Facebook Failure

Pastor Andy Romstad
Cambridge Lutheran Church

“Jesus, save me from pity, sympathy and people discussing me.” – Morrissey

I joined Facebook. Good grief! Wait, just a second. I’ve got to check my page. I’ll be right back. I’m back. That only took 17 minutes. There were important updates. Someone had a post about a Nintendo Reversible Messenger bag. There was also a post about the all-time worst injuries on Beavis & Butthead.

Last time I joined Facebook was July 2008. After 30 days, I only had two friends. I quit. I couldn’t take the shame. I started getting messages that said, “Romstad, lots of friends you’ve got there.” I was a Facebook failure. Someday, that’ll be the title of my autobiography.

When I rejoined, I feared that happening again. I quickly emailed a dozen relatives that couldn’t possibly say no. (I thought?) I’m still waiting on two. I’m sure it is just an oversight. And then there were the wonderful people that found me immediately. God bless you, you facebook extroverts who delivered me from shame. One had 770+ plus friends. I have 7.  I may not have a lot of friends but I’m his friend.  It’s not quantity but quality.

I only rejoined because people kept shaming me: “You’re not on Facebook?” No. I’m a Facebook failure. I asked a pastor what happens if you ask to “friend” someone and they don’t answer. “That means you’re a loser,” he said. “Facebook is basically like reliving high school.” Thanks pastor.

I’ve been giving some thought to what old Rev. Forde from Starbuck, my teacher of confessional theology, might have thought of Facebook. Let’s see. Step #1: Thou shalt build a shrine unto thyself. Step #2 — Devote it to all your “likes”. Step #3 – Invite only friends. Step #4 – Worship there, daily.  Step #5 – Click ad links to contribute to Mr. Zuckerberg’s billions.

I’m not sure Forde would have been convinced. It doesn’t sound terribly Lutheran or Minnesotan. (And, as Garrison Keillor once suggested, if you’re from Minnesota, you’re Lutheran even if you’re not, or don’t know it.)

Forde might have shared the story Jesus once told about a man who held a banquet. He got everything ready and invited all his friends. They all politely ignored his friend requests. No one said yes. So, he hurriedly sent all his servants into “all the streets and alleys of the town, all the roads and country lanes” to invite the poor, the friendless, the weary, the meek and the mild, and anyone who’d bother to say yes – basically, all the facebook failures. For them, he threw a gigantic party. He called the Kingdom of God.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked church – I’m a facebook failure. Maybe that’s why I am a Christian. People have to like me. Jesus commands it.  Love your neighbor. Do life with them. Pray for your enemies. Everyone is welcome. Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit and all of that. I think the church was designed for people that have trouble getting friends on facebook.

Frances Chan, who used to be a pastor out in California, built a church that was so cool, so happening and so big, he wondered if Jesus moved to town, if Jesus would even go to it? Jesus might participate elsewhere, he speculated. Jesus might participate in the church where everyone is a bit too dysfunctional, high-maintenance or sinful. Those are the folks Jesus tended to gravitate toward and send friend requests to.

I sound like an anti-facebook contrarian but my pastor friends keep telling me good ministry happens on Facebook.  So, maybe I’ll just stay as an inactive member like some of the people at my church.

I see that there is now a page devoted to old Rev. Forde, my confessions teacher. His friends built him a shrine. All is lost.

Or, perhaps, there is hope? He taught that God can redeem anything – you and me included.