Author Topic: Facebook courting religion: much to consider  (Read 932 times)

Charles Austin

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Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Now in Minnesota. Article coming up in Lutheran Forum journal. Now would be a good time to subscribe.
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D. Engebretson

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2021, 09:44:31 AM »
As one of the many who used Face Book to live stream during the height of the pandemic, I will admit to a certain sense of inner conflict.  Yesterday at our voters meeting one member, who does not participate at all on the internet, asked if our live streaming might be keeping people from coming back to church (i.e. in-person worship).  I had to admit the possibility, but also confessed that live streaming on FB has been a valuable tool outside of just this health crisis. Many churches already had a presence on FB well before the pandemic, so those of us "Johnny come lately" types discovered a tool they had already found and used expensively. One of the values was reaching home bound members and others unable to attend for health reasons or other conflicts. For this reason we will continue to live stream using FB's services. We're even investing in a cellphone booster to improve our broadcast quality of the service.

All that said, I am also cautious about what this means long term, especially when they say that "Facebook is shaping the future of religious experience itself, as it has done for political and social life." Looking back many will admit that FB has connected people who were disconnected, such as family and friends long separated by distance. But it has also created a social atmosphere that can be frustratingly one-dimensional.  It has also fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction that while it connects people, it is not always that effective in fostering depth of relationship.

Perhaps my greatest concern is knowing that they actively monitor and screen content that does not line up with their stated positions.  A 'wedding' between religion and FB/high tech has already betrayed certain strains, and will show more to come. If we allow them the power to "shape" the future of faith, we are in trouble.  And many more conservative faiths will eventually find themselves controlled in ways they do not like.

Unfortunately FB has provided a seemingly 'free' service to churches that historically gravitate toward things that work with small budgets, not always aware of the later 'price' to be paid when they are fully in.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

George Rahn

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2021, 10:09:08 AM »
“…fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction….”  This says a lot about the downside of relying too much on social media for this type of activity.  FB et.al. continue to provide a valued opening for missional prospects.   But for providing depth in relationship not so much.  Worship in its fullness begs for close proximity of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2021, 10:18:04 AM »
I have not been on any social media for a few years. I think the younger generation that grew up with it while also participating in church will be able to figure out how to balance/incorporate/reject social media in ways that I cannot, because they will operate with assumptions that are simply foreign to me. The key will be keeping continuity in the church rather than just starting new churches (or "online faith communities" or whatever) and letting the old churches die.

It is common for people to look back at the controversies of the past and see one side as simply wrong-headed, myopic, or otherwise lacking in can-do spirit. In the LCMS, people who favor any kind of change always point to those who resisted the switch to English, or those who thought broadcasting sermons on the radio was not really preaching law and Gospel in the same way as preaching in a pulpit, or whatever. It is a predictable conversation. "Of course you don't think robots should teach Sunday school. If it were up to people like you we'd still be doing church in German!"

In reality, of course, there were thoughtful faithful people on both sides of those disagreements, and it is simplistic to think that there was a right and wrong side and that the right side won. Both sides can claim to have been vindicated by future events in different ways. I think the same will happen with social media. But the real key will be raising up young pastors who embrace rather then reject the past church while having the natural ability to navigate the future simply by virtue of experiencing the new things as givens in life rather than novelties. 

pastorg1@aol.com

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2021, 10:22:44 AM »
Jesus’s incarnation wasn’t virtual. Showing up counts. The Church can visit the sick and shut-in.

Priest at the RC church I’m visiting said that a loving family shows up to eat together. “You can’t go to church in your pajamas,” was his follow-up.

Apocryphal story of RC mom getting her kids ready for mass: “Hurry up! Jesus is waiting for us on the altar.”


Peter (Priest later emphasized “We eat Jesus.” Can’t do that on Zoom.) Garrison
« Last Edit: July 26, 2021, 10:28:41 AM by pastorg1@aol.com »
Pete Garrison, STS

D. Engebretson

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2021, 10:24:59 AM »
One of the encouraging things experienced on the other side of the pandemic was that people were not fulfilled and completely satisfied with an exclusive diet of remote worship on a social media platform.  Most of our people, truth be told, crave real time presence in a physical church with other people. True, some used the remote feature as an excuse to 'check out,' but that was probably in the works before we temporarily closed the doors.  It's a slow return, but live-steaming simply will not end up replacing in-person church experiences in most cases, regardless of how the social media giants wish to reshape religious experience. And for faiths such as those represented on this modest forum, the incarnational aspect of worship simply will not allow an exclusive use of remote services. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

David Garner

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2021, 10:28:41 AM »
As one of the many who used Face Book to live stream during the height of the pandemic, I will admit to a certain sense of inner conflict.  Yesterday at our voters meeting one member, who does not participate at all on the internet, asked if our live streaming might be keeping people from coming back to church (i.e. in-person worship).  I had to admit the possibility, but also confessed that live streaming on FB has also been a valuable tool outside of just this health crisis. Many churches already had a presence on FB well before the pandemic, so those of us "Johnny come lately" types discovered a tool they had already found and used expensively. One of the values was reaching home bound members and others unable to attend for health reasons or other conflicts. For this reason we will continue to live stream using FB's services. We're even investing in a cellphone booster to improve our broadcast quality of the service.

All that said, I am also cautious about what this means long term, especially when they say that "Facebook is shaping the future of religious experience itself, as it has done for political and social life." Looking back many will admit that FB has connected people who were disconnected, such as family and friends long separated by distance. But it has also created a social atmosphere that can be frustratingly one-dimensional.  It has also fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction that while it connects people, it is not always that effective in fostering depth of relationship.

Perhaps my greatest concern is knowing that they actively monitor and screen content that does not line up with their stated positions.  A 'wedding' between religion and FB/high tech has already betrayed certain strains, and will show more to come. If we allow them the power to "shape" the future of faith, we are in trouble.  And many more conservative faiths will eventually find themselves controlled in ways they do not like.

Unfortunately FB has provided a seemingly 'free' service to churches that historically gravitate toward things that work with small budgets, not always aware of the later 'price' to be paid when they are fully in.

We stopped streaming our services after Holy Week.  We streamed the Pascha service, and perhaps one other, but since then we haven't streamed anything. In discussions with our priest, that was part of the concern.  If the archdiocese thinks we can go back to full services, then there is not a good reason for people who aren't infirm to attend in person.  Those who have concerns, we work with in varying ways (allowing communion during the week or otherwise outside of services, etc.).

The biggest thing is, and I've said before, for churches that are sacramental, you just can't do that online.  It doesn't work.  So those of us who still go to church to receive the gifts won't be opting out for live streams.
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Dan Fienen

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2021, 11:00:18 AM »
One concern that I see is what kind of content control Facebook would assert over religious content posted using their products. Recently Facebook has been very much in the news for discouraging content that it determines in for some reason inappropriate. For example, might they determine that religious content that calls certain behaviors or actions sinful to violate their standards and censor the content or block assess to those content originators?


I also have concerns about attempts to monetize Facebook presence. In the article it is mentioned that the Church of God in Christ had contemplated three possible Facebook revenue streams: a subscription service whereby for a monthly fee subscribers would receive exclusive content like messages from the bishop, a tool to allow online worshipers to send donations on line, and a third that they rejected, advertisements during video streams. The third, I think is obviously a bad idea. I don't think the second would be a problem, there have been programs to facilitate online giving, through for example Thrivent, for years. The first, I think has the potential to seriously warp the idea of stewardship. Far too many people already have the idea that what we donate is payment for services rendered (if I don't attend church this Sunday, I don't need to contribute because I didn't use that service) we don't need to further encourage that by making it explicit.


Providing service online has been a blessing for shut-ins and snow birds.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2021, 09:29:14 PM »
“…fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction….”  This says a lot about the downside of relying too much on social media for this type of activity.  FB et.al. continue to provide a valued opening for missional prospects.   But for providing depth in relationship not so much.  Worship in its fullness begs for close proximity of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.


The internet and Facebook in particular has been a boon to creating new relationships and kindling old ones. I reconnected with a number of high school classmates through Facebook. You and I first connected virtually before meeting; the same with a man we're planning to meet later this week. We've "conversed" virtually for about 20 years. Now we'll meet. Although my wife isn't on Facebook, I've reconnected her with her college roommate, whom we will also be seeing later this week.


I agree that worshiping on the internet (like watching it on TV) is not quite the real thing. It is better than nothing at all.


It might be worth exploring what it is that makes in-person worship better than watching a service on a screen; and how we can improve that?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2021, 09:32:41 PM »
I have not been on any social media for a few years. I think the younger generation that grew up with it while also participating in church will be able to figure out how to balance/incorporate/reject social media in ways that I cannot, because they will operate with assumptions that are simply foreign to me. The key will be keeping continuity in the church rather than just starting new churches (or "online faith communities" or whatever) and letting the old churches die.


I'm still on Facebook. My 91-year-old mother is on Facebook, my (40 something) sons are not. They both work with computers all day, so they aren't interested in more computer stuff during non-working hours.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Mark Janke

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2021, 09:50:16 PM »
“…fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction….”  This says a lot about the downside of relying too much on social media for this type of activity.  FB et.al. continue to provide a valued opening for missional prospects.   But for providing depth in relationship not so much.  Worship in its fullness begs for close proximity of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.


The internet and Facebook in particular has been a boon to creating new relationships and kindling old ones. I reconnected with a number of high school classmates through Facebook. You and I first connected virtually before meeting; the same with a man we're planning to meet later this week. We've "conversed" virtually for about 20 years. Now we'll meet. Although my wife isn't on Facebook, I've reconnected her with her college roommate, whom we will also be seeing later this week.


I agree that worshiping on the internet (like watching it on TV) is not quite the real thing. It is better than nothing at all.


It might be worth exploring what it is that makes in-person worship better than watching a service on a screen; and how we can improve that?

I think it's significant that we have to undertake a journey (however short it may be) in order to attend a church service in person. Both the Old and New testaments are full of people making journeys in order to be/become the people of God. Having to purposefully go somewhere at a particular time focuses our attention. This holds in secular things, too. I remember the first time we drove to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, and how that long drive first to get to the parking lot and then the ferry ride to the actual park gate made us forget about the "real" world and anticipate what we would soon be doing.
Mark Janke - LCMS layman

George Rahn

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2021, 09:51:06 PM »
“…fostered a certain shallowness in human interaction….”  This says a lot about the downside of relying too much on social media for this type of activity.  FB et.al. continue to provide a valued opening for missional prospects.   But for providing depth in relationship not so much.  Worship in its fullness begs for close proximity of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.


The internet and Facebook in particular has been a boon to creating new relationships and kindling old ones. I reconnected with a number of high school classmates through Facebook. You and I first connected virtually before meeting; the same with a man we're planning to meet later this week. We've "conversed" virtually for about 20 years. Now we'll meet. Although my wife isn't on Facebook, I've reconnected her with her college roommate, whom we will also be seeing later this week.


I agree that worshiping on the internet (like watching it on TV) is not quite the real thing. It is better than nothing at all.


It might be worth exploring what it is that makes in-person worship better than watching a service on a screen; and how we can improve that?

True what you wrote.  I was responding mostly about the focus on worship in person as being by the ideal for me.  It is true about initiating connection or reconnecting with friends.  I too am grateful for all the different types of social media.  But the limit comes when worship is involved.  There is something quite organic about being together around word and sacrament that virtual does not provide.  I think it really has to do with the “organic” nature of Christ who is the head of his Body.

Charles Austin

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2021, 09:54:15 PM »
Pastor Fienen re Facebook:
For example, might they determine that religious content that calls certain behaviors or actions sinful to violate their standards and censor the content or block assess to those content originators?

Me:
Yes, they might.
Remember two things.
1. Facebook is a business, and somebody owns that business. It is a media company, like a newspaper. The owners of that newspaper and the editors get to decide what goes in it and what form it will take.
2. Businesses pay attention to public reaction. If the public reacts negatively to certain types of content, a business may decide not to carry that type of content.
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Now in Minnesota. Article coming up in Lutheran Forum journal. Now would be a good time to subscribe.
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J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2021, 09:59:04 PM »
It might be worth exploring what it is that makes in-person worship better than watching a service on a screen; and how we can improve that?

Orthodox worship has been accurately described as "an assault upon all of your senses".

No matter how big the screen of your TV/monitor, there is no way to capture floor to ceiling Iconography.

There is no way to teleport the aromas of incense and beeswax candles.

And most important of all:  There is no way to impart the Divine Gifts of the Holy Mysteries.  The viewer is reduced to licking the glass of the candy case, unable to "taste and see that the Lord is good".
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J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Facebook courting religion: much to consider
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2021, 10:02:22 PM »
I think it's significant that we have to undertake a journey (however short it may be) in order to attend a church service in person. Both the Old and New testaments are full of people making journeys in order to be/become the people of God. Having to purposefully go somewhere at a particular time focuses our attention. This holds in secular things, too. I remember the first time we drove to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, and how that long drive first to get to the parking lot and then the ferry ride to the actual park gate made us forget about the "real" world and anticipate what we would soon be doing.

You may appreciate this, Journey to the Mountain Feast
Greek Orthodox-Ecumenical Patriarchate

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Chrismated Antiochian Orthodox, eve of Mary of Egypt Sunday, A.D. 2015