Day in and day out, this little corner of the blog world is pretty quiet. Occasionally, however, something I write ricochets around the Internet (for example, a few weeks ago, with a head's up from Wayne, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish linked to The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes). This activity settles down after a day or so but then, perhaps a year or two later, another tipping point is hit, usually via Twitter, and the activity for a particular essay lights up again.
If you follow the comments on the sidebar or RSS feed you'll have noticed that my post How Facebook Killed the Church woke back up over the last few days. Largely due to these blogs--Jesus Creed, First Things, and The Lookout--where you can follow lots of interesting conversations about my argument and my IQ.
(One fun consequence of this recent attention is that the original essay is now being translated into Chinese for the Taiwan Church News newspaper affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.)
I tend to approach these external conversations with good cheer and curiosity. Because at the end of the day who really cares what I think or if I'm a dunderhead? And yet, it's hard to not step in to correct all the misconceptions and misunderstandings. So, instead, a few clarifications offered here, on my home turf.
First, the post in question ends with the provocative claim:
Basically, Facebook killed the church. May it Rest in Peace.A lot of people are misunderstanding what I was trying to say. I wasn't referring to the communion of the saints. I was referring to what we might call "the Facebook church," the church-as-affiliation-network. Such a church does indeed exist, for better or worse. And I do think the demise of that church is a good thing. I think it will help move Christianity toward a more missional future.
Second, some people think I'm trashing social networking. I'm not. In fact, I'm tacitly praising it. I'm basically saying that social networking is so effective that we no longer need physical locations to mix and mingle. The local church was, once, one of those places (as were other "third places"). Web 2.0 is, I think, putting competitive pressure on those traditional meeting spaces. Further, I'm also not saying that social networking can't be effectively used by churches. In fact, I think the church is going to have to play ball with Web 2.0.
Third, a lot of people think that I'm trying to offer a grand theory for why people, young people in particular, are growing disillusioned with the church. I'm not offering a grand theory. I'm just highlighting one particular variable that I believe has been involved in these trends. I'm an experimental psychologist. Due to my work I'm fully aware that the complexity of human behavior cannot be explained by a simple "A causes B" model. True, the rhetoric of my essay was hyperbolic and totalizing. But I was writing a blog post to make a point and, thus, given the medium, eshewed all the caution and circumspection of a scientific approach. I accept responsibility for that, but seriously, who would read a post entitled "How Facebook Might Possibly Be Implicated in Church Attendance Trends"?
So what was the point I was trying to make with my original post? Simply this: When you look at the research on Millennials the aspect that pops out at you, relative to previous generations, is this: Hyperconnectivity. Millennials feel very, very connected with each other. And I'm simply wondering if that feeling of connection has attenuated the need to get out of bed and go to church on Sunday mornings to "see everyone."
That isn't a knock about Web 2.0 or the church. It's just a thought about the social factors that might be implicated in a college student hitting the snooze button around 8 o'clock on the Lord's Day.