Hashtag Christianity

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I watch sports, take care of my kids, go on date nights with my wife, wait in traffic for hours, work long shifts at my job, and waste a lot of time taking naps — not necessarily in that order. I love my life, but when I flip open my laptop I suddenly become a different person.

I have multiple online identities, the result of subconsciously trying to be a better version of myself — a better follower of Christ. But these various personalities that I portray among social media sites are fabrications. Here are a few examples why:

The single verse I post on Twitter is the only Scripture I read all day — even though my Facebook profile claims that the Bible is one of my favorite books.

C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Donald Miller, and Francine Rivers are also listed, but only to prove my Evangelical IQ.

I’m #prayingforSandyHook and #prayingforBoston and #prayingforOklahoma, but I rarely pray.

I repost memes about global poverty, loving the poor, reconciliation and promoting peace, but I spend all of my spare time watching Netflix.

I “Like” and “Favorite” my friends’ statuses when they talk about their faith and God, but I haven’t had meaningful conversations with them in years.

I subscribe to the podcasts of pastors and theologians, but I’m always too busy to implement anything I learn.

I carefully select which pictures I post — the ones where I’m constantly smiling and with friends and doing cool things — but my life is filled with many problems, pain, suffering, conflicts, fears, and doubts. I never reveal any of those things.

I Tweet inspirational quotes after much personal thought and reflection, but I never filter what I say to my spouse and kids.

I spend hours browsing through YouTube and Reddit, but I can barely sit through a 20-minute sermon at church.

I share links about Christianity, but I never talk about Jesus in public.

I debate theology via Twitter, Facebook, blog feeds, and message boards, but I’m embarrassed to discuss my faith anywhere else — I never evangelize.

I use PayPal to donate to Christian charities and mission organizations because I don’t want to leave the comfort of my home — others can do all the hard work.

Religious Views: Christian — but not in practice.

I’m a #Christian, and my online faith is radically different than the one I live in real life.

Hashtag Christianity isn’t necessarily bad, but it can cause self-righteousness and provide a false sense of spirituality. It has the danger of making us believe we’re living out our faith without really doing anything.

It forces us to move at the speed of light as we constantly keep up with trending developments, unintentionally creating a spirituality that is superficial and easily distracted.

The online version of our faith is often unrealistically clear and concise and clean. If negative comments or links challenge our faith, we can delete them. If people disagree or attack our faith, we can block them. We curate and maintain a false version of ourselves, keeping up with an ideal that is fake and impossible to fulfill.

I wish I were half as holy as my online profiles claim I am. In the meantime, I’ll continue being a Cyber Christian, full-time hypocrite, and completely forgiven sinner.

#Praying

This piece is published on Sojourner’s (Sojo.net) here.

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34 thoughts on “Hashtag Christianity

  1. Stephen, I pray that all your varied lives begin to gel together. We are all sinners, we all stumble, yet as we all acknowledge we are branches clinging to the same vine, we can begin to take nourishment from the roots of love, mercy and grace. There but for the grace of God go I. It has taken me decades to learn that God loves me for who I am, with all my fears and doubts, with my rashness of speech. In my weakness and honest, I can come to Him and ask forgiveness. He knows my heart…and yours.

  2. There are certain forums I just stopped posting on, because I am a different person online. More snarky than I want to be–well, more snarky than Jesus wants me to be. Thanks for your honest post.

  3. I like this, I resonate with a little of it–but I don’t feel like it HAS to be true. I still think social media AND real life can be lived to the glory of God–and we can be honest in both places.

  4. I don’t know you at all Stephen, but I respect your brutal honesty and transparency. I wish more people would have the guts to admit these things about themselves. I prefer real to self-righteous. If only we would all examine our hearts under this self-magnifying glass you’ve discovered, then maybe we’d have truth. Not a filtered or watered down version of it. But the out-in-the-open, here-I-am-in-all-my-sinning-ugliness kind of truth that Jesus laid down His life seeing and knowing. Thank you, Stephen, for this post. I needed it today.

  5. I totally understand this. I think everyone who is on social media is guilty of something like this to a certain extent. I know that none of us are perfect and that we all have good and bad days. We just need to remember who God is and how much we depend on Him. As long as we make an effort everyday to revere Him as Lord and Savior we will all be just fine :)

  6. Great thought. I feel the same way most times. Though the more I grow older (hopefully wiser) and closer to the realization that belief and action are one in the same, I likewise strive to make my online identity as similar as possible to who I really am. That’s a hard thing to do, but as you said, that’s really the beauty of it.

    • Stephen Mattson

      Totally! having your actions back up your beliefs is so important. Like you said, I think life experience helps us in this area.

  7. God was calling me and I didn’t like it. I more or less told Him “I know I am saved” that was good enough for me. Then He gave me this dream. I was with the Lord in a room where there were 4 or 5 children with us. A fire had started in the room, so I ran to the door to escape the fire. When I got to the door, I looked back and two of the children were still caught in the fire. The Lord stood in the doorway and said “well you know your saved.” He wasn’t condemning. He was just showing me it is a choice. I too am guilty of many of the above things your listed, but that dream truly changed my prospective. Not trying to tell you anything you don’t know. I just felt led to share. God bless! Please forgive me if I spoke out of place.

  8. While the accoutrements of Christian life have varied from generation to generation, each generation has used the accouterments of faith to feel good about themselves and justify their lifestyle.

    Naturally, many will seek to deny such a practice to varying degrees, but in the end, are not most of us like the man in the banquet hall w/o the proper garments? (cf. Matthew 22:12 et. al.)

    We like to believe we are covered in the blood, but our hearts and our lives reveal the opposite to be true. We try to cover ourselves with religiosity and liturgy, instead of allowing Jesus to daily wash our feet.

    • Stephen Mattson

      So true, Matthew 22 is a great reference. It’s often hard to align the reality of our life to the ideals of our intellectual theology! God have mercy!

  9. I think if we strive to be better every day, even posting things that make us feel better is not a bad thing. Now if you are going out and doing all sorts of things immoral, that’s different, but living a life of growth, you never fail!

  10. mommytransformations

    This is such a raw, honest piece. Thank you. Faith is a journey. You are on the journey, and you are not alone. So much of this piece resonates with me. I dedicated 2014 to more honesty behind the screen as well as to stepping out from behind the screen and interacting with real people in need (not just through a credit card payment). My first meeting for a new volunteer role I am taking on was last Friday. It was terrifying to take myself someplace out of my comfort zone, to someplace that might get a little dirty and dark and scary. It was horribly uncomfortable. But I am a firm believer in having to go into the discomfort to move beyond it. I’m glad I did it and took the first step, now I hope I can stick with it!

    • Stephen Mattson

      Wow, that’s such a good new year’s goal: being more honest! I hope the new volunteer role goes well for you! It takes a lot to get out of your ordinary comfort zones! Keep it up and keep us posted with how it goes!

  11. Reblogged this on This Profound Mystery … and commented:
    Loved Stephen’s honesty about how we really live. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:14-20).

  12. I appreciate your honesty, Stephen. Good stuff and a great model for the rest of us. The standard set for us by Jesus is so high it is refreshing to acknowledge our distance from where we all want to be. I’m thankful that His grace is greater still.

  13. Very insightful, and I suspect true of so many of us. This post encourages me too. Because I feel the pull of social media on my time, my heart and resources. It’s difficult to fight the norm when everyone is doing it. Get on board. But I want my focus on Christ, not on what the world says, even if every other Christian I know is doing it. Thanks for laying it out so clearly for us to see how easily we can get pulled into a lifestyle that isn’t really helpful nor where we truly long to live. Thanks for the follow!

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