Maybe I was naive, but I was a bit shocked. I’ll never forget the first time that a young, college-aged member of my congregation, who had “friended” me on Facebook, openly bragged and posted pictures of he and his friends participating in underaged drinking. Certainly he wouldn’t be that open about it, would he?
- It’s against the law.
- It could get one kicked out of school.
- Mom and dad could easily find out.
- My pastor is one of my friends on Facebook, and doing this would show that I’m not acting in a way in which I was trained up and taught to act.
Ever since then I have stared in awe at the things people will reveal about themselves in open forums like Facebook and Twitter. You’ve seen and read plenty about privacy. But, in fact, there isn’t much privacy any more. We might as well get used to it. There are eyes, and ears, and cameras, and recording devices everywhere.
This post isn’t about how stupid it is to put illegal, unflattering, or embarrassing data and media on Facebook (although it could be). It’s not about ways in which these situations could be dealt with from a ministry perspective (although it could be). It’s not about protecting privacy or teaching our children to be awfully, awfully careful (although it could be).
As a pastor, artist, and creative, the thing that has interested and intrigued me about the things that people will make public, is the way in which they give us such a complete picture of the human condition. Social media offers unfiltered conversations, reactions, and opinions. It is fodder for art, for commentary, and yes for preaching Law and Gospel in Sunday sermons.
Here are some of the ways observing the human condition in and through social media can be helpful to creatives, artists, and pastors:
- It helps me to see my own flaws so that I can dig deep down and write things with which others will readily identify.
- It helps me address, from an eternal perspective, things that really matter in my writing and my preaching.
- It helps me to be more specific in writing about, preaching, and teaching Law.
- It helps me to apply Gospel comfort in a way that has the potential to be more broadly comforting to those reading or listening.
- It keeps my art down to earth and not “pie-in-the sky.”
- It fuels my empathy for those who are spiritually lost (…or at least “losing”). Empathetic artists are better artists.
- It reminds me that, literally, “there but by the grace of God go I.” When I apply grace to myself, I can be certain that it will be applied to others as well.
How does observing the human condition enhance your art or creativity?