more, which is why I feel okay saying it.

However... Our culture is going more and more in the direction of social networking, and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot we can do to change that. I know that I have temporarily deleted my account a few times because I'm so tired of dealing with Facebook, but I always end up going back to it. And the key word in the previous sentence is temporarily. We all know that we do it. We temporarily delete our accounts because we know that it would take way too much work to create our "unique" profile and build up our friends list all over again. In the back of our minds, we know that we're going to come back to Facebook - but in that moment, we're too stubborn to admit it.

What would happen if instead of fighting the phenomenon of Facebook and social media, we instead embraced it with discernment? What would that look like? Well, for starters, maybe we shouldn't add everyone that we've ever known in our entire lives to our friends list. Maybe we shouldn't add Joe, who's friends with our best friend's sister and met us at that party that one time.

Maybe we should learn to let go when friendships seem to die. I just recently had that happen, where I was holding on to a friendship that wasn't actually there. I talked with Eric about it because I was having a slight altercation with this person, and Eric asked me a simple question: "When was the last time you had a conversation with this person?" To be honest, it's been almost a year since I've talked with this person in real life. THAT, I would say, is the definition of a Facebook friend that might just need to be deleted. Not from any bad or angry feelings, but simply because there's not actually a friendship there anymore.

What if we used Facebook as an encouragement tool, rather than trying to see how many friends we can get, who we can spy on, or how many pictures we can be tagged in? What if Facebook became not about us, but instead about the other people in our lives?

---Let me make myself clear right now. I am not excluding myself from any of this. The only reason I feel as though I can say these things is because I have done each and every one of the things I've talked about here, and much more. This is not an easy blog for me to write, because I know that it would take a dramatic change on my part as well. ----

As Christians, we are called to be "in the world, but not of it." Could that mean that it's okay to use Facebook, but be different in how we use it? I know a girl where the majority of her purpose in using Facebook is just to encourage other people, and she does this in abundance. What if we did that? What would happen if we took the focus off of ourselves and used Facebook to help others? I think we would find that Facebook is then not only a necessary evil, but also a helpful tool in developing relationships and building one another up.

As many alcohol commercials use the phrase, "Drink Responsibly," I am going to take the same connotation from that and say:

Please, Facebook Responsibly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Suffering of God.

On this cold, dreary, and snowy afternoon, I thought it might be beneficial to curl up with my computer and blanket, and crank out a nice blog.

In Biblical Theology of Suffering on Monday, we discussed the debate of whether God suffers or not. This went along with the book we have been reading, Where is the God of Justice?. This is a simple, yet very enlightening book that discusses so many aspects of suffering, including the idea of whether or not God suffer. Dr. Andrew Schmutzer was the professor who taught this lesson, and it was so interesting.

In our book, the author, Warren McWilliams, discusses the debate between whether or not God suffers with His creation. He declares that God is a suffering God, and that it is only because He suffers with us that He can actually help us. He inserted a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which said,
God lets himself be pushed out of the world on the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way in which he is with us and helps us. ...The Bible directs us to God's powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.
The fact of God suffering does not mean that He is in any way weak or unable to cope with things. Dr. Schmutzer put it very well when he said in class that unlike human beings, God's suffering does not make Him undone. Instead, it spurs Him into action and He is able to work in the situation. He does not allow Himself to be struck down by suffering, but rather He uses it in order to help and understand His people.

So what does this mean for us? If God really suffers, how does that affect our relationship with Him? In Dr. Schmutzer's view, there are 5 implications for the Christian and either our lives or our perspectives of God:
  1. "If God is truly involved in the lives of people, if he actually enters into and acts within time and history, and most of all, if he does so as the God of love, then such a God must, by necessity, experience suffering." - Thomas G. Weinandy, Does God Suffer?
  2. God's suffering can be expressed more as empathetic participation than mere sympathetic identification.
  3. God's love is not reckless or need-based, shot through with self-seeking and anxiety - God's emotion does not incapacitate him. While God does not suffer against his will, he does voluntarily expose himself to suffering.
  4. The theology of creation affirms that God remains in and with the contingent, the other-than-God - the world in its nature as world, and humankind in its autonomous but finite creaturliness.
  5. For people who have faced comprehensive traumas such as: starvation, domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, and torture, there is a very practical aspect of clinging to a God who suffers-with.
This is huge. In the midst of intense suffering, we can be sure that God suffers with us, and not only sympathizes with our condition, but He knows exactly what is going on, and feels the pain just as we do. While He is not incapacitated, He still feels our emotions and is filled deeply with compassion for us, and this spurs Him on to help us.

Praise Him that we have a God who loves us enough to do that! Who are we, the sinful race that we are, to deserve something so great as that! His love overflows and abounds for us, even though we are wicked and depraved, deserving nothing.

Praise Him all creatures here below.