Unfriending God On Facebook (Published In The Huffington Post)

prayer handsIt wasn’t the first time I woke up to something like this on my Facebook newsfeed: “Grandma is sick and we’re not sure how long she has… Please keep her in your thoughts and send prayers our way.”

Maybe I was just cranky from the 6am back-to-school schedule we’re on, but I wondered if grandma would be upset that her privacy had been violated. I also wondered if grandma had an active presence on social media. Is it okay to ask 500 friends (mostly strangers, if we’re being honest) for such personal favors? Maybe it’s no big deal? Even at this early hour of the morning, several followers pledged their prayers for grandma, and I wondered why I wasn’t doing the same, which was already too much pre-sunrise thinking for me.

I don’t know the friend who asked for prayers very well. In fact, like many of our friends on Facebook, I haven’t spoken with her in about 30 years. But there we are liking each other’s photos and pretending we have some semblance of a grasp on each other’s lives. If comments and “likes” on a prayer request make someone else’s day, why not oblige? Sending my prayers seemed kind of personal, especially because I tend to reserve them for private matters, but it probably wouldn’t hurt… Generally I avoid asking too much of God, as I know that he/she is already cutting me way more slack than I deserve.

Facebook is used in many valid as well as ridiculous ways, and each of us has a rigid opinion on what’s appropriate. But I think we can all agree that our hundreds (sometimes thousands) of friends, are not really “friends.”

On the morning of Yom Kippur eve, a global pre-holiday apology flashed across my Facebook newsfeed: “Dear Friends and Family: On this day of atonement, I’m asking for your forgiveness for anything hurtful that I may have done in the past year…”

And she was not alone. I saw several such posts throughout the day. For Jews, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. It’s the day that we are closest to God and ask forgiveness for our sins through reflection, repentance and fast. I’m pretty sure that regardless of how observant we may or may not be, a Facebook post that resembles a chain letter, does not absolve us of sin or discharge our obligation to sincerely repent. I almost expected to see a line promising seven years of bad luck if you don’t repost…

Have we gone too far?

Before Facebook became a bulletin board for repentance, I thought prayer requests were taking it too far. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe there’s no harm in asking strangers for good karma, especially, if it hurts no one and makes the recipient feel good. Contrary to my public blogging persona, I’m intensely private, and would have a hard time asking hundreds of people for prayers. Just because I don’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong and I understand that in times of need, this easy access to others serves a purpose. I also believe in the power of collective consciousness – I’m just not convinced that Facebook comments can stir the desired divine effect.

This is the first time I’ve seen public apologies on Facebook, and I can’t shake the feeling that now I’ve seen it all. Public apologies not only take it too far, but distort the meaning of dedicating ourselves to atonement. Jews are commanded to fast for 25 hours on Yom Kippur – it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be personal and sincere. A Facebook post makes a mockery of the human interaction, reconciliation and earnest reflection that should be taking place. An apology should not be a global one-way message – it should be heartfelt and maybe hurt a little. If you really think you’ve wronged someone, shouldn’t you deliver the message personally and accept the consequences of the response? Maybe they have something to say? Maybe, also, you should be good to yourself and be present to accept and embrace the forgiveness that may be offered? Otherwise it’s nothing but a distorted perception of a discharged obligation.

Mass spirituality on social media is a dilution of true reflection. Perhaps it’s time to unfriend God on Facebook and keep him in your soul where he belongs.


One Reply to “Unfriending God On Facebook (Published In The Huffington Post)”

  1. Let me comment on this. I of course I am torn by a lot of it because I’m a bit OCDed and I’m always looking for a logical explanation and a physical engineered fix for problems.

    So look at this logically. First let’s assume you believe in God so Atheists please go away this does not concern you. Assuming God is there, and there is only one God for the sake of this argument, he must be the top level of the Universe that we can perceive and perhaps the top level of many universe’s.

    We have seen prayer work for thousands of years in some unexplained fashion. True sometimes we think it’s prayer and it’s just plain dumb luck. Other times the impossible happens. That medical miracle, that manna from the sky. It does happen and there is no physically detectable reason for the miracle. It just happens and it happens in response to prayers.

    Those effective prayers are not postings on Facebook. They are not spinning a prayer wheel fast enough for you to automated your prayers in some ancient manner. Those postings are no more effective than recording prayers on a small tape recorded loop and leaving it in a pew of the nearest church until the battery wears down.

    There is no human connection. I can’t pretend to know how God communicates with us or how we communicate with God. I believe god want US to communicate with HIM not an electronic extension of ourselves not another human using an electronic extension f them selves on our behalf.

    You must participate. You must make the effort. Your brain must be fully engaged in acceptance and belief. Then and only then can we as humans, in some manner yet to be explained by science, connect with the spiritual ether of the universe and actually hope to have an impact on this human physical side of the universe. God is perhaps the ultimate conduit for the combine good of mankind. He doesn’t use Facebook. Do I need to tell you who the other conduit is for the collective evil of mankind?

    If you want prayers make that physical connection with that other person. Let them hear your pleas. Combine yours with theirs. Then above all don’t forget to pray yourself with all sincerity. Don’t rely on the masses of humanity you see every day walking down the streets with their heads buried in those tiny screens just before they meet their maker after walking into the street or a pole because of their own dumb ass inattention to life as it actually exists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *