Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On followers and following

Recently I've had a number of new followers on Twitter. I'm not sure why those people chose to follow me. I haven't been especially active lately although I have posted links to a couple of my sermons and blog entries. Maybe they read those things and wanted to read more. Maybe they simply clicked on one of the suggestions Twitter loves to list on our pages. You know the ones "this person is like you so you should follow them."

In some of the cases, I suspect some of them follow me because my Twitter name is @revmariat and I describe myself as pastor of an open and affirming multicultural Disciples of Christ church. It seems to me, however, that the only similar point in our bios is a reference to Christ. And I am quite sure that many of them miss the meaning of "open and affirming" altogether.

My newest follower has a bio that includes phrases like "giver of hope" and "conduit of God's love." I don't quite get it. Mind you, I have nothing against giving hope or sharing God's love with the world. That is what I preach every Sunday and it is what I try to do. As far as I can tell, this is what Jesus calls all of us to do. I just wonder whether such a self-description might not be hubris.

I quickly checked the Twitter bios of my other followers. It didn't take long as I only have 423 right this minute. Many of the preacher/teacher folks describe themselves with words and phrases like follower of Jesus, loves God, reaching out to the untouchable, smart aleck, curmudgeon. A large number of them name their work - pastor, teacher, advisor, blogger, author. Some speak of being a seeker or a person on a journey to know themselves and God better. Those words and phrases are in the bios of most of the preacher/teacher folks I follow as well.

This newest of my followers is not the first whose bio reads this way. Most of those, however, have unfollowed me within a few days or weeks. Again, I don't know whether that's because I don't tweet a lot or because they have read my tweets, sermons and blog entries and finally figured out what open and affirming means. I understand them unfollowing however, because I have noticed that in most cases I did not follow them back.

Don't get me wrong. I get a little thrill when I get a new follower even if it's a robo-follow because I said "massage" or "car." But I don't follow spas or car dealers or other commercial enterprises. Likewise, I don't see the point in following people with whom I disagree on the basics of Christ's message which was always one of radical inclusion, never one of rejection or exclusion. I don't see the point in following people who think their particular belief system makes them somehow superior to any other human in the world or that they have a right to try to impose that belief system on other people. I don't see the point in following anyone who thinks "loving" the other means trying to change the very fabric of that person's being.

On the other hand, I do choose to follow anyone who speaks of serving the other, loving the unlovely, unloved and unloveable, welcoming the outcaste, caring for the earth as if our lives depended on it, reminding others of God's unconditional love and forgiveness. In other words, people who speak as the gospels tell me Jesus did and try to act as Jesus directed us to act.

And, just in case you were wondering - Open and Affirming means that our congregation welcomes and affirms people of every age, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, economic status, legal status and family structure into the full membership, leadership, ministry and sacramental life of the congregation.

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