God in 140 characters
The news came out a couple of months ago and I’m still processing it: The pope is on Twitter.
I suppose if anyone can be trusted to use social media responsibly, it ought to be the pope. We’re told he’s infallible after all — even when apologizing for the actions of the previous infallible popes. And, it does make sense for the pope to join the Twitter world with several fake — and a few hilarious — papal accounts already created, he has to protect his brand.
I must say I’m glad Twitter wasn’t around during biblical times. There is already enough controversy interpreting scripture. Imagine if the historical record was reduced to little pieces no longer than 140 characters.
Consider Moses tweeting from the mountain top:
#Moses: ....6) Thou shalt not kill; 7) Thou shalt not commit adultry; 8) Thou shalt not st.
#Aaron: Uh....Moses, what was that last one again? What are we not to do? Stab people? Stage plays? Stone our neighbors?
If anything, it probably would have been worse in Jesus’ time. Think of the sermon on the mount as a series of daily tweets.
#SonofMan: ...Blessed are the poor in spirit for (tune in tomorrow for the rest). ...
It would have been interesting immediately after his death when his followers were scattered and holed up worrying that they might be next for the cross. Several of them were slow to believe even what they saw in front of them, so the news would have come as a shock:
#MaryMagdalene: He is Risen. He is Risen indeed!
#Peter: What are you talking about Mary? Who has risen?
#MaryMagdalene: Jesus. He’s back from the dead.
#Thomas: I don’t believe it. Tell him to come find us if he’s risen.
#MaryProudMama: It’s true I tell you. My boy is back.
#Peter: Uh Jesus, about that “denying you thrice” thing ...
#AnonymousJohn: Hey Mary Magdalene. Can you meet me at ...
#MaryMagdalene: For the last time, I’m not that Mary. Where did that rumor get started?
Of course, once Jesus left again, social media might have kept the Christians safe, if used properly.
#Peter: So, the Romans are still chasing us, our next meeting is at ...
#JohnTheBeloved: Uh ... Peter, do you really think you should be tweeting this? The Romans do control the main servers after all.
#Peter: Oh, yeah right. I’ll put it on the secure server.
#James: I know there are lots of Johns’ running around, but really? “The Beloved”. What are you trying to say about yourself?
#JohnTheBeloved: You know Jesus loved me best!
#James: He was my brother, wasn’t he? Oh, and from now on, I’d like to be known as “James the Just”
#JohnTheBeloved: Brother or not, you aren’t in the top 12 are you? And “The Just”, are you kidding?
#Peter: Shut Up guys! Remember, we’re supposed to love one another.
#Thomas: Who died and left you in charge?
#Peter: Jesus, that’s who.
#Thomas: Oh yeah, I keep forgetting. It’s still hard to believe.
Later, it would have gotten even worse. The early Christians were on the run and one of main persecutors was a guy named Saul. But, he changed his mind — and his name — along the way.
#SaulofTarsus: I’m on my way to Damascus and if there are any Christians there, I’d like to meet them.
#Ananias: Wait, aren’t you the same Saul who stood by while they stoned Stephen? Haven’t you been out arresting all of us?
#Paul: Oh, and by the way, I’m changing my name and Twitter handle. From now on, I’d like to be known as Paul.
#Ananias: You can’t fool us. If you think there’s any way we’re telling you where the disciples are, you have another thi ...wait — I think someone’s here. Whoa. ... is that you Jesus?
#Paul: Anyway, I’ll be there in a couple of days, but I may need some help. You see, I’m now blind.
#Ananias: Um. ... change of plans ... Paul is it? We’ll find you. And, I can take care of that vision problem you’re having.
Of course, the real Twitter wars would have come between the apostles themselves. Peter may have been the head of the church, but he was also a bit of a hothead, prone to speaking and acting without thinking. Paul could be a bit sanctimonious himself. I don’t know much about James’ personality, but some scholars think that Peter acted as a mediator between James and Paul at Antioch. It’s not a good sign when the guy famous for cutting off a soldier’s ear is the diplomat.
I don’t even want to imagine the debates between Peter and Paul over the role of Gentiles. But you can bet they’d be sniping at each other with a vengeance.
With social media, there is a complete record of everything we say or do online, for better or worse. It might have given us a different insight into the early Christians. But, the more I think about it, the scripture is better when not reduced to 140 characters.
Michael Carley is a resident of Porterville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.