Monday, July 2, 2018

The Bible in One Hand, and...Twitter in the Other?

It was an old saying, heard dozens of times as I worked my way through seminary preaching class.

"Preach with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other."

The quote, attributed to Karl Barth, was meant to remind we the fledgling proclaimers that we needed to keep things relevant and timely.  No hoary old adages recycled from books of sermon illustrations.  No indecipherable babbling about theological and scriptural esoterica.

Preaching needs to be about the now, and the lived experience of community.

There's always been an issue with this, of course, because "the newspaper" bears with it an editorial perspective.  If I preach out of the New York Times, that's going to sound very different than preaching out of the Washington Times.  Or the Fortean Times.

If I preach out of the Baltimore Sun, that'll be a different experience for my listeners than preaching out of England's The Sun, which presents its readers with an admixture of reactionary right-wing populism and healthy young British lasses in various states of undress, because "conservatism" can be weird sometimes.

So that's always been an issue.

But now?  Now that media sources have been "democratized?"  In an era of pathological information overload, when we get such a large portion of our information from phones and social media?

I'm not sure that Barth's old saying still holds.

That's not to say that I don't peruse my media feeds for interesting tidbits for my preaching.  I do that often.  It's also not to say I don't use these odd new forms of communicating and relating.

But I am also profoundly wary of social media as a source of trustworthy information, because it's a little crazy.  When I spend too much time there, I feel it fragmenting my soul.  Souring me.  Dys-integrating me.  Tearing at grace, and distracting me from the present incarnate reality of my existence.

It's also prone to promulgating falsehood, and fomenting mob hysteria.  It heightens anxieties, as horror follows outrage follows atrocity, drawing the eye and the heart and the mind into a commodified charybdis of chaos and clamor.

Ah, alliteration.

I do not so much preach from it, as in tension with and resistance to it.