Beatitudes for the Use of Social Media: Resisting the Either/Or

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In October 2020, less than a month away from the polarizing presidential election that haunts us still, my bishop wrote me to see if I might craft a policy to offer guidance to pastors, ministry leaders, and lay people around the “good” use of social media. He had witnessed enough petty, cantankerous, inflammatory, and divisive rhetoric across our respective communities—around topics like Christian nationalism, Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 protocols, and school board policies—to feel the need to point us in a better direction.

After a few initial attempts, however, I gave up on the task. I struggled to find the right language to address every possible concern and context in a way that might be felt faithful for any given person’s “right” use of social media. And I couldn’t quite see how a policy qua policy would do much good to dissuade someone from doing whatever they pleased on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest. A policy, I felt, might function in too blunt a manner—“Do this and don’t do that,” “Either say this or say that”—and at its worst might even perpetuate the polarized and polarizing discourse I was seeking to address. In contrast to an either/or approach, I landed on what seemed a better way: a series of beatitudes. A beatitude at its core has an aspirational quality about it, coming at the truth more suggestively, more winsomely, inviting us, ideally, out of a place of stark division and into a space of communally discerned wisdom.

I narrowed the list down to ten that I thought might actually become useful and, God willing, beneficial to Christians across denominational, theological, cultural, and political lines. My hope, in the end, is that this list of beatitudes might serve to rescue us from our worst selves—our pugilistic, self-defensive, divisive, worst selves—and to guide us toward a more charitable and hopeful posture as Christians who spend their time and capital on social media.

10 Beatitudes for the Use of Social Media

Blessed are those who are quick to listen, slow to tweet, and slow to tweet in anger, for they shall become wise in the ways of the one who is gracious and compassionate.

Blessed are those who remain on social media without becoming cynical, petty, or combative, for they shall become emissaries of good news in the name of the one who turned the other cheek and refused to raise the sword.

Blessed are those who publish the good news of what God is accomplishing across the global church, for they shall be reminded that their small neck of the ecclesial woods isn’t the only place where good things are happening in God’s world.

Blessed are those who do not take themselves too terribly seriously on social media, for they shall be delivered from an oppressive weight and discover a joyful lightness of being.

Blessed are those who take a sabbatical from social media, for they shall discover a peace that passes all understanding and a sorely needed rest for their souls.

Blessed are those who count to ten before they push publish, for they might rescue themselves from foolish words which they might later grieve.

Blessed are the ones who amplify the voices of the vulnerable, for in doing so they shall discover anew the delight of God’s heart.

Blessed are those who remember that countless people who never show up on social media are still doing great good in the world, for they shall discover that, in remembering this, they are not indispensable to God’s kingdom, for God does not require social media to advance the triune mission across the globe.

Blessed are those who remember that it is infinitely easier to speak the truth in love to nameless masses, or to distant “enemies,” or to a generic group of “problematic people” on social media, than it is to say those same words in person, for they shall remember that neighbor love is fully realized only as an embodied love.

Blessed are those who speak both prophetic and penitential words on social media, for they shall embrace first the severe mercy that they ask God to visit on others, and they shall proclaim by God’s grace a truth that changes all alike.

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W. David O. Taylor is director of Brehm Texas and associate professor of theology and culture. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including his most recent, Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. An Anglican priest, Dr. Taylor also serves on the advisory board for Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts as well as IVP Academic’s series Studies in Theology and the Arts. He has lectured widely on the arts in a wide variety of settings, from Thailand to South Africa.

In October 2020, less than a month away from the polarizing presidential election that haunts us still, my bishop wrote me to see if I might craft a policy to offer guidance to pastors, ministry leaders, and lay people around the “good” use of social media. He had witnessed enough petty, cantankerous, inflammatory, and divisive rhetoric across our respective communities—around topics like Christian nationalism, Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 protocols, and school board policies—to feel the need to point us in a better direction.

After a few initial attempts, however, I gave up on the task. I struggled to find the right language to address every possible concern and context in a way that might be felt faithful for any given person’s “right” use of social media. And I couldn’t quite see how a policy qua policy would do much good to dissuade someone from doing whatever they pleased on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest. A policy, I felt, might function in too blunt a manner—“Do this and don’t do that,” “Either say this or say that”—and at its worst might even perpetuate the polarized and polarizing discourse I was seeking to address. In contrast to an either/or approach, I landed on what seemed a better way: a series of beatitudes. A beatitude at its core has an aspirational quality about it, coming at the truth more suggestively, more winsomely, inviting us, ideally, out of a place of stark division and into a space of communally discerned wisdom.

I narrowed the list down to ten that I thought might actually become useful and, God willing, beneficial to Christians across denominational, theological, cultural, and political lines. My hope, in the end, is that this list of beatitudes might serve to rescue us from our worst selves—our pugilistic, self-defensive, divisive, worst selves—and to guide us toward a more charitable and hopeful posture as Christians who spend their time and capital on social media.

10 Beatitudes for the Use of Social Media

Blessed are those who are quick to listen, slow to tweet, and slow to tweet in anger, for they shall become wise in the ways of the one who is gracious and compassionate.

Blessed are those who remain on social media without becoming cynical, petty, or combative, for they shall become emissaries of good news in the name of the one who turned the other cheek and refused to raise the sword.

Blessed are those who publish the good news of what God is accomplishing across the global church, for they shall be reminded that their small neck of the ecclesial woods isn’t the only place where good things are happening in God’s world.

Blessed are those who do not take themselves too terribly seriously on social media, for they shall be delivered from an oppressive weight and discover a joyful lightness of being.

Blessed are those who take a sabbatical from social media, for they shall discover a peace that passes all understanding and a sorely needed rest for their souls.

Blessed are those who count to ten before they push publish, for they might rescue themselves from foolish words which they might later grieve.

Blessed are the ones who amplify the voices of the vulnerable, for in doing so they shall discover anew the delight of God’s heart.

Blessed are those who remember that countless people who never show up on social media are still doing great good in the world, for they shall discover that, in remembering this, they are not indispensable to God’s kingdom, for God does not require social media to advance the triune mission across the globe.

Blessed are those who remember that it is infinitely easier to speak the truth in love to nameless masses, or to distant “enemies,” or to a generic group of “problematic people” on social media, than it is to say those same words in person, for they shall remember that neighbor love is fully realized only as an embodied love.

Blessed are those who speak both prophetic and penitential words on social media, for they shall embrace first the severe mercy that they ask God to visit on others, and they shall proclaim by God’s grace a truth that changes all alike.

Written By

W. David O. Taylor is director of Brehm Texas and associate professor of theology and culture. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including his most recent, Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. An Anglican priest, Dr. Taylor also serves on the advisory board for Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts as well as IVP Academic’s series Studies in Theology and the Arts. He has lectured widely on the arts in a wide variety of settings, from Thailand to South Africa.

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