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Category - "Digidisciples":

We All Dance To The Music Of Time

The Sardana

In Barcelona’s Plaça de Sant Jaume, there is always a group of people dancing the Sardana. According to wikipedia, this dance was banned during the Franco régime as a Catalan nationalist symbol, but in this at least they are wrong, for in 1965  I was among a group of students who went to the square and joined in the dance for a few minutes. It is not as easy as it looks, and we soon dropped out in favour of watching instead. I am tempted to say, looking at the age of the participants in this youtube video, that some of them look as if they have themselves been dancing continuously since 1965 but, generally speaking, the dance goes on while the dancers come and go to the music of time.

The River that is Twitter

This is how I think about social media, twitter in particular. You can decide to while away the afternoon in the twittersphere but you cannot predict what turn the conversation will take. Beyond the rule about 140 characters, every twitter session is different. Sometimes it is like watching one of those complicated opera arias, with perhaps four different people singing their hearts out about completely different topics simultaneously. It is exhilarating -and sometimes surreal- to try and participate in four conversations at once, with subjects ranging from the sublime to the mundane. Sometimes there are a dozen or more taking part in or looking in on the same conversation. But there are also conversations which take place in different time zones. If someone in the USA tells a joke at tea time, you may be asleep and unable to LOL or even ROFL until the following morning, perhaps ten hours later, by which time any repartee you can offer has rather lost its point. My twitter stream may be more homogenous than some people’s, because I choose to follow chiefly those involved in the Church or politics. I like the fact that most of the people I follow are also followed by the people who follow me (still with me?), in other words I enjoy being part of a network, which others in the network also seem to enjoy.


You Cannot Step into the Same River Twice

But, as Heraclitus  almost pointed out, you cannot step into the same twitter session twice. If you have a conversation over breakfast with a group of congenial people, you cannot pick up the conversation over dinner. This is partly because the twittersphere, like the river, has moved on. But it is also because you have moved on. You are a different person at dinner from the one you were at breakfast, albeit infinitesimally so. The cells in your body have changed and the world has changed with you. Wait a week, a month or a year and the differences are more marked.


What Has All This to do with the Christian Life?

In case you are wondering whether I am ever going to get to the point – whether indeed there is a point to this post –  here it is: we have just begun what is for me my 63rd church year. On the face of it, when it is the sixty-third time you have been told a story, you might think it is difficult to pay attention, let alone get excited. BUT I am not the same person – I have been a different person every year for the last sixty-three years. And it is not the same story. The story changes every year because I see different things in it.

Brother Charles, an American Franciscan priest, expresses this better than I possibly can, and will I hope not mind my quoting him:

…we exist in time, but God is eternal. So there is no before or after with God; there is nothing that God is doing tomorrow that he is not doing now. With God there is only a Now, a nunc stans¸ as the scholastic theologians liked to say… This is why the presence of God  always seems new and fresh, and is refreshing for the soul, because God is always Now. This arriving presence in our hearts is the real desire of our souls—a desire we so often squander on things that are less than God and will not satisfy…   Let’s begin again, for the first time, to wait for the God who wants to speak the Word of his own self from within each of us.



This post was written for The Big Bible Project as a Digidisciple on 5 December 2011.

The photograph of a Sardana was taken at La Verema in September 2010 by  Natursports /

The picture is by Nicolas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, which formed the title and  backdrop to the Anthony Powell series of the same name about a group of people over a period of years, and is made available by wikimedia under a creative commons licence.

Social Media May Prove The Key To Christian Unity

Die, Heretic Scum!’ I expect you know the “joke” that has been doing the rounds on the internet for a while, of which this is the punchline? This is a particularly effective version of it on You Tube. I put the word ‘joke’ in inverted commas because its essential truth is too painful to be really funny: we are all apparently born with a strong desire to keep only the company of people whom we think, as Margaret Thatcher put it, are ‘one of us’. Another equivalent, this one ascribed to Anon, is

‘All the world is queer, save me and thee. And even thee’s a little queer.’

As we saw in the past only too clearly in Northern Ireland, for example, Christians have been strongly identified with this: Catholic children went to school with other Catholic children, grew up next to Catholics and married other Catholics so as to produce Catholic children of their own and continue the cycle. Protestants did the same. In its most extreme form, great care was taken to see that never the twain should meet.

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How would Jesus score on Klout?


A tag cloud of this article

I have been thinking about the question posed by the Revd Pam Smith on this site on August 1st: ‘What would Jesus score?’.

She goes on to analyse the dangers for digital disciples (that is to say all Christians using cyberspace in pursuit of their ministry, not just those signed up to this project) of becoming too competitive and falling prey, as I suggested elsewhere, to Bunyan’s snares of  ‘pride, arrogancy, self-conceit and worldly-glory’. She does not attempt to answer her own question, presumably regarding it as rhetorical: the purpose of the question in her post is to make us stop and think, which it certainly does (you see, Pam, I am still thinking about it!)

But, as I suggested on the BigBible site on 4th August,  there may be some merit in treating the question at face value. Suppose Jesus were to start his ministry here and now, let us say in any country of the world so long as it had good WiFi access. He would still need companions for the journey, so I imagine he would again recruit 12 disciples. But, whereas originally they had no access to telephones or postal service, telegrams, emails or websites,  cars, trains or planes, now all of these would be available.

  • LinkedIn, Empire Avenue, Four Square etc: You may disagree but these are perhaps too inward-looking to help our Lord in his ministry?
  • Facebook: My original article said, somewhat tongue in cheek, that there was no need for our Lord to have his own Facebook page. As I had hoped, this ensured that there were lots of comments! First of all, someone pointed out that He already has a Facebook page (wow! – pretending to be the Queen on twitter is only liable to get you sent to the Tower of London, pretending to be the Son of God is I suppose the archetypal definition of chutzpah.) But the killer argument was of course that I had posted a link to the piece on Facebook, which is how several of my correspondents had found it. There’s not much in the way of riposte that you can offer to this argument, is there.
  • Twitter: Too time-consuming, possibly. But more appealing than Facebook as a means to spread the Gospel. Although some use Twitter simply to broadcast their own views, the most interesting tweets are part of a conversation. Some of the phrases that still echo in our heads two thousand years later would fit into the 140 character limit. ‘And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’, for example, is 61 characters, not including hashtags. Jesus could always follow the example of the Vatican, and ask a disciple to do the actual tweeting on his behalf.
  • YouTube: If a picture is worth a thousand words, filmed footage is even more appealing. What we would give now to hear the Sermon on the Mount, for example, spoken by Jesus himself: what a powerful tool to spread the gospel that would be! Let us hope that one of the disciples is good with a camera.
  • Blogging: Perhaps because I respond to words, I would love to see Jesus’s blog.

The use of social media would not be enough: as Billy Graham and Rob Bell both know, what Hindus call darshan, or physical presence, is also necessary.

So let us imagine Jesus physically present in our 21st century world. Would he use social media to help get his message across? The answer to this question is vitally important because if it is ‘no’, why are we trying to do so? Although it requires a leap of the imagination, personally I have no difficulty in accepting that he would use the tools available to him. Dr George Morley, one of those who commented on the orginal article, said:  ‘The important thing is that Jesus would be in the pub with his smart phone…

So then we finally come to the question of what the social media metrics sites would make of Our Lord. You need to bear in mind that it is not necessary to sign up to these sites for them to assess you – if you are active on twitter, facebook etc, you will already have a score.

First, Peer Index:

Peer Index measures authority (‘how much you can rely on that person’s recommendations and opinion); topic resonance (‘how your topics resonate with the community); audience (the number of people who listen and are receptive to what you are saying);  and activity (how much of what you do is related to the topic).

Secondly, Klout:

Klout has a matrix: are you broad or focused? casual or consistent? listening or participating? sharing or creating? Based on the site’s assessment of your point in this matrix, plus your audience,  whether it is likely to spread the word further and, if it does, the likelihood that what you say will be acted on, Klout then produces a score.


I find the questions asked by these two sites quite pertinent to the work of spreading the gospel. I imagine Jesus would feel amused rather than threatened by them. I doubt whether he would feel the need to compare himself to others, but as Robert Burns pointed out: ‘Would some power the giftie gi’e us, to see ourselves as others see us’.



This post was first published on 4 August 2011 by the BigBible project in the Digidisciple series under the title: ‘What would Social Media Metrics sites make of Jesus?’

I am grateful to Bryony Taylor (@vahva) for suggesting and producing the tag cloud to illustrate the article.

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