From today's Gospel lesson, in the Gospel of John:
The two disciples heard [John the Baptist] say ["Behold the Lamb of God"], and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, 'What are you looking for?' They said to him, 'Rabbi' (which translated means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.
Shortly after reading this this morning I stopped over at Scot McKnight's blog on Beliefnet, where he's been talking about a new book by a social researcher named Jean Twenge -- my apologies if I mess up the spelling -- discussing the emotional ills of today's young people. He talked about Twenge's assertion that today's teenagers suffer from, to use his own phrase, a kind of social anorexia -- social malnutrition caused by the empty calories of texting, Twittering and otherwise engaging with others only in the most soulless and superficial of ways.
My initial reaction was -- "Hey, wait a minute!" I've not yet warmed up to Twitter, but I do frequent what a friend of mine calls Crackbook. I blog. I am a frequent flier on the Beliefnet discussion forums. I would be hard-pressed to describe any of these pursuits as qualitatively "empty" (well, maybe the never-ending memes on Facebook). Especially as someone living where I do, the online world allows me to meet people and to build relationships with them in a way that simply wouldn't happen in the boots-on-the-ground world. There's value in that.
But this week has been, by necessity, a very boots-on-the-ground week, literally dealing with matters of life and death in a physically immediate way. It's frankly been a week where it's been a godsend to be able to connect with people in a tangible way -- hugging the nurses who were taking care of Marian when she died; sitting across the sofa from my pastor, who stopped by yesterday to help us craft a funeral service but also just to talk; having the physical presence of Fellow Traveler here at times when I just needed to hang on to someone.
Living three-dimensionally with others is hard. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we still don't get all the emotional and social "food" we need to stay healthy, even in the midst of many people. But this is the place where life -- and death -- really happens. The world of words and ideas is one step removed from all this.
I think that's why we Christians, especially those of us at home online, often need to check ourselves to make sure that our Christianity is not being played out primarily on the yakkity level of "doing theology." We need face-to-face engagement with other Christians and with other human beings longing for social connection that matters. They, and we, need a "Come and see" that isn't just "Come and see my Facebook profile."
In what ways might I be experiencing "social anorexia" or contributing to that dis-ease in others? How can I more mindfully engage with the people I encounter in everyday life?