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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Twitter Theology

There are things I want to know, things that I will likely never know. Some of them are just way over my head. Science and physics and biology and all sorts of stuff like that just elude me. Still, I see things and think, "I wonder how that works." It's not likely I'll find out in a lot of cases.

The other stuff, though, is far more complicated. It's how people think. I want to know what that mother was thinking when she did that to her kid. I want to know what's really going on in Herman Cain's head about all these allegations. I want to know what kind of thinking goes into some of the choices people make. I want to know how atheists I know construct a moral code that is coherent and reasonable. I want to know how people I care about rationalize their behavior. And so it goes.

Much of this is simply stuff I can't ask about. I'm really just curious, but most of these questions sound like I'm pointing a finger and suggesting they're evil or strange or something else. I'm not. I'm just curious. I want to know about other people and their theology, but if I asked the question (and started digging enough to get the answers I'm seeking), it would soon become a battle rather than an inquiry. And, of course, various people I'd like to ask are not people I can ask. Not too many pastors, for instance, will let me question their theology. I'm not suggesting they're unsure or anything. It's just that the questions I would have would feel like I'm questioning their character. I'm not, but those feelings are hard to push aside. Try asking a parent or a sibling something deeply personal or perhaps questionable and see how far that goes. No, too close, too personal, and way too defensive. So, I'm stuck with curiosity.

I'm pretty sure that things aren't going to get better in this failure to communicate in a world dominated by texting, Facebook, and Twitter. If our "social networking" is limited to 140 characters, exactly how deep are we going to get into a theological discussion or a moral investigation? Our "socializing" today is explicitly shallow and seriously surface. I can find out where you're eating or shopping, perhaps, but why you are in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples? Yeah ... no, that's taboo. Too much thinking. Too many characters. Not going to fly on Facebook. Go away. "I just do."

My real concern here, of course, is that we're going to do the same thing with God. Let's interact with Him in a largely surface, extremely brief, completely shallow way. When pastors tell me, "I'm no theologian", I wonder what the hope is for those who are being told that right practice is far more important than right doctrine, and theology is not nearly as important as just loving God. You know, I wonder how that would fly in a marriage relationship. "Really, honey, I don't want to know much about you at all. I just want to love you." I don't think I'm looking forward to Twitter Theology.


Anonymous said...

I believe that if you were to do it in a respectful, open and honest way, most atheists you know would be absolutely happy to answer your questions about how they create a coherent moral system for themselves.

What I think you'll find though, is that much like Christians and humans in general, most people won't have a coherent system and will just follow what they were taught or just what they feel is right.

There are quite a few Christians out there for example that don't follow the moral code of the bible. There are just as many atheists who have a moral code based on nothing more than what they were taught was right as kids, and likely don't even follow that.

Either way, I'm sure people will be happy to answer your questions if they are asked in a respectful way.

Stan said...

Nice thought. However, I've tried. When a Christian (self-identified) asks an atheist (self-identified) to offer a coherent moral structure, they have always responded with the sense that I'm trying to trap them and have an alternate agenda. "If we admit we are just doing what we think is right without a logical basis, he'll see 'victory'." I've asked. The response has always been ... guarded.

Mostly, however, it cannot be done in short form. Internet conversations, Twitter discussions, "social network" media, these things are not conducive to these kinds of discussions.

Just like in your comment, where there appears to be an undercurrent of "You Christians aren't any better than any of the rest of us, so why are you trying to suggest otherwise?" The only way I'd know if that was a genuine agenda in the comment would be in a face-to-face, give-and-take conversation.