I clicked on my Facebook wall last night: “Jesus Christ has confirmed you as a friend.” Cool, I thought. I wonder what he thinks of my travel photos. Hope he didn’t see that update from one of my hilarious but seriously profane friends. Or that You Tube video I meant to delete.
When you live your life in public on social networking sites you need to make choices. Important stuff like, ‘Should I hide so-and-so from my newsfeed for spamming me with farm animals?’ And what about that realtor who uploads every blue-sky report on how the market’s coming back around? Unfriend? Or simply hide? And whatup with the people who want to know what kind of shoe they are? Or what poet they should be reincarnated as? I would tell them to get a life if I weren’t so busy reading their posts: ‘huh, Sylvia Plath…who knew?…or ‘wow, she’s a cowboy boot?’
I’ve discovered that whenever I mention the word “God” or “Jesus” in a status update, I risk losing a couple of friends. It’s always interesting playing detective to see who’s dumped you on Facebook. The more “friends” you have the harder it is to decode who doesn’t actually want to be one to you. Should I take it personally when the classmate who never liked me 35 years ago is now bold enough to ‘unfriend’ me? Or should I applaud the integrity of the gesture?
As my Facebook chili becomes ever-more overloaded with ingredients, I occasionally recoil and try to locate my principles: am I really accepting? God knows I want to dump that jackass who keeps holding forth with posts on the myth of climate change. And so I let it stand, and feel noble as I judge him from the safety of my TV room. More often I laugh at friends’ posts (“Got a chicken taco hangover, need a nap”) or become saddened as I read spare, vulnerable accounts of the events of their lives: “A sad day for us today. Our dog died this morning, most likely of heart failure.”
I click on the link to Jesus’s name to get to his page. Right away I notice his profile photo. It’s a close-up of two filthy brownish feet that are partially wiped clean by a hand holding a towel. Not what I expected. I was really hoping for a portrait shot so I could get a better look at him. His number of friends is too large for me to calculate. Surely the rich 25-year-olds at Facebook headquarters had to install back-up servers when Jesus joined.
I look at the comments on his wall. Many of them are tragic, and more than a few are mean. There are links from fringe groups, desperate appeals for signs and wonders, accusations, posts in languages I can’t read. All laid bare on the page, every one, even the ones in bold capital letters that say, “I DON’T BELIEVE IN YOU!” To be fair, many “friends” ask for guidance and express gratitude which is a relief since Jesus clearly hasn’t unfriended anyone, even the lunatics, and from the junk on his wall, he hasn’t hidden anyone from his newsfeed either.
The most embarrassing posts of course, are from Christians, who are supposed to be Jesus’s sales reps on earth, spreading his gospel and his love. A significant number have interpreted an alternate message where people get to hate in the name of God. Maybe they missed that quote at the top of his profile that reads, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” –John 15:16-17
And so it’s clear, my challenge is to resist the “unfriend” and “hide” buttons in my life and love people. On some days, that’s a staggering order.