Yet another technological wonderment has hit the internet. This will be old news for the young people, I’m sure, but hang in there for a moment while I explain it to my generation. It’s a service called Twitter that has a little bluebird as its logo. Basically put, it is like making the wall of Facebook instantaneous without all the dressings. Oops! That still won’t explain it to most of my middle-aged friends. Let me be a bit more specific.
Rather than a blog like you are reading now, Twitter is a micro-blog that allows a constant updating of thoughts (limit of 140 characters) from the Twitter subscriber and those he allows to respond. These mini-posts can either be read on the Web as a continuous list of comments or sent via e-mail or text message. As the developers state, Twitter answers the basic question, “What are you doing?” Friends can post what they are doing or thinking at any moment and, wham, all those who care can receive the news on their cell phones or computers. Major corporations and news agencies are using Twitter to give people instant updates (called “tweets” in Twitter Land) on exciting new products or breaking stories.
And, yes, the church has “flocked” to the action. WORLD magazine reported on Westwinds Church in Jackson, Michigan, that has used Twitter in their worship services. As the pastor preaches or the musician performs, the congregation has had services where they can post their thoughts on a Twitter site that is being projected on large screens in the sanctuary. Though the pastor recognizes not everyone will appreciate this innovation (he has even had to deal with inappropriate things being said on the screen), he believes these concerns are outweighed by the way Twitter gets everyone to participate more greatly in the service. He claims the Twittering they do through the week helps the church body stay connected.
As you may have anticipated, for all of its technological glory and I’m sure helpful applications in certain areas, I am now getting ready to tell you that I have concerns about a casual use of Twitter. But please listen to me before you accuse me of being as afraid of technology as a yellow-bellied sapsucker, mad as a wet hen that I did not think of it first, or trying too hard to be wise as an owl. On its website, Twitter itself points out the problem when it says this about its own service: “With Twitter, you can stay hyper–connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing…Twitter puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.” These paradoxical statements point out my dual concern.
On the one hand, do we need to be hyper-connected to our friends? Do not cell phones, e-mails, Facebooks, text messaging, etc., have us so hyper-connected already that we are being constantly interrupted by others? Besides, do I always want to know what you are doing? Better yet, do you always want to know what I am doing? I hope not! Do you not have better things to do? Like thinking about what you were doing before you were interrupted by yet another “tweet?”
Then on the other hand, is not their own description a bit delusional? How is getting constant information an “antidote to information overload?!?!” We think we are in control, but does this not lead us more toward a life of being controlled by friends who want to tell us instantly what’s on their mind, no matter when or what it might be? In normal conversations, are we not bothered by those who constantly “crow” about their accomplishments, “chirp” with the latest gossip, or “squawk” about their problems?
And using Twitter in worship? C’mon! This is Quakerism run a muck! How can you truly listen to the Word of God when you are constantly glancing at the latest cool comment someone posted or trying to think of one of your own? Guys, make a date with your wife or girlfriend at a nice restaurant in order to have a meaningful conversation with her. But before you order your food, encourage her to use her cellphone and text her best friend during the meal about what you are doing and saying. Then you’ll have the just the faintest of an idea of how the jealous God feels about this latest idolatrous distraction modern man has introduced into His worship.
All this reminds me of the men of Athens. When Paul arrived, the Scriptures in Acts 17 say that “all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” They were all a-twitter over anything new they could hear. But when Paul began speaking the gospel, what did they think of him? They called him the “babbler.” This word babbler in the Greek is literally “seed-picker,” and was used to describe birds as they flitted here and there picking up and dropping seeds. So the babbler goes about, picking up and dropping news wherever he goes. Ironically, though the Athenians were the ones guilty of constantly tweeting with new news, they viewed the one with Good News as the babbler in the bunch.
Sounds a bit bird-brained to me.