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.