A perfect sea urchin

The Cyberculture Corner

Welcome to where I air my wrong headed views on cyberculture and the internet. I always have a lot to say and no one tells me to shut up. To return to the regular blog page, just click here.

I Thought we Put this Behind Us

And I was so wrong. Here it is: I'm very proud to post this. I personally believe in Jesus Christ. One Facebooker has challenged all believers to put this on their wall. The Bible says, if you deny Me in front of your peers, I will deny you in front of My Father. This is a simple test. If you are not afraid to show it, re-post this. I proudly did! Let's remember the true meaning of Christmas.....Jesus, the reason for the season.

Now you're going to ask me what is wrong with this. Well the first two sentences are the least offensive part of this Facebook paste-in. You can substitute whatever religion you like for Christianity, though I think it tends to work better for Western faiths. Polytheists aren't out to proclaim their faith from the rooftops in quite the same way.

The first problem with the piece and its first two sentences is context. If you are discussing religion in the living room, on a Facebook group or page, or by message, a statement of faith fits right into the conversation. If you proclaim it on the wall, your readers might ask "Why?" Are you out to convert me. Are you out to rally the faithful? Would you do the same in real life? Some people have a genuine call to be street preachers and in the days before microphones, they got up on their soapbox and sold their faith in the public square, but would you do the same somewhere other than a Facebook wall?

Let's look at the rest of the piece. First we have an anonymous challenge from "One Facebooker." Some people call this kind of a challenge misplaced authority. If the "One Facebooker" was a minister, the head of your church, an important philanthropist, or famous politician, then he or she might have a claim. If he or she were one of your friends, he or she might have a claim, but he could be some idiot sitting in his mother's basement.

Of course "One Facebooker" makes a claim to a higher authority: "The Bible says, if you deny Me in front of your peers, I will deny you in front of My Father." Wow, do I smell coercion? You've just been threatened with perdition if you do not put this post on your wall and you are some sort of Christian. The rest of the language hammers home the threat: "This is a simple test. If you are not afraid to show it, re-post this." Since perdition is a few years away, it might not carry enough threat, so the paste-in calls you a failure (If you don't pass a test what do you do?) if you don't repost.

I know any paste-in that relies on threat to spread its message ought to not be worthy of the electrons spent to send it to the world, but I really did think we got over this with the banning of chain letters from email in the 1980's. Yes, it was that long ago, and the reasons were both the false promises of money and the threats of bad luck, loss, etc...

But it gets better, if you don't repost this message or can't you get that left-out feeling. Ah nothing like the sting of exclusion. It is perfectly possible for someone to be a Christian and not wish to repost it. You may feel unsolicited statements of faith are not a good idea. You may feel that religion should not be promoted by threat. You may feel that keeping silent on a Facebook feedis hardly denying your Savior, and that believing in your heart and shouting from the rooftops are two very different things.

And then of course there are those who have lost faith, the nonChristians, etc... Facebook is international and the wall reaches people who hold a variety of different beliefs. Well they are now the outgroup since they fail a test and can't join you in pasting in this fun message. Lovely....

I saw this message from someone I did not know well. I have also seen it from a friend who is a fanatical, bornagain Christian. From her I could live with it, but I thought the second poster, the one I did not know well, was a former classmate of mine in high school who had gotten religion some time after she graduated. She turned out to be a RAOKster. The message would have clearly been counter to RAOKs guidelines if posted on the group wall. My response would also have been against the guidelines, but I was outside RAOK's boundaries. We both were, and the gloves came off.

Out came my word sword. It was slice and dice time. Like most reasonably competent word sword wielders, I led with an accusation disguised as a question. "What is the point of this?" I asked if she were trying to convert me and I also asked if she would do what she was doing on the feed on a public street, in good weather, and only for an hour (No sacrifice) except being in the pulbic eye? Needless to say I got unfriended. This is the threat that protects paste-ins like the one above from criticism.

My experience with RAOK has taught me that no-crit without strictly enforced guidelines very quickly admits garbage and lets it run free and multiply. I've decided that if I have any future on Facebook besides gagging, retching, and running away, and then complaining (of course complaining!) it's going to be speaking my mind. I have 262 friends. I don't believe in culling lists. Let them cull themselves.

Eileen H. Kramer -- December 15, 2011