It came in the #prayershaming silliness, as hashtag activism took on the practice of human beings praying in a time of crisis.
"Don't do something stupid and pointless like praying," went the retweeted refrain. "Do something!"
On the one hand, I get that. I really do. Just saying you pray is meaningless. Publicly announcing your prayerfulness is one of those things that my Teacher had some real beef with. He was big into prayer, huge, the biggest ever. But public assertions of prayeyness were something for which Jesus had no patience, a reality that I struggle with every week as I pray publicly.
Pray quietly, simply, and deeply in places of intimacy, and then let those prayers guide your actions.
On the other hand, seriously? People are #tweeting...tweeting on Twitter...about how praying is just useless self-gratification?
"Santa Maria Pasta Fazool," as I sometimes say when I'm channeling a Sicilian Ned Flanders.
I mean, seriously, folks. Let's look at the minimum that prayer does. At its crass reductionist mechanism, my prayers involve a complex organic neural network lighting up with an intricate interplay of chemical and electrical energies. Those potentialities organize themselves into a specific set of symbolic structures, if I'm praying using symbol and semiotics. As those symbols play across conscious and unconscious aspects of my being, they establish a deeper probability that my integrated awareness will respond through specific actions. I am more likely to remember to call, or to visit, or engage in a caring action.
If I'm self emptying through the contemplative prayer techniques of mysticism, those same semiotic structures are washed away, placing that same neural network in a position to receive and engage with reality with all cultural bias and preconception removed. I am able to be more creative, more gracious, more open.
Social media posting is similar to that, only one step farther removed from the real. It is "thought," as manifested in the abstracted substrate of our nascent macrointelligence. A tweet or a post...or even this blog, I'm not oblivious to that, eh...are little more than the firing of a single neuron in the homo sapiens hive-mind.
Our tweets and posts, in that context, are simply the thoughts and prayers of culture.
Those social thoughts are, bluntly, waaay less real.
They are even less likely to result in meaningful and concerted action than my prayers. If I think something...or pray something...I am likely to manifest behaviors in material reality that reflect that thought in a cohesive way. But social media does that rather less well, because human culture is not an integrated self.
I mean, duh. Really.
The disembodied thoughts in our dreaming partially-manifested collective unconscious result in no coherent action. Twitches and spasms, perhaps. But very little more, as we flail around in maddeningly endless self-opposition. That is particularly and consistently true if those virtual thoughts and prayers are devoid of compassion, and if they only reinforce our disconnectedness from the Other.
And the brittle, abstracted false-reality of the internet does disconnection, opposition, and Othering real good. It makes us endlessly angry, shallowly tribal, reflexively reactive, and wildly hyperemotional.
Really, then. What is the difference, ye who wouldst #tweet against #prayer?
As a committed believer in God, I'm not sure that the Creator of the Universe sees one thing as particularly distinct from the other. How much smaller, in the infinite scale of creation, is an individual than a society? How much smaller is the collection of cells that make up my body than the collection of selves that make up a nation?
From the Bright and Numinous Deep, I'm not certain there's much distinction, which is why the Lord judges both persons and nations.
Long and short of it? The Tweet doth call the Kettle Black, methinks.