Puritanism, Facebook, and Social Networking

Although I am currently only one month into my sixth semester at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, my schedule of classes this term has been even more soul-stirring than usual.  One of my favorites is the “Theology of Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller.” 

I was struck today as my professor discussed the Puritan, and therefore Jonathan Edwards’, concept of prayer.  Whereas today we tend to persuade ourselves of God’s inability to see all our faults if we will only keep them absent from our prayer life, the Puritans were devoted to an opposite approach, namely, that prayer is the time when we reveal to God every intimate detail about who we are, where we are, and what we have done.  In a striking contradiction, 21st century culture has become obsessed with revealing our daily thoughts, actions, attitudes, and personality through the means of social networking.  MySpace and Facebook are two of the most popular websites on the world wide web and their success is fueled by the desire to keep others informed of our personal lives, and likewise, our desire to stay informed of theirs.  The Twitter revolution allows individuals to literally keep up with the second by second actions of others.  The Puritans would have been aghast at such a notion.  Such open and blatant revelation of our personal lives is a healthy and necessary part of our prayer life before God, but not as a public spectacle for any and all to see.  

Although I believe there is some legitimate benefit and harmless fun for a proper use of social networking, things are unquestionably out of control.  I am drafting a letter to parents of teenagers in my student ministry stating my conclusion that MySpace is no longer a proper environment for teenagers to be “hanging out” as it were.  Not only are the teenagers becoming more and more uninhibited in what they are willing to display to the world, they are also absorbing their fellow uninhibited MySpace enthusiasts which then drives their own desire to create bolder, more revealing profiles.  The circle never ends.  I have had a MySpace page for a while now, but I will soon be deleting it after I clearly communicate to the students why I feel it is a dangerous place where the evil intentions of Satan powerfully dwell.  I am aware that both MySpace and Facebook incorporate a system of “privacy” by allowing the user to show their profile only to approved persons.  This, I am convinced, is not enough of a safeguard.

We can argue Puritan theology all day and night.  On this issue, they have it right.  Our “pearls” are better left at the feet of Christ Jesus rather than among the leftovers of the swine.   

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