a blog about words and faith and life by Cindy Maddox

Posts tagged ‘Facebook’

No Holy Hate

Born LovedDear Heidi,

You have no connection to our congregation as far as I know, but today you went on our church’s Facebook page to condemn us. You said we are “dragging the name of Christ into the gutter” and “turning Jesus Christ into a sodomite” because we welcome all God’s children equally. Although I am unclear how an action we might take today would have any bearing whatsoever on the sexual practices of a man who lived 2000 years ago, I will set that aside for a moment to address your other claims.

I know you mean well, Heidi. I know you believe you are doing the work of the Lord by pointing out the (perceived) sins of others. I also know that getting into a biblical argument with you is pointless—not because I do not know my Bible, but because you apparently do not know my Jesus. My Jesus is not concerned about being dragged into the gutter; in fact, that’s where he met some of his best followers. But he is concerned about love. And he most certainly is concerned about people damaging the souls of his children by telling them God hates them.

This is why, on June 21, my church will have a booth at the Pride Portland Festival here in Maine. The sign above our booth will say: “Wounded by the church? Please come let us apologize.” That’s right, we will be apologizing to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for the way they have been treated by the church and for the horrific things said to them in God’s name. In other words, Heidi, we will be apologizing for you.

You warned us that we will be held accountable for every person we “lead to hell” with our “deceptions.” Will you also be held accountable for every teen who commits suicide because he has been told he is an abomination? Will you be held accountable for every woman who hates herself because you said God hated her? No, I don’t believe you will be . . . not because you are not responsible, but because we worship a loving and forgiving God. In fact, if you want to come to Pride, feel free to drop by our booth. I will apologize to you on behalf of the church that infused your mind with such hurtful images of God.

Hate cannot be made holy by sprinkling it with water and calling it Christian. And the resurrected Christ cannot be re-created to condemn those who you disdain.

You said we have nothing to teach the world. I think that’s something.


What quiz should you actually take?

question mark

If you spend any time at all on Facebook, you have seen them: the ubiquitous character quizzes.
“Which Harry Potter character are you?”
“Which Walking Dead character are you?”
“Which Super Hero are you?”

Then there are the pop culture identity quizzes:
“Which 80s pop song are you?”
“Which Broadway musical are you?”

And don’t forget the “actually” quizzes:
“What city should you actually live in?”
“What career should you actually have?”
all implying that the life you live isn’t actually right for you.

I am willing to admit that I have taken a couple of these quizzes. After all, I’m a connoisseur of all things Harry Potter. So naturally I wanted to know if I am Remus Lupin (a compassionate and courageous werewolf) or Hermione Granger (the brilliant book-lover who is mistakenly referred to as “an unsufferable know-it-all” by those who don’t understand her intelligence.) When that particular quiz declared that I was Hagrid (the wonderful but not-too-bright half-giant), I decided it was tragically flawed and most likely created by someone approximately fourteen years of age. I tried to take a couple of other quizzes, but they all seemed to depend upon my choosing between various Beyonces, which I am incapable of doing due to lack of knowledge.

I’m not sure who originally said this, but I heard somewhere that if a person from an earlier time suddenly appeared in ours, the most difficult thing to explain to them would be this: that many of us hold in our hands a device that is capable of accessing an entire world of information, and we use it to look at pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers. And now, apparently, we must add that we use it to take quizzes. According to Josh Haynam, co-founder of a quiz-building site called Interact, 4.3 million people tweeted with #quiz in the week prior to his article dated May 6, 2014.[1]

These quizzes are mildly entertaining, I admit. But I have to wonder what their popularity says about us as a society. Why do we find it entertaining to be equated with fictional characters? Why is it fun to be pigeon-holed in this way?

Haynam gives three reasons for the popularity of online quizzes: 1) Being categorized helps us make sense of the world; 2) Sharing our results makes our own journey through life significant; and 3) We desire connection, and taking quizzes allows us to “talk with” the quiz, as well as to connect with other people who get the same result. I do not doubt the importance of connection. Hey, I’m a pastor. Human need for connection is an important part of my job and my worldview. And while categorizing can certainly be helpful in understanding concepts and relating to people, I don’t believe that having someone I’ve never met categorize me helps me in any significant way. And really—do I need to share “I am Cat Woman!” to make my life journey significant?

What it boils down to for me is that these quizzes allow someone else to define us . . . someone we have never met, and based on the most trivial of reasons. It took me a long time to stop allowing myself to be defined by others, to stop being who other people thought I should be. If I am completely honest, I have to admit it is an on-going task. Perhaps that is why I don’t like these quizzes. I got tired of giving away my power. I grew weary of looking to others for validation. I worked too hard for self-actualization to be told I “actually” should have a different life.

Those of you who are frequent online quiz-takers are probably thinking that I really need to get a life. It’s harmless entertainment, after all. And I’m sure you could have a field day speculating on the psychological and theological significance of my Angry Birds habit. Still, I find myself wanting to create my own quiz . . . a quiz that asks about your favorite color, ideal vacation spot, and perfect life slogan, only to provide one possible result, regardless of your answers: You are God’s beloved! You could post my quiz on Facebook, along with your results, and your friends could chime in, “Hey! I’m God’s beloved, too!” and we would all be connected and would experience all the compartmentalization we need. Of course, we don’t need a quiz to tell us that; but since we seem to be turning to Buzzfeed for validation, it couldn’t hurt.

But perhaps we would rather be Spiderman.




[1] http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/addicted-buzzfeed-quizzes-business-can-benefit-0874722#!NMqHz

The Invitation

Like many people on Facebook, I play a couple of games. The makers of these games always try to get you to invite other people to play so they all include an “Invite” button. Some of them even give you suggestions on which friends to invite. From what I can tell, they’re just chosen at random from your list of friends on Facebook. There doesn’t seem to be any great marketing scheme behind the suggestions. They just put a couple of your friends’ names and pictures next to the game and encourage you to invite them to play.

Today the first friend on the list was Jay. I don’t think Facebook knows that Jay was my first real crush back in 9th grade, who is now married with teenagers and is a powerful figure in the Christian music publishing industry. He’s a busy man. I won’t be inviting him to play.

The second person on my list today is Donna. She’s a very sweet and funny woman from my church, and although she might like the game, I don’t invite her. I figure if she wants to play it, she will, and she doesn’t need an invitation from me.

The third person the game suggests I invite is John. Facebook has suggested him before, but I won’t be inviting him to play, either . . . because John died 14 months ago.

John was only thirty years old when he died. Like many people his age, he lived online. When he died suddenly, his Facebook page became the place his friends could connect, share their memories, and grieve their common loss. Reading page after page of posts, John’s parents learned that their son had touched many, many lives, and in ways they had never imagined. It brought them great comfort. They tell me it still does.

Posts are fewer now, but his friends still go there from time to time. On his birthday. On the anniversary of his passing. Comments like “I’ll never forget you, bro” and “I can’t believe it’s been a year; I still miss you every day.” One friend wrote, “I keep seeing funny things that I think you’d think were hilarious.” So he posted the video that made him laugh, even though he knows John won’t see it.

I didn’t know John well. I’d only met him a few times. He was the grown son of parishioners I love, and my tears of grief when he died were for them.

All this comes to mind in an instant. I see his name and the little drawing  that he used as his profile picture – an incomplete circle of a face with some scribbled hair – and I am suddenly reminded of his life and his death. His parents do not need such inconsequential reminders. A day never passes without reminders of their loss, reminders of how their world changed one day last June.

I don’t know how it feels. I don’t even like to imagine how it feels. Losing a child is every parent’s nightmare, and if you spend too much time imagining that loss, you will make yourself crazy . . . not to mention what such fear will do to your child.

So I don’t. I don’t think about it much. Oh, I can’t help it sometimes . . . like when I see the bittersweet look on his mother’s face as we welcome a new baby into the church, or when I hear the quaver in his father’s voice when we sing “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry.” But otherwise I can put it aside and not be reminded of my own fears of losing the daughter I cherish.

And then there it is – a stupid game suggesting I invite him to play – and I can’t hide from the fact that in life, there are no guarantees. So I cry a little, and I say yet another prayer for John’s parents, and for a woman in my church who lost her son when he was three, and for my aunt and uncle who lost their daughter, and for the friends of my family who lost their son, and for every parent who has lost a child who is still alive, but gone. I pray, because it’s what I know to do, even though it doesn’t feel like much. And I cry, because that’s the other thing I know to do, even though it doesn’t help much. And I keep John as my Facebook friend even though he is gone, so that I will never stop being reminded.

And tonight, when my daughter goes to bed, I will tuck her in even though she claims to be too old for such things. Because I am grateful. Because I can.