June 24 – O Be Careful Little @Twitters What You #Tweet



I am not much of a Twitter user, though I have had an account for four years, have ten followers, and have tweeted 19 times. Twitter, of course, is one of the big players in social media. Popes and presidents, athletes and stars, CEOs and celebrity pastors, all have Twitter accounts – and twitter assistants to twit their tweets. The White House tweets news of major policy decisions, and a well-placed tweet during a long flight delay just may get you an apology from the airline and a free flight to the destination of your choice.

I love social media and electronic communication. I love reading Facebook posts from our mission partners in Guatemala and seeing Instagram photos from friends in Brazil. The posts from the blog of the Kibuye team in Burundi often brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart (see this update for the most recent from Kibuye). Only Facebook would call my 325 Facebook contacts “friends,” but it allows me to stay in touch with people from my past we would have long ago taken off our Christmas card list. And Twitter, well, thank you, Twitter.

The 222nd General Assembly of our denomination is winding up its week-long meeting in Portland, Oregon, today, and the news junkie in me has been eager to know about the overtures passed and resolutions made. No better way to keep up with things in Portland than listening in on the Twitter chatter. All I had to do was search #GA222 and I was hearing the conversations of, what, fifty or a hundred of the 600 commissioners on the floor of the convention center. No need to wait for the denominational news service to post a story the next day. I knew what was happening when it happened (and, yes, with a great live update of Assembly business coming from the denomination itself).

LPC folks, you’ll have to join us Thursday evening for our GA in Review to find out about the fate of synods, to whom we did (or did not) apologize, our stands on fossil fuels, Palestine, and Darwin (#Iwontbetweeting).

Thanks to my Twitter correspondents, I know a lot about what happened this week in Portland. And, with apologies to the little song the Bible Busy Bees like to sing, oh be careful little twitter what you tweet.

At its worst, and it can be pretty bad, Twitter is like having the notes you passed to your friends on a warm afternoon during your eighth grade social studies class seen by the whole world. No filters. No oops. No maybe I should not have said that. During the business meetings of the GA, the tweets came fast and furious (I know, quickly and furiously – grammar is of no account in the Twittersphere).

The majority of #GA222 tweets were helpful. “Item 05-32 now being considered.” They gave a sense of being there. “No! Not another amendment to the substitute to the main motion.”

Many were partisan, with advocates for fossil fuel divestment, the LBGTQ/Q apology, sanctions against Israel, and, believe it or not, the survival of the synod system, most fast and furious. Few were personal, with most diatribes aimed at some impersonal “them” threatening the well-being of “us.” Unjust and non-inclusive are among the common invectives tossed about at a PCUSA general assembly.

The worst of the worst, the don’t-pass-that-note variety, were those that betrayed the author of the tweet to be small and mean-spirited, petty and unkind. When did we decide that anyone who disagrees with us should be called a “hater?” Why in our generally unfiltered world is “all about me” one of the few remaining filters?

One of the overtures before the Assembly would have mandated free childcare or childcare vouchers at every denominational event. We would have had a constitutional amendment to say so, and, as one “hater” pointed out, it would have added thousands of dollars of expense in a time of a denominational budget crisis.

Frankly, in a world of both parents needing to work and most younger pastors unable to support a family on their salary, it’s an issue to be addressed. But can we not make it about justice and inclusion? How about helpful and good? And, really, do we need to know, repeatedly and quickly and furiously, that your husband doesn’t get home from work until 5:30 and your presbytery schedules its committee meetings for 4:00 in the afternoon and the kids get home from school at 3:30. You are facing a dilemma, not systemic injustice.

The Assembly voted to recommend, not mandate, free childcare. The road to justice is a long road, one twitter tweeted.

Maybe James would write us something like, “Not many of you should become tweeters, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who tweet will be judged with greater strictness. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And a tweet can be a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” Presbyterians and politicians, take note.

And, thanks, you Tweeters who helped me keep up with #GA222.

See you Sunday.