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“Ask a Priest: Are Prayer Postings Suitable on Facebook?”
Q: On religious posts on Facebook, many people will write prayers in the comments. While this may be well-intentioned, it seems wrong. It’s not as though God checks Facebook every night to see what the prayers are, and it seems like it’s what Jesus is teaching against in Matthew 6:1-8. The only reason you write something on Facebook is so it will be seen by other people; writing personal prayers in comments looks like the poster is saying, “Hey everyone, see how pious I am?” Also, there are many posts that will have a quote or Bible verse and say something along the lines of “If you agree, type ‘Amen’ in the comments.” To me, this cheapens whatever was quoted in the post, and it makes the post more about getting a higher number of comments than really reflecting on the quote. Many of the pages on Facebook that have these problems are run by Catholic organizations. Shouldn’t the organizations discourage these kinds of posts? What are your thoughts? – J.R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: On balance it might be a good thing that folks on Facebook are so open about their faith and prayer intentions.
One of the dangers today is that the wider society tries to silence talk of Our Lord and religion. This trend should be resisted, and if Facebook is one avenue for religious expression, so be it. The alternative might be that talk of God increasingly fades from the public arena, which isn’t good.
True, there might be folks who go overboard or who don’t do things with the purest motives. But that is life.
We shouldn’t be too quick to try to squelch religious expression on social media. It is a bit like Joshua telling Moses to silence Eldad and Medad, who were unexpectedly prophesying in the Israelite camp. Rather than dissuade them, Moses retorted, “If only all the people of the LORD were prophets!” (Numbers 11:29).
Our mission is to live the Gospel and to share it as best we can with the world. Even when shared imperfectly, it can be still be a means for the Spirit to work.
That said, not everyone will feel moved to share or express their faith in this way. There is room for diversity in how we bear witness to the Lord. And so it is understandable why certain methods of doing so might rub you the wrong way. You certainly shouldn’t feel obliged to respond or engage with them.
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