The Twiterverse was ringing this week with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death and I am interested to see how the Bible was used by Christians to explain what was going on . In 140 characters Christians tried to summarise what they felt about the event. Some used the Bible as support, I am giving a lecture next week on what social media is doing to our faith and one area I am intrigued by is what Twitter is doing to our Bible.
Perhaps you are familiar with the old adage that says: To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We may extend that truism: To a person with a pencil, everything looks like a sentence. To a person with a TV camera, everything looks like an image. To a person with a computer, everything looks like data.
Is it fair to say that to a tweeter the Bible looks like a series of disconnected tweets? Bible verses are plucked out of context and used to support our arguments – I found myself taking part in i and wanted to take a step back to see what is going on. Christianity Today published a fascinating article listing the different Bible passages that were tweeted around the announcement of Bin Laden’s death. I have turned the relevant ones into a slide for the lecture:
As I reflected on the verses uses. I found myself asking when we tweet a text, how often are we cherry picking the Bible to back up our own personal opinions rather than allowing the Bible to transform our thinking. If you think that the assassination of bin Laden was justified you tweet verses that support your view of celebration, if you are pacifist or believe that bin Laden’s execution was not justice but revenge you tweet another verse. If we are not careful Bible verses become bumper stickers – ways of publicly labeling our beliefs. Or worse we end up not trying to seek God’s will but rather draw on the Bible’s authority to back our own positions- we turn the word of God into a mascot for our politics. This morning I have been reading a book by an evangelical that encourages increasing concealed gun ownership, waterboarding as an acceptable way to treat prisoners and opposition to the environmental movement are all biblical positions for Christians to take. Opposite views are dismissed with a few choice proof texts, no serious thinkers that take contrary positions are quoted.
Ironically a theology of scripture that takes seriously the proof text for biblical inspiration, ie “All Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”2 Timothy 3:16 must mean that we allow the whole of the Bible to speak into these issues. Recognizing the Canon as grand narrative rather than random arrangement of tweets / quotations will force us to see why some things may have been acceptable once and are no longer so, why God allows things to happen that he doesn’t like and why some parts of the Bible are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Here is a working list of ways we can avoid misusing the Bible in social media and further afield:
- We must avoid offering proof texts rather than letting the grand narrative of the Bible direct us.
- Let the original context of a passage direct its meaning for today.
- Be aware of our own cultural, political and economic biases when we come to scripture.
- Don’t avoid difficult texts that challenge your own position.
- Exploring the Bible with a posture that opens up a discussion rather than closes it down is a mark that we are seeking to humbly submit to scripture rather than use scripture to bully others.
What would you add to my list?