Yesterday at prayer we had a difficult reading from 1st Timothy, about household codes and the respective roles of men and women. I began thinking what a challenge it is to look at Scripture in the context of our culture and the culture of the time the New Testament was written. As I was pondering this all of a sudden a question popped into my head: Would Jesus tweet? Or maybe another way to put it: would Jesus think that people who tweet are twits (I couldn’t resist that one).
I don’t use Twitter and I don’t follow anyone’s tweets, but I know that you can only use up to 150 characters and this has become one of the newest examples of social media, allowing people to share with other people almost instantly. Twitter has developed a reputation for allowing people to share their most insipid thoughts instantly with hundreds or thousands of strangers. In the Doonesbury cartoon strip the journalist Roland Hedley famously tweeted: “my shorts r bunching. thoughts?”
All in all such a vapid way of communicating wouldn’t seem to be something that would fit into Jesus’ challenging, life-changing proclamations of the Reign of God or Benedict’s guide for living a life centered on God. But the more I thought about it I realized that maybe Twitter could be a deeply monastic, Gospel centered way of bringing us back to the center who is God.
Profundity has nothing to do with the number of words. Benedict has very little good to say about people who talk too much. He says that silence should be the norm in the monastery and a sign of advanced humility is to be very chary with words. So maybe wisdom can be contained in 150 characters or less. Certainly many touchstones of both Scripture and the Rule of Benedict are short, pithy sayings that would qualify as tweets.
In an early monastic text one wise monk said that the much of monastic life could be summed up in the verse from Scripture: “O God come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me.” What would happen if that appeared on our Twitter feed every day? Perhaps that could bring us back to mindfulness, our awareness of our dependence on God in the midst of our busyness and self-centeredness.
Maybe just before time for prayer we could receive a tweet that says “O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise” as we begin to focus on the task of prayer.
Would it help if periodically you could check your Blackberry during the day and see something like: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” or “I am the true vine.” We could stand in solidarity with Mary as we check in and read: “Let it be with me according to your word.” Perhaps Benedict could bring us up short by quoting Psalm 95 used in the first prayer of the day: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.”
Perhaps we take Paul’s advice and encourage one another, not just with “Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” but with short tweets of thanksgiving, insights, quotations and prayers. Could we simply remind one another and ourselves to simply “Listen!”
Perhaps it is quite appropriate that the name of this new application is Twitter. Unless we stop, pay attention, listen deeply and gratefully, the twitter of birds can simply be more background noise, something we don’t notice or appreciate. But twitter can also be a profound gift of sharing the music of creation. Maybe as we twitter we can also appreciate the gifts of God and call ourselves to mindfulness of God’s presence and love all around us even in the midst of noise and distraction.