How does your faith tradition teach generosity, a genuine interest in and compassion for other people, gratitude, and tending to wisdom and reverence?
The best practices of social media are the sorts of practices faith communities I know have been seeking to teach for ages and ages: generosity, caring, giving thanks, acting for mercy and for peace, seeking wisdom, engaging in multifaith dialogue and action, turning our attention with reverence and wonder right in the middle of the bustle and hum of every day life. Social media’s best practices and habits arise from the wonderful abundance and ease with which we can share with one another and tend to the good together.
Yet because social media at its best is still new for so many of us, I regularly witness faith communities and leaders fall back into habits created in a scarcity culture, rather than embracing how social media can further faith formation into stronger habits of compassion, reverence, generosity, and service.
Something religious leaders don’t want to talk about publicly is that, in a culture of scarcity, many of us learn to be competitive and exclusionary. We end up measuring how good we are as religious leaders by how many people are attending to us in our spotlight. I did. And the fearfulness and anger that joined it was not good for either my spirit or my collegial relationships. Social media changed that for me. The sharing culture of social media turns me every day to appreciating my colleagues and what they offer, to appreciating the wisdom arising from all over the place, among people with special training and among people with only life’s training. Generosity makes us more generous in spirit and more thankful.
Be generous yourself. Share what others are doing. Share the wisdom they offer.
Once something is posted to social media, you no longer control it. You have let that teaching, meditation, prayer, or call to action go out into the world at large. Sometimes I have religious leaders call me to tell me to pull a video or a blog of mine from their congregation’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. Yet I cannot do that. Someone else shared that URL, retweeting, +1-ing, linking. Passing rules and guidelines that restrict sharing as a matter of congregational social media policy isn’t the answer. You will find it a nightmare to enforce. The policy will isolate your community. You will be teaching suspicion and scarcity instead of generosity and how to live faithfully in social media.
We are blessed with a chance to work together with greater trust and joy, across divisions created by theology and by scarcity, rather than live in competition and fear.
We are attracted in social media to people we aspire to be like and who are like ourselves in some ways. I’m attracted to people who want to work in multifaith community, because we share that commitment to strength in diversity and difference. What you share shows your real commitments. How you share it will change who you connect with. If you share bitterness and anger much of the time, expect to hang out with the bitter and angry. If you share compassion and hope, you’ll meet a lot of compassionate and hopeful people. I’m not speaking of a spiritual principle here: I’m reporting how we group and gather ourselves in social media.
We can connect with each other’s stories, dreams, questions, prayers, and actions more easily and more fully than ever before.
How you are as a religious leader and how your faith community lives in social media teaches volumes to your followers. You are setting the example of what’s faithful. Is being faithful all about you? Then go ahead and offer only what you create, tear down what others do, and try to treat social media as a scarce resource. You’ll disappear in the flow of sharing, the flowering of collaboration and joint projects bearing mercy, building peace, growing spirits, and living faithfully that’s happening via social media. Is being faithful about generosity, compassion, building peace, cultivating reverence, and practicing faith in every aspect of our lives? Then show us and invite us by how you live in social media, outside of congregational walls, in the hustling thoroughfare of digital space.
Our commitments as people of faith are most apparent in how we live publicly. The test for that public faithing is no longer editorials in the newspaper and invitations to community worship services.The test for public faithing is every day in social media.
I’m reblogging this updated piece, once posted on another blog that was archived. The questions and concerns remain relevant for congregations to consider.
Morning Prayer June 8
Blessed Wonder teach us how to trust more boldly, love more generously, and give more courageously each and every day. Too easily our hearts are closed, shouting of danger that is not there, insisting the way is closed, unsafe, unable, when what we mean is, “I’m afraid, don’t hurt me again, careful!” Each day we have this gift to learn a bit more of trust and to be trust worthy ourselves, to risk faithfully in loving generously, to give without worry of what we receive. Blessed Wonder lead us in grateful amazement to build a life of bold trust, generous love, and courageous generosity, hour by hour, and day by day. Amen.
Morning Prayer June 5
Breath of Life let me lay down my fears and burdens here, if only for a little while, and feel peace wash over me. Let my fluttering heart settle, straighten, grow strong as ancient trees and fresh with joy as new flowers. Breath of Life, you know the struggles so many of us face, wrestle, endure. You know us when we lose and when we win and when there is a draw to fight another day. Grant us the courage we need to keep on wrestling, to stay sober and to turn the tides of addiction in our communities, to stay loving and to bring healing in homes and places wrecked by violence, to stay generous and give gracefully and for goodness in each and every day. Make us into true people of peace, who open hearts and doors to transforming love, who dance with life and invite others to that dance. You know us in our struggles and the challenges our hearts and communities are facing. Help us turn back into them in this and every day. Amen.
Morning Prayer June 3, 2012
Bold-hearted Spirit of Wonder take me past the edge of my comfort zone that I may give more generously, love more courageously, dance more zestfully, and welcome neighbor and stranger more joyfully day by day. Invited to grow through each challenge I meet, may I risk faithfully in community and by myself to be a bearer of hope and a lamp of love. Amen.
Evening Prayer June 2, 2012
Steadfast love stretches us, challenges us, changes us. Wisdom teach us of the beauty in imperfection, to learn from the challenges we face now, to lean on faith and hope as we risk faithfully for goodness and with steadfast love. Help us help one another, stranger, neighbor, kin and friend. Let us together grow a more generous and more merciful way, a way of where disagreement and discord need not result in violence or hardened hearts. Instead, help us appreciate well each others’ differences, what we can know as gifts and what we do not understand or even like. Let us grow steadfast and loving, through the challenges and the changes, the difficulties and the celebrations, and together build a more generous and merciful way. Amen.