What Would Jesus Forward?
I receive email letters from unwitting (offering the benefit of the doubt) friends that make me shudder sometimes. For example, an email that wants us to stop help to immigrants in order for veterans get their money. It makes immigrants look bad, though the government has made promises to both immigrants and veterans. It's the government that we ought to go after, not the individual immigrants, as usually happens. We invite people to our country, then make it pretty hard for them in many ways.
What is sad is that this spreads a type of discrimination and prejudice that we don't need more of in this hurting world. It seems like another type of computer virus which is even more harmful. Some folks will get comments, and not even know where they stem from.
So, where is the love of God, in Christ, in this? I cannot see it. We need to be more aware of how to deal with these emails and let our congregation be aware...and the young people, what action WE can take. I replied back to my friend that I could not send the email on and explained why.
"Our small corner" is now world-wide. That means hate is spread a lot quicker and a lot more people are affected. Since email and the internet are here to stay, we can actually erase something before we do send it. In other words, you can take what you say before it's said. And not forward things that diminish others.
Email "forwards" are often hoaxes or propaganda, and any time I get something that says "Send this to everyone you know!" I make a conscious decision to make "everyone I know" equal to "deleted items." Even when I agree with the message, chances are, I know I could get the message out more effectively by gathering my own facts rather than relying on a spin doctor or heaven-knows-who for those facts. And those of you with pulpits--I envy you sometimes, because a forward I got recently from one of my friends would have made a lovely sermon talking point.
But truth is, most of these internet forwards really are fiction. "I'll often take a moment to check Snopes.com, which is an urban legend research/debunking site," writes Karen. "They actually track down the history of internet rumors and assess whether there is any truth to them at all. About 90% of the SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR E-MAIL LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!! e-mails that I get are on Snopes--albeit sometimes in a slightly different format. Once you've found the Snopes article that debunks or explains the rumor/hoax in question, there is a button you can click to email the article directly to someone. I've often sent the e-mailer of a mass-panic-type note the very Snopes article that explains why what they just sent me is complete hooey."
One funny one that I got not too long ago was a revisitation of an email that was true three years ago--you might have seen it, too, that Mars was going to be closer to the Earth than it had been for hundreds of years and zOMG SEE IT NOWZORS!!!!11!!1 It was being passed around in August of 2006, but that approach had happened in 2003, and the reason I remember it so clearly was that I had snapped a photograph of Mars from the parking lot of my apartment complex. So I like passing people back to that photograph and making the reference to the "billboard in the sky..." it usually, as intended, gets a laugh.
But on a more serious note, some people use the relative anonymity of the internet to create messages that they can send without worrying whether they are violating a social norm. And it is a virus: a cross between those lovely cultural transmissions we call "memes" and that tactic that in business that's known as "viral marketing." Sounds like this note about immigrants is up there. Peripatetic Polar Bear, who works with students, offers a brilliant suggestion: "For what it's worth, this is my policy on email forwards at work. I write:
Dear Susie, Thanks for thinking of me. As you can imagine, I get a lot of email forwards in my line of work. In order to be fair to all congregants, I make it a policy to not participate in forwarding emails to others. I hope you will understand. I am, however, very interested in speaking with you about x topic in person. Please let me know what time might be good for you to meet. Hugs and Smooches, Your Pastor.
I find that only about 20 percent of these folks will meet with me face to face, and of those, I've had very, very fruitful discussions."
That's a good place to start, anyhow.
On to the next question...
What Would Jesus Blog?
I find myself in a bit of a quandary thanks to my recent new status in a
new church setting. From time to time I notice things in the church that I want to blog about: some things that can be used as springboards for other topics of exploration (such as the fact that most, if not all, of the Sunday School teachers are women), and some are conversations with members that make me think seriously about things (like why do we really need altar flowers, and why to they always have to be freshly cut and professionally arranged?). Normally, I wouldn't have a problem blogging about these things (with no references to names, of course) but I know that a member of my congregation is aware that I have a blog, and most likely reads it. (This member actually googled me before I came). In the interest of discretion, but at the same time wanting to share my thoughts, how do I negotiate the line of sharing my experience to illustrate a point I want to make?
--To Blog or Not to Blog
This is something that's come up numerous times among the matriarchs as we've seen our number occasionally shrink for someone's having been "outed." It's why we take your anonymity seriously, for one, if you've chosen that on your blog. I wrestle with it, because on the one hand, I'm a journalist and already eminently Google-able, and the kind of work I want to do is relevant enough to my blog journey that I have my RevGals work listed on my resume. But on the other hand, I've disappeared further and further into my gallycat identity, in some ways hoping that when I go in for the job interview, the fact that I keep "Helen" and "Gallycat" fairly distinct will prevent my blog work from being a liability.
What I *do* have is several Livejournals. Any time I talk about anything sensitive, such as work or parenthood, I post it to livejournal using their security functions, so that I know exactly who is reading it. Livejournal isn't the most revgal-ring friendly site around, and that's one of the reasons I have Gallycat's Lounge on revgals rather than Gallycat's Abbey. But I'm curious what other revgals also have livejournals, and could we build a "secure" community there? (Oh! and if you're on LJ, don't miss adding revgals to your friends page through its syndicated feed!)
Peripatetic Polar Bear has some good guidelines on what to post to a public blog, so I'll let her take it from here:
A rule of thumb to use regarding blogging your internship:
a) how would the senior pastor respond if she or he read this?
b) how would the person in question respond if she or he read this?
c) how would the director of my seminary's office of field education respond if she or he read this?
If you can picture any or all of these people exploding, bursting into tears, or moving to Australia in the middle of the night, don't write it, especially since someone in your congregation is probably reading your blog.
That said, obviously church life is ripe fodder for blogging. Your internship is totally where all the theoretical stuff becomes real---of course you want to blog it! The key is to mask it into generalities or to use some heavy duty situation changing (sex changes, age changes, name changes). Most of the things you've mentioned would be totally fine as generalities "Someone once asked me about flowers on the altar....blah, blah, blah" and would probably make for a really, really interesting post. And also, obviously some conversations are so innocuous that you can absolutely blog them.
The to blog or not to blog question is a toughie. I think it's one reason why so many of us are totally pseudonymous with our blogs, and don't even give out city names. It gives us a bit more freedom to blog---but still carefully. It's also an advantage when you've been out a bit, and the lines between what happened last week and what happened in my last parish are much blurrier.
Now, if you have something you'd like to share on these topics, let us know in the comments. Also, I'm looking for volunteers to handle questions for an upcoming column: 1. Tips for RevGal dating, and 2. Tips for setting up a men's ministry. If you're interested in contributing, drop us a line at email@example.com. And, just in time, here comes a thunderstorm, so I'll see you next Thursday!
(P.S. I posted this just before the storm came through and took down half a tree in our backyard, came back and found that I had put my "last paragraph" in the wrong place... now fixed. Sorry about that!)