Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Good FaceBook

A Facebook page devoted to the Bible now has approaching 250,000 fans (correction - over 260,000). It was set up a few months ago by Mark Brown, founder of the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life, and he commented earlier this month:

The number of fans has just passed 100,000 and it is growing at more than 7,000 a day. And not only that but people comment on the Scripture, ask questions, answer questions, seek prayer, pray for each other and share the most amazing testimonies. In the past week nearly 8,000 people have interacted with the page.

If you sign up as a 'fan' you get a Bible text sent to you each day - not quite sure how these are selected, but as long as it's not a regular excerpt from Numbers that's probably ok. There's quite a few discussions going on, topics ranging from divorce to "can't I just read my bible and pray at home?"

1. The web is a great democratiser - anyone could have set this page up, it just happens to have been set up by someone who's fairly well connected and in a significant position (he's CEO of the Bible Society in New Zealand). However most of us look for some kind of filter on the sites we join or have a look at, either through friends, people who's opinions we respect, or folk people with some kind of 'status'. The more stuff is out there, the more filtering we'll need, so I wonder whether the openness of new media is going to last, or whether we'll come to rely more and more on brokers and filters to help us navigate.

2. Along with the greater openness comes a greater risk. There are probably people among those 250,00 who have some serious questions about the Bible, and there are others who think that the way you answer a question is by quoting a Bible verse, preferably in capital letters. That doesn't usually help.

3. However, every community is a risk. In an unrelated blog post, Brown discusses the 'Age of ME', and asks how we build community when personal preference is king? Creating community brings us more into contact with others, and that will increase the chance of enriching relationships, as well as the chance of irritating or annoying ones. The trouble is that because we engage more and more by opting in, rather than belonging, we've less experience and skills in dealing long-term with irritating and annoying people, and so we find them even more irritating and annoying than we would otherwise.

My worry for the Bible on Facebook is that people who like this kind of thing will find that this is the kind of thing they like, and that people who don't, won't. That's fine if it's there just to bless Christians. But if part of the aim is to help people outside the Christian faith to, discover, discuss, and engage with the Bible, then it'll be interesting to see how well that works.

if you want to join another Facebook site devoted to a good cause, can I commend 'Lets Have the 2013 Ashes on free TV'. or sign the petition.

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