Jesus Tweet Me Near the Cross
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
January 29, 2010 - What would Jesus blog? Who knows? But apparently, there are some who are fairly confident that he would. As an index of that confidence, consider the recent call issued by Pope Benedict XVI for priests in the Roman Catholic church “to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications.” To put it bluntly, the Pope says, “Blog!”
At least one Jesuit priest, Rev. James Martin, is receiving the papal admonition with enthusiasm. Making reference to Jesus himself, Martin said, “He didn't sit around and wait for people to come to him. He went out and met people by the Sea of Galilee who were fishing. He went to tax collectors' booths. He went into synagogues. He went all over the place. And so we need to, figuratively speaking, go out to the ends of the Earth — which includes the blogosphere.”
The appeal to Dominical authority is both appropriate and predictable. In contemplating the shape of the Christian life, it is appropriate for Christ’s followers to give serious consideration to the life of the One whom they profess to follow. But the WWJD-appeal has become a justification for just about every form of cultural engagement imaginable in the twenty-first century West. Thus, Martin’s rationale is nearly vacuous, since it might reasonably be extended to almost anything one wanted to do in the name of “meeting people where they are.”
Christian presence in the blogosphere may be both necessary and biblically defensible. But we should not pretend that it can be justified by unreflective appeals to what Jesus himself did or even would do. Treating the ministry of Jesus Christ in this way diminishes the singularity of his soteriological mission. The second person of the Trinity did not become incarnate merely to provide an exemplar of cultural engagement. Yet the constant unreflective appeals – especially among evangelicals – to what Jesus would or would not have done treats the life and ministry of Christ as though it were meant for nothing more than to justify the desires and habits of the bourgeoisie.
A Jesus who tweets might provide some measure of moral solace to the believer whose uneasy conscience needs to rationalize the purchase of a genuinely superfluous iPhone. But a Jesus whose Gospel is nothing but digital bytes of information cannot save, no matter how many “followers” it may have. The scandal of sacrifice on a bloody cross is madness to Greeks; it is nearly repugnant to contemporary (dare one say, technological?) sensibilities. Yet it is for broken flesh and poured out blood that Jesus came, not to hang out in internet cafes.