The incarnation is the ultimate social medium

That wasn’t exactly how I said it on Wednesday when talking with Michael Buckingham at #140conf in Detroit. What I said that morning was that Jesus is the ultimate social medium.

What I mean either way is that when the Word put on a body and walked around, having conversations with people, it was what happens with “social” media.

Social media, as opposed to broadcast media, is about interaction, about comments. Someone describes what they are doing, someone else comments, someone else comments on the comment. A statement invites interaction.

At the beginning of the book of John, John talks about the Word, one of John’s names for Jesus. John talks about the Word walking around. The Word has conversations, asks and answers questions, listens to what people are saying and responds.

That isn’t the image we often have of God. There is the rule-giver of Exodus and Leviticus, the declarer of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Those are images of a one-way broadcasting kind of media, cranking out 50,000 watts. That kind of a God may get our attention, but certainly not our affection. And that kind of God offers no affection.

But what if God becomes interactive?

God wouldn’t have to give up knowing everything, necessarily. We don’t make experts we follow on social media give up their expertise. But we love when they notice us, when they become one of us, when they are part of our community. We are grateful when they give us a shout out, when they say “that person made a good point.”

And that is what John is describing. In Jesus, in the incarnation, God allows comments. Throughout the Gospels there are conversations, interactions between Jesus and disciples and Pharisees and everyone between.

God offers this as a model. I wonder why we don’t follow.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

13 thoughts on “The incarnation is the ultimate social medium

  1. I’ve never looked at it like that before, however, when I first heard the term social media, it was new, and then almost right away, someone suggested that we drop the term social, as it’s all media. From your analogy above, Jesus is both a social and broadcast medium, simply because some may hear His message, but not respond.

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  2. cool, in this way God becomes the ultimate imaginary friend, one that you can have a chat with. You can even win a argument once in a while.

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    1. I once said that I talk as if my imaginary friend is real. Like Mr Snuffalupagus on Sesame Street. For years Big Bird could see him, but no one else could. But that didn’t make him not real.

      And yes, there were a couple arguments where what Jesus did depended on the pushback of people around him. There was a woman who argued that her child should be healed, a couple of people talked him into staying for supper. So conversation matters.

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    2. That, indeed make “him” not real. That’s an stretch of the definition of reality to accommodate your imaginary friend. With that logic you can make anything real. For example “I once said that I _walk_ as if _the earth is flat_. Like on _Ancient Macedon_. For years _Alexander_ could see _that_, but no one else could after. But that didn’t make _earth not flat_. ” Well, on the contrary, that makes the earth not flat.

      On a different note: as an atheist I am glad to see this perspectives in which God is a flexible character that adapts to us. With enough talk we could convince “him” to change the commandments or add more sensible ones. That is exactly what proponents of the constructive natural morality advocates and what rational explanation of religion is about. That moral principles adapt and evolve with culture, biological evolution, food supply, population density and technology.

      I am even more glad to see the recognition that Jesus is such aspect of God according to you. After all Jesus is in my opinion still the only open door for evolution of religion http://www.atheists-for-jesus.com/ since it makes the concept of God human in some way or another.

      I am delighted to see atheism an your kind of theism converging in to the same concept of God (either as created/invented or creator/ruler respectively). At the end the only disagreement will be about his “reality”. But that will seem irrelevant at that point.

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    3. Sorry it’s taken awhile to respond.

      Apparently, I need to use more quotation marks. Or parentheses. I should have said that I talk as if (what others would regard as) my imaginary friend is real.

      A more apt illustration, I suppose, is that some people have no evidence of the existence of my wife. She exists, in that I saw her a couple hours ago, I emailed with her moments ago, I will see her again in a couple of hours. Though others don’t know her, I do. I would love for others to be able to converse with her. However, the fact that they cannot or do not, doesn’t mean that she no longer exists. And someone’s lack of awareness of her doesn’t mean that I no longer know her. Nor does it mean that I have to talk other people into knowing her so that I will know that I am not delusional.

      I agree that my merely saying something is real doesn’t make it real. Any more than someone else’s saying something is unreal makes it unreal.

      On the other note, I’m not sure that God is so much flexible as approachable. Or, more accurately, willing to make approach possible.

      I think that what you are saying, though I could be reading you wrong, is that you are talking about God as concept, as something that may be built interactively. I’m talking, however incoherently, as God as being.

      Alfredo as concept can be created and described and formed in my mind however I want. If I sit down and have a conversation with you, however, Alfredo as being will stand in contrast to Alfredo as concept.

      It is interesting, however, for me to reflect on whether I am somehow missing out in my writing about talking about Jesus as God as real. I’ll have to think about that more.

      Thanks.

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  3. Fascinating. Recently in our small group someone wondered whether God wants us to waste our time on stuff like Facebook and Twitter. I said YES, but I wasn’t able to explain my thoughts. You’ve captured it.

    To God, connecting with us isn’t an interruption of the work. It IS the work. It doesn’t get in the way of the important stuff, because relationships ARE the important stuff.

    He cares about our silly photos and status updates. In fact, He’s pleased that we take the time to keep Him updated.

    Maybe there’s a lesson there …

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    1. I’m thinking that He already knows about our status, whether we update it or not, however, I would not argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in either Facebook or Twitter or both, as Jon said, it’s about The conversation.

      As opposed to the movie of the same name….

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  4. I believe the reason we don’t follow His lead, like all things that are good from our Father, is sin.

    Sin is powerful, it’s real and until we own it for ourselves and give it to Jesus there is little we can do about it. Now, when we truly give ourselves to Him that’s another story that is fun to be a part of (when I get out of the way and let it happen).

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  5. This notion of God WITH us is pretty powerful. This certainly makes the interactive piece relevant. I really like the way you have tied this together Jon.

    BTW thanks for the link this week good to “see” you.

    Tell Miss Virginia I said Hi – Grace & Peace
    Joe

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