Social media or not in Lent?

Should we advocate fasting from social media over Lent given that so many faithful believers with disabilities rely on digital social media threads to connect them to worship, and to life?

In watching a small storm unfold over this social media or not in Lent issue and seeing public figures and bodies in various churches posting both web reflections at the same time as advice that perhaps we should consider abstaining the digital world during Lent. I’ve been struck how we risk falling into the great trap on social media, of seeking a ‘digital, or binary mindset’: that is seeking dichotomous solutions to every problem.

In this discussion I’d like to appeal to the community to remember that we have advice on this very situation straight from Romans 14 which includes the admonition: ‘Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains’ and vice versa.

The parallel with the text in Romans should be clear: food is vital to long term survival, and eating together is at the heart of community. These are the two arguments being put about how abstaining from social media can hurt the disabled community. I understand both perspectives and I’m writing as someone affected by disabilities, and I implore you let’s heed the advice given by Paul: don’t quarrel about it.

In thinking further about this I suggest that as followers of the Christ we should urgently resist this trend towards seeking a digital or binary outcome to every problem in society, politics, ethics and faith:

First, we don’t worship a God whose being is anyway simple. The economy of the Trinity is very clearly not straightforward. In fact it often seems irreducibly complex, the very opposite of binary.

Second, we should rejoice that @churchofengland and other churches are including the digital sphere both in their provision of resources to help disciples journey in Lent, and in their consideration of what and appropriate Lenten discipline might be.

Third, the nature of our personal journey in faith should mean that God is calling us to be made more holy day by day. That means change and growth. This journey of sanctification to use the posh word, demands different changes from each of us according to the issues God wants to touch in our lives. So it seems credible that without contradiction God can at the same time be calling one to abstain from Social Media and another to engage with it.

Fourth I’ve come to be an advocate for Lenten discipline. I’ve come to find this yearly season a treasure. Fasting is a biblically commended, valuable and powerful act. How it works and exactly what it does I have no idea. I do know that I’m sad that disease puts me in that group of people for whom the classic biblical fast from food is a very bad idea. I’m coming to learn that fasting from other natures of input can bring growth and blessings to my soul.

For the record, I don’t recommend anyone affected by chronic health conditions or serious disease fasts without serious consideration and medical advice. 

So finally, please sisters and brothers in the church let’s not fight, or even have a storm in a tea cup about this. It’s not worth it, and there are many, many things out there that can hurt the body of Christ and the very being of this United Kingdom. Let’s attend to those, to the cure of souls, the welfare of our communities – on or offline, and being the witness that this nation needs right now.

This isn’t a deeply considered post, its just a reminder that we worship the God who made all things, whose character and being is complex and wonderful beyond all things. I’m sure there are many theologians, academics and clergy who could share views on this to the benefit of us all.

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