Henk Medema
09
JUNE

New Media: Different World

‘The times, they are a’changing’ – quoting Bob Dylan - is a very true saying at the beginning of the 21st century. The New York Times, and the London Times, that is. At least they are online, and many, many other magazines and newspapers will soon be available on iPad and other electronic devices. Moreover, do we really need magazines and newspapers at all? Many of us, particularly the younger generation, have no problem in doing completely without them, gathering their bits of informations and opinions through whatever means on the internet.

The new media are making this world a faster and a smaller world; such is the thought expressed by Lars Dahle at http://conversation.lausanne.org/conversations/detail/10246

That is certainly true. But more is happening: they make it a different world, and this is a topic I should like to elaborate upon.

Some of us Christians are quick to point out the negative phenomena of the social media, e.g. the recent Facebook live parties, with a lot of violence and alcoholism and other immorality. But there are also many positive aspects. We are coming in closer contact with many different people.

Look: there is more than there is! Is not Scripture more than things written? Is not the Word of God more than words spoken? Read the Bible from beginning to end, and find emotions, real-life experiences. And within the Body of Christ, sharing these things is real fellowship, as described in (for example) 1 Corinthians 12. One member suffers, all suffer. One rejoices, all rejoice.

Part of what the new media are doing, is help us in seeing what goes on in this hurting world of ours. And, from the other side of the spectrum, it permits you to open up of your own heart for those who are not only interested in your opinion, but indeed in your heart.

And remember: the heart is not just the seat of emotions, it is the center of our whole being, soul, mind, feeling, experiences.

Last week I was very busy, and had a hard time to keep up twittering and responding to tweets. Of course the social media did not go completely unnoticed. Some rather shocking events, as the Gaza ship blocking incident (with at least 10 casualties) came along, and also the case of two homosexuals in Malawi, condemned to 14 years and then released on the advocacy of UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon. Then an editorial comment from a Reformed Dutch newspaper, stating as their opinion that the Malawi government would have done better not to give in so soon to Ban Ki Moon. As I mentioned, I had to let this all pass, and decided to read the articles later on. But I saw the tweet of a friend of mine, who said that he was planning to write something on the subject, but could not, for he was crying.

When, early next morning after my morning prayers, I read through all of these materials, I had to quit reading as well. I wept. And went back to prayer again.

Now just apart from the Malawi question in itself, was this sharing on Twitter a bit exaggerated? Was it some kind of exhibitionism?

May be. But it did help me, and some friends with whom I shared this, to feel what the real world is like. More than doing what has always been my job (as a lawyer, an theological author and a publisher): analysing theses, viewpoints, values – this brought me closer to other people, as well as to my own heart. Which did not preclude a thorough analysis later on, but coming close to people and situations made a tremendous difference.

One more example of how modern media was shaping my mindset in a way that formerly would have been impossible. On Tuesday, January 12th 2010, the Dutch government ran into a heavy debate with the parliament, leading to the fall of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s cabinet a week later. While I was watching the parliamentary debate on my laptop (actually my wife was watching a movie on television…), and following Twitter, the truth dawned to me that a terrible earthquake was happening just that day in Haiti. While the debate on all these political topics continued, and at the same time the details of so many wounded and dead people came flooding in, I felt a deep feeling of shame coming up in my stomach. What were these politicians doing, while elsewhere the whole world was being turned upside down, literally?

This could not have happened without the social media. I am still not quite sure how to evaluate this, but it certainly makes me think. And feel. And pray.

I would very much welcome to hear some of you adding your own similar (or different!) experiences and evaluation.

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