Writings by Cole Huffman

The Hatchling is Tweeting

Below will appear as an article in our church's newsletter in April.  If you attend First Evan, think of this as an advanced copy.
A couple of years ago I was asked by a friend in another city if I was on Facebook.  “No, I don’t exist,” was my chuckling reply and we laughed together about my intentional digital vagabondery.  E-mail and our church website served as my virtual homeless shelters—addresses for anyone seeking me in cyberspace and proof I wasn’t a total Luddite.   
I’m still not on Facebook.  But for a month now I have been blogging (http://colehuffman.blogspot.com/, and for The Commercial Appeal at http://faithinmemphis.com/), and tweeting (@colehuffman or http://twitter.com/colehuffman).  I also established a profile on LinkedIn after years of trashing their invitation e-mails, and established a second e-mail address for my iPad.  I’m even an Amazon Associate, meaning they’ve given me permission to link my blog to their site so my readers can buy books directly through Where Is The Fourth? Now if I can just figure out how to do that!  One of my kids will know….
“What a breach you have made for yourself!” (Gen. 38:29), Tamar’s midwife exclaimed as Perez emerged from his mother even though his twin brother Zerah extended his arm out first.  I am a social media hatchling (Twitter’s logo is a bird), and no doubt some friends in my church and abroad are surprised.  But I waited full-term before “making a breach” for myself with social technologies.  Even five years ago I fear I’d have been a rather immature Twitterer.  The immature Twitterer will often succumb to the temptation to be a snarky twit.  Hey, I ought to tweet that!
For many, social media seems about as redemptive as the relationship that begat Perez and Zerah (see the story in Genesis 38).  I understand those concerns, when people say blogs are for gestating vanities and tweeting for incubating inanities.  Many believe Facebook gives birth to a kind of Rosemary’s Baby as its users capitulate to the radically self-absorbed spirit of the day, sacrificing decorum and sensibility for social success and popularity.  It’s not quite the Whore of Babylon (Rev. 18), but users might as well go ahead and stamp 666 on themselves! 
But in the spirit of the Genesis 38 family’s mention in Matthew 1:1-3, social media can certainly be redeemed.  Yes, people do like to tweet where and what they ate for lunch or ramble on in their blogs about things not worth the time and effort to read or write.  But social media opens avenues for the gospel as well.  I’ll bet Solomon, as fond of writing proverbial sayings as he was, would have had a Twitter account (@Qoheleth).   
We’re told now that having a digital identity in the marketplace of information is equivalent to establishing a credit line for yourself, which renders you identifiable to lenders in the marketplace of goods and services.  The analogy may be overdrawn but the point is the world continues to digitize and lends goodwill to those who follow (“follow” being the operative word of Twitter).  Facebook and Twitter may phase out eventually, giving way to newer or trendier connectivity tools.  I imagine hearing my children tell me a decade or two from now: “Dad, your blog is like so 2011!”
Eventually, I’d like to do a short sermon series on the intersections of technology and faith because Christians either unthinkingly adopt social media in an attempt to be just like everyone else or resist it just so they will not be like everyone else.  Neither pole is a wise perch.  As I said, my breach into the pixelated world came after a full gestation period of pondering and observing the usefulness of these tools.  I’d seen enough to know I didn’t want to use a blog for sharing vanities or Twitter for tweeting inanities, although I do like to have some fun with it: quirky observations, lighthearted links, etc.—stuff that makes one smile as well as think. 
When my wife Lynn learned what Twitter was and read my initial tweets, she said, “This thing was made for you!”  She knows how I love words “fitly spoken” (Prov. 25:11).  I love pitching in the small verbal strike zone of 140 characters max.  For the longest time I believed an e-mail account was sufficient for me.  But slowly I realized there was ministry opportunity in social media outlets, and the familiar gospel call of “follow me” took on a new connotation. 
So in the same spirit of Paul who wrote, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), I invite you to join me along my digital way as I try to use these mediums and forums “to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  Borrowing from Apollo 11 (and as an old Eagle Scout), I often use the phrase “the eagle has landed” when my plane lands to announce my safe arrival to family, friends, and hosts.  Now I add “the hatchling is tweeting” to announce my safe arrival in what can be a rather strange cyber-land, admittedly.  But I’m glad to finally be here.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 7:43 PM
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