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1200696-bigthumbnailSo I work with a Catholic and a Muslim – which makes for some interesting conversations, and the shared wisdom of these two wonderful people is something I cannot ignore.

Digression – I’ve come across “Christians” who would sadly dismiss anything either of my colleagues say. They would see it as invalid as coming from an “unreliable source”. I’ve actually spoken to people calling themselves Christians who feel they have more affinity with Muslims than with Catholics – in their eyes, being a Catholic takes you further away from Christian theology than Islam does. How much wisdom, care, love, fellowship and community are they missing out on to dismiss a whole section of God’s people? There’s a part of me that would say “Their loss”, but when one part of my Faith Community rejects another, that’s my loss too. Because it hurts the whole community, the “Church”, when we dismiss one another’s stories and hurts the mission of “The Church” when we are seen as separate entities, as indifferent to one another, as dismissive and patronising to each other. Jesus said that people would know we were his disciples by our love for each other – this means when we are indifferent to/dismissive of the stories and ideas of another part of God’s Family just because their culture is strange to us, we are stepping outside of God’s idea of Community and stepping outside of knowing God himself more (more on indifference and Love in a later Blog). As for My lovely Muslim Friend, again I see him as my brother in Faith, perhaps with a misunderstanding of God and what it means to follow him – though he would probably say the same of me – but my brother nonetheless. And one of great Wisdom.

So back to our conversations – our most recent conversation of interest revolved around the phenomenon of Facebook and “Social Networking”. My Muslim Friend Earfan was sharing with us the story of the address in Mosque recently where the Priest (is that the right word – showing my ignorance now *hangs head in shame*) was talking about the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter et al and how he thought it was a threat to family and community. My Catholic Friend, the lovely Donna who has 2 daughters expressed her exasperation that her elder daughter insists of carrying out “face time” conversations with school friends she’s just spent all day with. I can understand the face time hesitance – there’s an element of invasion of family privacy, a potential for overstepping boundaries that makes it one of those things that is really unnecessary but desired by many in order to “keep up with the Jones’s”.  Earfan just came out with something that really home with me, especially in the light of this Blog – he said “ Facebook attempts to fulfil people’s need for community but essentially fails because it’s just the appearance of community.”

Wow. I think that’s pretty profound. And I believe it’s right.

Now don’t get me wrong, I use Facebook and Twitter and find them a useful part of my life, and as a (newish) Blogger am part of contributing to this worldwide internet community. But where I agree with Earfan is that there are many out there who are substituting their whole “Real World” community for Facebook. They are giving themselves a pass on investing face to face time and energy into friendships, into family, into community in real blood and guts ways because they have this world wide connection and collection of people who are their “friends”.

But building and investing in community is more than sharing statuses. It’s more than just letting people know the veneer information that you let them know. Humans are designed to read not just words, but faces and bodies – and so much can be hidden behind words. And then there’s the status you update when you are utterly wasted that can potentially kill friendships.

Don’t just settle for words on a screen. True, they can help keep you in touch with people who are far away, and even help you organise group activities close to home. But the healing power of a hug cannot be duplicated in cyberspace – even by a cyber hug (*hugs*).

Why does it even matter what kind of community we settle for? Why does community itself matter? And what has it got to do with Story? ……