Wednesday, July 19, 2017

His Holiness the most Reverend Mark Zuckerberg?

Dear Friends,

Last month the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg revealed the future of his social media company with its two billion adherents. Zuckerberg is casting himself as a religious reformer and is creating a new concept for today’s generation: “Facebook Church.” It will have “pastors” (secular leaders) and, of course, on-line giving. In this new and changing world, Zuckerberg said that his company can fill the role played by churches. His plan is to use the personal data already mined from Facebook users to connect them with a virtual church that will be like-minded in every way. Zuckerberg believes that in our world today, the only thing that people seek in church is the concept of community, and in his utopian dream of the Facebook church, that desire for community will be fully realized. By using social media to mimic the role of religion in our world, he can replace historical Christian doctrine and the truth of the Bible with his own doctrine and vision for society and in his words, “bring the world closer together.” In Zuckerberg’s reality, he can become the “pope” for the new world order. A frightening thought but it’s not going to happen.

Here’s why I believe that. In May 2017, a new study from UC San Diego and Yale University was released in the American Journal of Epidemiology (a branch of medicine that studies the cause of disease). The study found that Facebook usage was “tightly linked to compromised social, physical and psychological health.” The study showed that clicking on a link or updating ones own status increased the decline of their mental health. The Wall Street Journal summarized the study by saying: “the more times you click ‘like’, the worse you feel.” Other studies have confirmed the negative impact of social media on our mental health. Bottom line: the more interaction with Facebook you have, the more unhealthy you will become.

Also, in May of 2017 a study was published from Vanderbilt University using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This study “found a correlation between religious service attendance, lower stress and longevity.” It found that going to church actually promotes better physical, mental and emotional health and reduces ones chances of dying prematurely. Another study of over 74,000 women published last year showed that women who attended church had a 33 percent lower mortality rate compared with women who never attended church. There is actual scientific evidence that people live longer and have a happier and healthier life if they go to church! We see the benefits of church attendance at Abbey Road Villa, the assisted living home where we hold our Wednesday services. Both residents and staff tell us that New Hope Family Church has improved the quality of life for the residents. Bottom line: the more church services you attend, the more healthy you will become.

Facebook recently changed its mission statement and is now “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Facebook hopes that their new concept of “church” will fulfill that mission. But to meld people into one united mind-set, we’ll need to leave behind our “divisive” religious beliefs as we join our cyberhands and come into the cosmic consciousness of the new world. 

On the other hand, the mission statement of the 2000 year old Christian church has never changed. The mission of the church is to help heal and restore a broken, hurt and lost world to the loving relationship of the self-giving Trinity, to direct the praise of Creation back to the Creator and to fulfill the Great Commission. This is God’s church as it was, is now, and will be for ever.

Jesus drills down into the Jewish law and gives us a twofold commandment: Love God and Love Others. Mark 12:30-31 Notice the two dimensional components to that commandment. There is a vertical dimension between us down here and God up there. And there is a horizontal dimension between us and those next to us. We need both dimensions. When the focus is exclusively on building community, we can find a strong cord of that horizontal dimension running through a social media “church,” our volunteer work, our quilting club, or our golf buddies, but someOne important is missing. Only in church do we come into the fullness of the vertical dimension of us and God along with the horizontal dimension of us and others.

No matter which Christian church you attend, church is first and foremost about worship of God. We gather to speak and sing praises to Him for all that He has done for us and we worship Him for who He is. Our hungry souls are fed with the Word of God. We seek God through our liturgy and traditions. Our soul becomes satiated by His Body and Blood during the Eucharist. In church we become spiritually alive and are lifted up into His presence. Prayers and sermons encourage us to move further along on our faith journey as we grow spiritually and become a little less like us and a little more like Him. And while we worship in the presence of sinners just like us, every so often we can find a “saint” in our church who helps us in our Christian walk. Jesus said to, “love God and love others” and it’s in the genuine, authentic church that you will find these two relationship dimensions. And so, if you want to be happier, healthier and live longer, go to church this Sunday!  Amen?

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