Liking Jesus on Facebook: 3 Dangers of Faith in a Digital Age

What does it mean to be a faithful Christian in the digital, social-media driven age? If you don’t “like” Jesus does that mean you aren’t a true follower?

An interesting NY Times article discusses religion in social media, of particular note is the fact that the Jesus Daily page have one of the most active fans in all of Facebook.

While this could be a good thing, I mean what’s wrong with lots of people talking about Jesus online, the article unwittingly points to dangers that lurk behind social media being used for sacred purposes.

Would you “like” this Jesus on Facebook? Illustration from DeviantArt.com by dmavromatis

Don’t misunderstand me. I use both Twitter and Facebook to speak toward matters of my faith. I use them both to promote the conversation on this blog, which is specifically faith-oriented and saturated. I’m most definitely not saying that social media should not be used to talk about Christ.

However, I am saying there are dangers that are more present in our culture, which is driven by faceless communication via computers, than was present in previous cultures, who had their own time specific temptations.

Here are three major, often times hidden, dangers of expressing and engaging our faith in the context of social media.

• Devaluing real, biblical communityFrom the article: “For some, the Jesus Daily has become a faith community online, where people share their troubles and provide and receive words of support.”

Perhaps most of these people have a physical church home where they share troubles and encourage one another in their life and faith, but I would think at least some are using this as a substitute for being involved in an actual church family.

Listening to a sermon on podcast or entering into a Christ-centered discussion online are great things, but they are not biblical church. They are listening to a podcast and discussing Christ online.

God has created us to function best in community. He sent His Son to establish the church as His means to reach the world. He has also sent the Holy Spirit to gift believers who can in turn exercise those gifts for the edification of the local church body. But we’ve already covered that before.

• Reducing faith to meaningless gesturesFrom the article: “With 8.2 million fans, the Jesus Daily counted 3.4 million interactions last week, compared with about 630,000 interactions among Justin Bieber’s 35 million fans.”

What does it mean to “like” Jesus on Facebook, be a fan of a Jesus page or even follow Jesus on Twitter? It doesn’t mean much beyond just that. Just as the word “love” loses meaning, when we say we love Jesus and we love our favorite shoes, it’s not exactly an act of devotion to “like” Jesus and your grocery store on Facebook.

Following Jesus on Twitter is much different than following Jesus in your life. Giving your life over to seeking to bring glory to Christ does not equate with following someone sending out inspirational or ironic tweets about Jesus.

Many people feel, as many Christians did in the Middle Ages, as if they can be called a good Christian by doing their one “Christian” thing a day. Medieval Catholics believed if they put some money in the coffers that was good enough. Modern Christians may believe they are faithful and obedient Christians if they retweet a Bible verse or have their Facebook status be a challenge to all their Facebook friends to put the same challenge as their status to show they are “not ashamed of Jesus.” Somehow the irony is lost on many who would never actually talk to their friends about Jesus.

• Opened up to sheep-skinned wolvesFrom the article: “… his Facebook creation is called the Jesus Daily. He started it in April 2009, he said, as a hobby shortly after he began using Facebook to market his diet book and online diet business that includes selling soy shakes, protein bars and supplements.”

I do not know Aaron Tabor, the founder of Jesus Daily on Facebook. He may be an extremely devout and committed follower of Christ. I have no reason to think otherwise. The page seems platitudinous, but essentially orthodox. However, anyone can start a Facebook page, Twitter account or blog claiming to focus on Christ.

Tabor used Facebook to promote his business and then began using it to “be a central place where [people] find encouragement.” It does concern me a bit that he writes the posts based on marketing techniques he learned from his diet business, but others may be using similar techniques to promote a theology that runs contrary to biblical Christianity.

Being able to see a teacher or pastor in person, or even hearing their voice, can often help you determine the type of person they are. That is removed when you simply read words on a screen. Over time, they may be able to influence Christians unaware.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.