Today was the live video feed service, and the sermonette provoked me to comment. I found a couple of areas of the message worthy of replying to, and although it would have been a conversation I would have preferred to have privately and face to face, the fact that the speaker was so far away makes that impossible. A less prickly person would probably not have paid much notice at all to the message, which did have a good point to make about the problems of narcissism. That said, there were at least two elements of the message that was given, relating to balance, that I found especially problematic and, in light of the context, particularly ironic. Being intensely observant of irony, even when it brings pain to me, I feel compelled to write about it, as it relates to larger concerns of justice and fairness.
Before services today, the video screen showed various posts on twitter that used the hashtag #ucgfot, which I have used on a couple of occasions, because as a loyal if eccentric member of the United Church of God, I support the work of the church I attend whenever I can, whether it is through writing, music, or even supporting social media by helping a topic trend. Remember this point, as it will be brought up again later on. Anyway, some of the posts themselves were dealing with FOT selfies, something which came under severe criticism by the minister who gave the sermonette, who scoffed about Jesus Christ ever posting a selfie because he was not about getting attention. There were, of course, times when Jesus Christ did want attention, a couple of them being public pronouncements (including the encounter at the temple where the woman was accused of adultery), as well as other healings which occurred on the Sabbath in full view of Jesus’ enemies in the synagogues. The minister’s scoffing aside, it would not seem unreasonable that those particular incidents would have gotten a #LordoftheSabbath #healing set of hashtags, were such technology available , even if in other occasions Jesus Christ was very keen on privacy. This makes sense. No one (not even me) is interested in being open and public about every aspect of life. We all have a private life that we wish to keep private and we have other areas that we wish to let others know about as matters of public proclamation.
Additionally, I thought that it was a bit unjust that the speaker seemed to associate sharing one’s thoughts and opinions and photos about one’s life with being narcissistic. There are many reasons why people share their photos and thoughts online–sometimes people just want to share their experiences with others, like people sharing their Feast of Tabernacles photos with friends and family to either share memories or to share experiences with others who would appreciate it. We are all, after all, brethren and we tend to like and appreciate what others are doing and how they are enjoying this time, or any other sort of good times. Sometimes our friends or families are far away, and do not speak often, and sharing material online is an efficient way of getting the word out to others about how we are doing. At times, others ask us what we are thinking about a given subject and we share our thoughts, not necessarily thinking that it would be of interest to everyone but rather seeking to share it with anyone who found it of interest. Whether it was no one or thousands of people (as has happened on more than a few occasions for me) is not really in our control. Once you cast your bread on the waters, it tends to go where it will go, and one lacks the ability to control that much of the time. Often people seek approval and attention out of insecurity, out of a wish to feel that they matter and that others care about them. Many times these people are talented and worthy of kindness and attention and comfort, for it was not their fault that they had to endure experiences that made them struggle with their view of themselves. We cannot, after all, give to others love or affection or kindness or respect that we do not have in our own hearts for ourselves. Since we give out of strength and not weakness, we ought to do our best to build up and encourage those who need it the most, so that they can be strengthened in the knowledge of their true value and importance to God and to others.
Additionally, in light of the fact that it is businesses and institutions and organizations that, to a far greater degree than individuals, engage in polished and professional image crafting campaigns to brand themselves, it is immensely hypocritical for a minister to attack that practice in individuals when he is himself part of such an effort for a church. That behavior which is inappropriate for individuals is also inappropriate for companies and organizations. If it is not right for people to polish their images and present only the good parts of their personality and character (which, I think, is an accusation that I am safe from), it is not right for companies or organizations or societies to do that either. At some point, we must own up to who and what we are, whether individually and collectively, repent to God and seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged, and engage in the difficult but sometimes painfully necessary practice of personal change. Sometimes it is about us, getting in the way of what God would have us be, and sometimes we have to get out of the way of ourselves and others so that we and others can serve Him more effectively.
 See, for example: