What’s Your Facebook Profile Religious View? Why?

We had an interesting discussion in my Faith and Leadership class this week. We’re reading Diana Butler Bass’ book, Christianity After Religion and one of my students asked this as a response question for class discussion:

Chapter 2 discusses how people “deeply committed to Christianity” often dislike labeling themselves directly as “Christian.” What does your Facebook profile say about your faith/religious views? Why did you choose the wording or label that you did?

Jesus Facebook

I found the ensuing short conversation fascinating and, perhaps, revealing possibilities for future research areas.

First, of the students who shared at least, all had some sort of careful reasoning behind why they did chose the Facebook religion label that they did. This was not some off-the-cuff decision, but a thoughtful negotiation of Facebook as a platform to construct and manage identity. (This recalls some of Sherry Turkle’s research presented in Alone Together, though Turkle addresses bands likes and photos rather than religious identity, if my memory serves me.)

Secondly, we talked a lot about audience awareness. Students mentioned how their Facebook religious view had something to do with what people would think about their religious view or lack thereof, how others would interpret it. Relatedly, Bass notes this is sort of a recurring theme in recent Christianity — folks searching for a label or a language to claim identity without being lumped in with all Christians. So, they say they’re a “Jesus follower.” Or, a student appreciated, “an apprentice of Jesus.”

Finally, it was interesting to hear that some students simply claimed their denominational affiliation, while for others it’s exactly denominational Christianity that they’re hoping to move beyond.

Why does this matter? Well, it makes me wonder about future research possibilities for one. How might one go about cataloging what young adults hope to communicate by their Facebook religious views? How do their Facebook religious views connect to their religious views expressed elsewhere — such as on a college admissions forms or surveys?

I bet interviews with young adults about why they chose the Facebook religion views they do would be revealing, but not in any simply “who believes what” sort of way. They’d show how young adults — or any group, for that matter — use new media to communicate complex religious matters with cultural sophistication.

Mostly, though, I’m reminded about the fascinating, changing ways religion and new media interact. Just look at what pops up when I started typing “Jesus” into my Facebook religion box!

How do you claim a religious view on Facebook? What’s in your mind as you do? 

Comments

  1. Even as a seminary graduate and ordained clergy in a major mainline denomination (not to mention a borderline Gen-X/Millennial), I also struggled with how to label myself on Facebook. “ELCA Lutheran” was accurate from a group identity perspective, but didn’t seem to describe the complexity and nuance of my own personal theology. “Relational Trinitarian Panentheist” has more complexity, but goes WAY too far toward the obscure jargon-y end of the spectrum.

    How do you capture complexity and nuance in only a couple words, without sounding either elitist or ironic?

  2. Interesting…really! The query is for “Religion” but shows up on “About” as “Religious Views.” I’ve characterized mine as “Multiple Spirituality Disorder” because I consult with churches across denominations and, at this point in personal time, cannot/will not claim fealty to one single institutional expression of Christianity. I’ve also listed my “Political Views” as “Mercy, Kindness, & Justice.” I believe this makes me a Boomer in Millennial clothing?

  3. This is interesting, and something I’ve struggled with. I’m 28 (so right on the verge of the Millennials, depending on which definition you use) and starting my masters in family therapy. I’ve left the religious section blank, but I’ve also listed my employment as youth director at a Lutheran church and my graduation from a historically Methodist university. Anyone who spends much time on my facebook sees my statuses of joy at the triumphs of the youth I work with and pictures of them in service, prayer requests, and cries of kyrie eleison linked to news stories. They can see that I belong to several groups affiliated with Christianity. I guess the label of “Christian” makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable, knowing that Christians as a whole have hurt so many people that I love: my Muslim friends in the US, my college friends who have been hurt by well-meaning Christian ministries who push the “Jesus saves and you are going to hell” angle, my friends in South America who are still feeling the effects of colonialism after generations. The label of “Lutheran” or “ELCA” seems even more limiting and confusing–particularly since I appreciate and sometimes crave the high church experience of the Episcopalian church, the inclusivity of the UCC, the familiarity of my Methodist roots, the spirit and music of the AME, the way of life found through practices of St. Francis and the Benedictine traditions, the meditation and prayer that I find through yoga practice. I’m open and happy to talk about my faith, but I guess I’m still squeamish about putting a label on it.
    But I’ve also had friends call me out that if I’m not open to calling myself a Christian, how dedicated am I really to my faith? What kind of model am I setting for evangelism–particularly since I work with youth?
    Any thoughts welcomed here :)

  4. I put “Progressive Christian- UCC” on mine. So far, so good. I almost put “Let’s just agree to disagree” because that’s how religious conversations with my extended family always end up…

Leave a Reply