Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Facebook and the Quantification of the Human Person

... the personal touch ...
We are told the meek shall inherit the earth. Why then do we behave as though the one with the most Facebook friends shall inherit the earth? We really believe in our hearts that the garrulous, famous, well born, wealthy, most influential and best connected shall inherit the earth. Never mind what some Galilean carpenter preaching to the rabble on a hillside says about meekness. Rome and its legions will trample them and no rabble rousing itinerant preacher is going to stand in the way. Best get yourself on the right side in this. Rome is eternal! Or is it?

Rome was brought to its knees by a new religion originating in Palestine. While the Roman legions were fighting one insurrection after another in Palestine, the adherents of this religion, who were calling themselves Christians by this time, were quietly spreading their message following the trade routes of the empire. Moreover the new religion had its greatest appeal amongst the lower classes and the slaves. Unlike the Jews under bar Kochba they did not fight the Romans. However, within 300 years they took over the empire from within.

Much of Jesus' preaching consists of placing before us these apparent paradoxes. So the last will be first, and the first last. Mt 20:16 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Mt 23:11-12 Clearly he is setting before us a standard that runs counter to the world's wisdom. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the beatitudes. That which the world teaches us, those things we learn from the society around us are quite the opposite of the way God sees things. This is especially true in the way society sees human beings.
The greatest evil we face these days is the quantification of human beings. We have become little more than a tally on a spreadsheet somewhere or a follower on someone's account. Our worth is deemed the number of friends we have on our Facebook account or the number of followers on our Twitter feed. If the number of friends you have determines your intrinsic worth then a mentally ill person acting out on a streetcar had no intrinsic worth and was treated accordingly. Unborn babies have little intrinsic worth since they have by definition only one friend...their mother. If she turns away they are worthless. And so it goes. The thing that determines your net worth is your social network, the number of friends you have, the number of cards in your Rolodex or the number of followers on your twitter account.

God does not reckon things this way. The unborn child is of great value simply because it is God's creation. The mentally ill also bear the image of God and have value far beyond their simple utility. At the final judgement you will be judged, not by how many friends you have, but by how well you have reached out to these smallest and least of people.

Psalm 37
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off;
    but those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
    though you look well at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall possess the land,
    and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

The Beatitudes
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Barona said...

Your words are very thought provoking. And thank-you for moving the Facebook issue from doctrinal into the "dogmatic" domain. We have exposed the "pastoral" dangers - and now, taken it to - so to speak, the dogmatic plane. There are those who believe that we have departed from Facebook simply because we have found distasteful elements there. This is a one-sided reading, and inaccurate. That Facebook is an exceptionally easy enabler to sin is a side issue. The central issue is its false perception of the person. A dogmatic error, will inevitably lead to a pastoral one. Hence, the sound decision by the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

There are those who claim that we need to be on social media to evangelize. Nonsense. This is nothing but a join the Roman Legions argument; because everyone else is doing it. Jesus challenged the world, he did not become part of it. Social media is a tool; much like a set of knives in a kitchen. Some of those knives are very sharp indeed.

Evangelization is ultimately done through the real meetings of human persons; it is face to face. Social media's greatest deficiency is that it cannot accomplish a person to person encounter. As a result combox thuggery becomes a reality. People are criticized in a manner that would not be so during a face to face encounter. Social media prohibits the encounter between persons. It is a mode of communication - for good (yes, we have never denied that good can be accomplished) or bad (far, far too much of this I'm afraid). We encounter the real God through a real meeting; made in His image and likeness, we are called upon to encounter other men and women in similar manner. Evangelization, as St. Philip Neri pointed out is where you are: it is "simple", it is quite, is is discrete, it is example, it is love. Where do you live? That is where you are called to evangelize. Your real friends, your co-workers, your neighbours, your classmates, your teachers, your fellow parishioners.... even your priests. |Seek the poor in your own backyard, not on the other side of the world.

Barona said...

We don't want to be vulnerable. We have to preserve the personal contact; consider the Vincentian home visitation.