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When it comes to technology, many religions and their leaders try to walk a fine line.
In Victoria, B.C., where ParetoLogic is proudly located, Pastor Brenda of Grace Lutheran Church fasts from technology every Friday. However, she believes that technology does help her church connect with its members. Grace Lutheran has a website and uses email to communicate with its congregation. As well, its youth group utilizes Facebook.
"Giving up something, whatever it is, is all about creating space ..... a spiritual space," the Pastor wrote in an email interview.
Over the past few years, spring media reports have been chockfull of stories about people giving up Facebook and other technology for Lent. The idea is to give up a vice or habit (chocolate and smoking are popular choices) in part as a reminder of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent wandering in the desert.
"With giving up something like Facebook (which I know from some parishioners is addictive), it would be about creating an inner space, and time, for reflection and focus upon one's relationship with God," Pastor Brenda wrote.
A March 19 Topeka Capital-Journal article reported how 23-year-old account executive Brie Engelken was giving up Facebook for Lent. Even before it was over, the experience taught her that Facebook for her was not just about wasting time and gossiping.
"It's about being a part of something bigger than myself. ... For me, it's about staying connected with friends, and being included in a conversation I would not normally be included in," Engelken was quoted as saying. She did not cut technology out of her Lent life completely. In Facebook's place, she turned to Twitter, Gmail, texting and phone calls to keep in touch with family, friends and clients.
While some Christians were giving up social media for Lent, others were flocking to it. Australia's Christian Today website reported on March 17 that Easter (Live) was available on Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter page retells the Easter story with tweets from nine charcters. As well, the Facebook and Twitter pages asked the question "What does Easter mean to you?" The hope was that it would be inspiring to church leaders for their sermons as well as believers in general.
The Roman Catholic Church cautiously increased its social media presence in recent months. Pope Benedict XVI has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. In a January, he urged other Catholic church leaders to embrace technology to reach out.
"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generations of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis," he was quoted as saying in a March 11 Orlando Sentinel article.
The Catholic Church issued some rules, however, for the Church use of social media. For example, the Sentinel reported that parishes are instructed to disable the comment features on popular sites. The Orlando Diocese opted to go even further and prohibit blogs.
"Blogging is 'I can comment on that,' and that is what we don't allow," Orlando Diocese spokeswoman Carole Brinati was quoted as saying. "Some people feel this is shortsighted, but that is our policy."
She explained that the church wants to use social media to get its message out. It does not, Brinati said, intend to start a debate, invite opinions or open a dialogue.
"With social media, everyone has a voice and can say what they want," Rev. Anthony Pogorelc, a research fellow at Catholic University's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies in Washington, told the Sentinel. "In the system of the Catholic Church, more weight is given to the key spokespersons – the bishops or leaders of the church – and what they say."
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