||When I write, I
present myself to someone else on the other side of this
computer. The Internet makes it difficult to accurately show you
who I really am. In writing, even the term “my audience” has a
pretentious imbalance of power latent in the wording.
In writing, even the term “my
audience” has a pretentious imbalance of power latent in the
wording. Essentially, I cannot give you the real me. I can
only give you the “me” I choose to present to you-clothed in my
words, my perspective, and my inadequacies.
No, you don’t know me. At least,
not by looking at a website. You don’t know me by reading my words.
You don’t know me by learning about my likes and dislikes, or my
hobbies, or my beliefs in philosophy and theology. And no, even if I
told you my history, you still would not know me---because each of
these bits of information require a translation from my mind to
yours. The process demands me to make choices. I make choices to
leave some information out and include others. I make choices to
emphasize some things and skim over the details. I innocently make
decisions. And in deciding, you lose the “me” in me.
In this postmodern transition, the
Church may never realize how our ability to define and create
ourselves has expanded. Never before has identity and image been
so versatile, temporal, and marketable. Did Church marketing
strategies even exist before the 1900s?
We see this flux of image most
easily in our American demi-gods, i.e. the celebrities. Yet contrary
to the unchanging, unmoved modern concept of God, we worship these
titans for their ability to shape shift for one image to the next.
They move gracefully from one fashion to another. They glide into
different personas and reincarnations.
Pop Queen Madonna (real name:
Louise Veronica Ciccone) is the queen of image surgery. With every
new album she creates, Madonna reinvents Madonna. Many critics
believe this is how she has been able to survive in the
entertainment industry for so long. At the core of each of these
images, Madonna playfully taunts her fans-as if saying, “You will
never know the real me. I may stand with my whole life before your
eyes, but you still won’t know me.”
In moments of naked honesty, we all
want to be celebrities. We do not fear death. We fear the awesome
possibility that someday we will all be mediocre. How do we
steal the fire from these titans? We too sacrifice to reinvent
ourselves. We must “get a life” and fashion a good image of
ourselves to market to the watching public.
For this reason, I am fascinated by
websites that merely try to say, “This is me!” How they go about
this existential validation is interesting. They will post
information, more information, and even more information about
themselves. Some sites even have “24 hour webcams,” so we can look
into their most intimate details. But this information is just
information. The information does not give us a relationship, just a
taste of voyeurism.
Likewise, the Church must do more
than build websites and send out mailers with information about us.
We have to move from an open window to an open door. An open
window allows the world to see us, but an open door allows us to
offer the gift of hospitality to a curious world.
So what does it matter? Isn’t it
just like Generation X to bemoan a fragment self? Isn’t it just
narcissistic angst driving an over-caffeinated writer to whine that
no one knows “the real me”? But I do worry. As technology
increases its ability to transfer information, we build a greater
wall to hide behind. Until all that’s left of me is a
pre-approved representation of who I want to be. And as the Church,
I don’t want to give out facsimiles.
We must first admit the gentle
seduction of image-making technology. Anything that denies
long-term community life with another person has the potential to
strip away authentic relationships. The disembodied quick fix
for human contact cannot be a nutra-sweet substitute. We should
acknowledge that relationships filtered through image-making
technologies are inherently incomplete. If we choose to ignore that
current trend, we embrace the life of a hermit with nothing but
sentimentality and good intentions as our best friend.
The Fall of Adam shattered the
possibility for unfiltered authentic relationships. The fig leaves
Adam and Eve hid their nakedness behind symbolize the first filter.
“Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11) Adam and Eve
reject the image of God and seek to re-image themselves with
substance of the earth.
Nakedness for Adam and Eve was not
merely sexual. It was absolutely relational and without shame. We
lost this freedom at the Fall. As an interesting footnote, nudist
communities try to deny these norms of modesty for the sake of
authentic community, but instead what they produce is merely
childish and obscenely destructive. Lust and pornography are sins
acted out from a real desire for intimacy. This intimacy shall not
be fully realized (on this earth) except under the grace of
marriage. In Heaven, people shall not be given in marriage as they
are on this earth. Why? Because human intimacy will be made perfect
in Christ. No earthly creations, whether fig leaves or Instant
Messenger will filter our connection with one another.
Salvation in Jesus Christ not only
establishes eternal security in God’s Kingdom, but salvation means
identity. We are formed
into a community where we are real. More real than this earth can
pretend to duplicate.
We should not reject relationships
established through image-making technology, such as the Internet. I
love meeting people online and over the phone. But these
technologies should provide the initial point of contact, not the
final assessment of who they are and who we are to them.
In Christ, community should be
authentic and un-marketable. We enter into relationships with
humility and hope. We should not just hide behind our e-mails, but
meet those people. Have coffee. Share life.
One of my best experiences this
year was meeting Tom Hohstadt (occasional writer for Next-Wave and
author of the incredible book I Felt God… I Think). Tom and I
sent e-mails to each other. When I heard he would be in Waco to
speak at a conference, we planned to meet and have lunch. Waco is an
hour and a half drive from my Arlington apartment. I met Tom and his
wife Muriel---both are very interesting people. I’m still
discovering more about Tom. But it’s a start. Such steps I believe
bless the heart of Jesus who yearns for us to be one, just as he and
the Father are one. We begin a journey of discovering God and each
You don’t know me, but you might.
age 23 [http://monkhouse.org/david]
is a contributing editor for Next-Wave. He recently graduated
from Texas A&M University at Commerce with a degree in English
and Philosophy. David has enrolled to Fuller Theological
Seminary's distance learning program. David was raised in the
Methodist tradition. Although currently, he is a community
pastor at Axxess, an emerging
congregation within Pantego Bible Church. In his "spare time,"
David is a high school English teacher. E-mail him at