This corporate plan to bring religion into Facebook has a cold, steely feel to it.
Facebook and religion go together like… nothing. They don’t go together. Yet the social media giant that regularly creates obstacles to the truth – such as against the pro-life group – has religion as its sights.
The New York Times reported, Facebook’s Next Target: Religious Experience. The subtitle : “The company is stepping up formal partnerships with religious groups across the United States and shaping the future of religious experience.
This word “shape” gets stuck in my brain. Facebook has tried to “shape” a lot of things about our lives. And now they’re diving into religion? Funny. Stick to smart memes, Facebook, and how about starting to let pro-life groups share the truth about the sanctity of unborn human life.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went from Jewish to atheist to some sort of belief in God with a friendly nod to Buddhism. He even met Pope Francis in August 2016. Awesome. But when the truth is blocked – a specialty of Facebook for certain topics – it is incompatible with religion.
My own Catholic faith is not a matter of scheduling. (Note: clergy living lies are not ambassadors of Catholic truth.) We could be accused of having an agenda, but that’s only true if you can tell Jesus has one, which I guess. what he really does – want souls in heaven with him for all eternity. First-century enemies tried to cancel it because they didn’t want to hear about the renunciation of sin or the cost of salvation. They did not want to believe that Jesus, with only an army of sinners and sandals clad disciples preaching repentance, had to be heard.
Of course, Jesus was not cancelled. He was resurrected. And the culture of cancellation of his time, from Rome and elsewhere, could not prevent the spread of the gospels. Even the martyrdom of his followers did not stop the spread.
Facebook opposes inconvenient truths, with many blocked by pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family groups. Going back to the subtitle, what might “shaping the future of religious experience” mean? It begins with a non-disclosure statement, according to an article on Get Religion: “I imagine that to learn more, readers should hear from some of the participants in this innovative online work. But there is a problem with that. Asked about specifics, an official from the Atlanta branch of the trendy Hillsong church could not answer because “he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.”
Last spring, Facebook tested a prayer post feature where members of certain Facebook groups could post prayer requests and others could respond to them. “The idea for the prayer posts grew out of the myriad ways users connected on Facebook while walking away during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the spokesperson. “Our mission to empower people to build community extends to the largest community in the world; the faith community,” Nona Jones, head of global faith partnerships at Facebook, said in a written statement to Religion News Service. Jones, a pastor of a Protestant church with her husband, explained, “We are committed to finding ways to create tools that help people connect with hope on Facebook.”
Hope is a wonderful thing. But Facebook? They have an image problem among people with traditional Christian values and conservative politics. I personally know Facebook censorship from one of my pages, who routinely inflict punishments such as shadow bans and threats of page confiscation for failing to meet their community standards.
A corporate plan to bring religion into Facebook has a cold, steely feel. My Religion often arrives on Facebook without their plan. I regularly see prayer requests, prayer offers for intentions during worship, and faith-inspired memes and Catholic posts being shared on Facebook. Otherwise, I have the sacraments, in particular the Holy Eucharist and confession, which do not go through social networks. With the sacrament of confession, the priest in the person of Christ is ready to lay down his own life rather than breaking the seal of the confessional. Compare that to the recent Facebook data breach, which exposed over 500 million users to hacked phone numbers, full names, locations, email addresses and other biographical information that could be used to commit fraud.
These things happen everywhere, don’t they? And yes, Church databases can be hacked too. Virtual religious supporters also admit that it won’t replace in-person experiences. So, am I being too cynical that the world’s biggest social media influencer decides to add religion to their services? I do not think so. I don’t expect sacred results.