"...Father, Forgive Them...: A Meditation On Scandal, Facebook and Personal Morality During Holy Week 2014
“…Father Forgive Them…”:
A Meditation on
Scandal, Facebook & Personal Morality During Holy Week 2014
“…Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
---Luke 23:34, King James Version of Scripture
(***Ironically, written on Good Friday, but looked up the actual scripture verses together AFTER writing this essay not realizing they were this close in proximity to one another.)
Facebook is a many splendored thing---referencing that oft-mentioned quote about "love being a many splendored thing" defining splendored as “magnificent, beautiful, taking many forms”. Thus, Facebook is indeed that: a personal, local, state, regional, national and international news source; a family, extended family and friend nexus; a dreamscape for our desires; an event consolidator; a “crawl” for the life passages of those to whom we are connected.
Secondly, though, I experience Facebook as a kind of blurt space…a cyber-bucket where folks spew thoughts, musings, observations, rants, stream of consciousness murmurings. It can be like cyber-graffiti where we all “tag in” to remind the world that we were indeed here. It’s a space where people can rejoice, vent, mourn, inform, remind and support a myriad of personal and communal images, perspectives, behaviors, campaigns and causes.
Thirdly, I experience Facebook as a CONSUMING space---where one is constantly digesting and responding to the content of others. In the midst of lives chock-full of obligations, Facebook opens oneself up to the virtual onslaught of friends’ preoccupations and advertisers stubbornly hawking their wares.
Consequently, as a busy educator, mom, wife and creative finding her footing in a land-locked Midwestern college town, Facebook has been an intoxicating link to all my others: other locales, other ideas, other experiences, other “realities”---all from the comfort of my laptop. And on days when I BINGE on Facebook and other forms of internet communication, the collective impact is a dizzying, fast-paced, intoxicating stream of info-tainment that has me emotionally spent by day’s end.
All that “updating”, “news” on the horizon, commentary, whose-doing-saying-thinking-what-now has been addictive at times…not to mention the power that comes from “making news”. By virtue of social media, I HAVE THE POWER TO IMPACT MY INTIMATES with a provocative video, startling news clip or sensational story. WELL, AIN’T IIIIIIII SOMETHING?
Consequently, this week, I found myself caught up in the heady seduction of being the first to post on a scandal. Between work projects, I’d been engaging in my daily dibbling and dabbling on Facebook---so my Facebook adrenalin was flowing hard for the day.
As the day wound down, I made a call to my mother and she shared with me a story she’d learned about a series of unfortunate events unfolding in a local church community. Furthermore, they were shocking, startling events that were now circulating online. “Nooooooooooo, Mama”, I howled. “…You MUST BE mistaken?! THIS is impossible to believe!!! Yet, in the midst of the shock, I became fixated with finding the story, rooting it out, going online to pull the story up myself TO SEE IT WITH MY VERY OWN EYES.
Therefore, I grabbed my trusty laptop…and got to work sleuthing online for proof of the story’s veracity….and sure enough, I found it. I was startled, hammered, in utter disbelief. And yet, I was also giddy that I had found the story, possess this knowledge and could access all the horrid details on my own. I found it. IIIIIIIII FOUND IT.
Consequently, as if I was taken over by the spirit of a rabid paparazzi---I NEEDED TO REPOST THIS STORY…I MUST REPOST THIS NOW…MUST POST BEFORE DINNER FOR GLOBAL DOMINATIOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN---echoed the thoughts in my swampy head!!!
It became my right, my cause, my civic duty to repost the story for a small group of my intimates who I didn’t think had heard “the news”.
And so I did: under the guise of posting the devastation so that they could supposedly “pray for the church”, I re-shared the article with them. Upon reading my thoughts, my discrete circle of folks began to respond with shock, deep sadness, dismay and fiery defiance concerning the events.
Curiously, though, over the following hours, I developed a dull, but persistent headache---as one does with any good hangover. As I turned the story over and over in my mind, THE WORSE I FELT ABOUT REPOSTING THE STORY.
After finishing my evening chores, I sat on the stairs outside my child’s room in the dark. I felt the Holy Spirit rising up in my consciousness as I began to ask myself:
---Why would you want to associate yourself with THIS STORY (even if only psychically) by virtue of sharing it with others?
---You would never want any family member, friend or colleague to experience this kind of epic public humiliation…SO PARTICIPATE IN IT BY INFLICTING THE STORY ON OTHERS?
---This is the time of year to focus on the life of Christ…So are you sooooooooo intoxicated with worldly titillation that you might as well be in the crowd shouting “…give us Barabbas” to the extent that you are ghoulishly gawking at the suffering of God’s servant?
As I sat on the stairs feeling convicted, sick, guilty and DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED IN MYSELF, I returned to Facebook, removed the post and asked the group for forgiveness for my participation in this virtual “casting of lots” over another person’s flesh for the sake of “sharing some information”.
I cannot tell you if my loved ones accepted my apology as I have not returned to Facebook since I deleted the post. The entire ordeal spooked me profoundly and showed me a hideous side of myself that I need to address.
It has only been four days since I’ve been away from the site---which is a lot for a Facebook addict. And yet, I FEEL THE EFFECTS OF DISCONNECTING PROFOUNDLY. I am still coming to terms with how easily it was for me to get swept up in a scandal---perhaps because the idea and the actual television program of the same name have become so popular in the culture.
Secondly, being disconnected from Facebook makes my life feel flatter, slower, less dizzying, more tangible and calmer. It is as if I’ve stepped off of the info-tainment treadmill and found my footing back in my own life again.
I feel more sober and steadier: freed from the endless striving to belong (or seem to belong); freed from the motivation to “perform” a good life, an interesting life and eventful life; freed from the cravings to post something for the supposed good of others; freed from the desire to be noticed, liked, affirmed by the opinions of others.
Somehow, we have become convinced that our lives---our very selves---don’t matter unless we can be seen, viewed, consumed electronically by others. Ironically, this very same phenomena was at the core of this scandal that has compromised this powerfully anointed faith leader.
Ironically, I gave up baked goods for Lent because I was tired of the stronghold pastries and sweet treats had become for me. And yet, this episode on Facebook has made me profoundly aware of the impact of social media on me, my wavering discernment in the wake of social media and how easy it is to perpetuate the suffering of other with the click of a mouse.
So, on this good Friday, as I reflect on my own recent dilemma, I recall Christ’s journey to the cross---a ghastly public spectacle of cruelty, suffering and crucifixion.
Thus, I also plead: FATHER, FORGIVE ME and diminish my appetite for the suffering of others in all its forms. Amen and may a Blessed Weekend be yours!
Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD, is currently a visiting lecturer for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of African American Studies.
She is also the author of TANGLED, an award-winning play that examines gun violence in Chicago: http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/nicole-anderson-cobb-phd/tangled-a-dramedy-about-gun-violence-in-the-age-of-obama/paperback/product-20930899.html
Finally, she is also the convening playwright of The GunPlay(s) Competition 2013-2014, a competition focused on plays that examine gun violence in American life. For more information: http://www.samaritanroadproductions.com/contact-nicole-anderson-cobb-phd-at-samaritan-road-productions.htm