Strangers Our Neighbors & Our Neighbors Strangers

I’m presently reading Man: Christian Anthropology in the Conflicts of the Present by Jurgen Moltmann and I am amazed by something Dr. Moltmann wrote when this book was published in 1971. Here’s the quote that I have been sharing with quite a few people recently:

“A new collective or expansive consciousness is brought about through television. Man becomes a contemporary of men who are far distant and takes part in their sufferings. A new consciousness arises through constant participation in culture, economics, and politics. One becomes a participant in ever widening circles. An unbounded consciousness of solidarity arises from this. The most distant become neighbours, although often at the same time one’s neighbours become unknown strangers.” p. 24.

The italics are mine to emphasize what I think is so amazing. As I write this I sit in the middle of Emy J’s coffee shop, surrounded by people I know, respect, enjoy, and love. People who I spend a lot of time listening to and talking with. HOWEVER I could just as easily use the internet to be involved in the lives of people all around the world that I will never meet and basically sit solitary in the midst of this coffee shop. What Dr. Susan Turkle calls “Alone Together.” The quote from Dr. Moltmann sounds like it could have been written yesterday regarding “social” media and the influence it has in our society right now. “Knowing” people all over the world without knowing the people who live next door to us.

There is a ton of good that can come from social media. I used it today to spread the word concerning Tapestry providing the meal at the Place of Peace this week. It is a very effective method for me to be able to connect with others so that together we can be engaged in our community with the love of Christ. At the same time, just as their is a ton of good that can come from social media, there is also just as much bad that can come with it. It enables us to become best “friends” with people who we will never actually meet in real life, while ingoring the people around us who are actually physically a part of our lives. Social media can allow us to disenage with the people around us who “just don’t get it” because they don’t agree with us, while engaging with an ever shrinking group of people who completely agree with us (and that group shrinks each time we realize that someone doesn’t think the exact same as you or I – wait I just realized you don’t like basset hounds as much as I do. I’m sorry you are no longer a part of the group.).

So is the media in your life bringing your closer to those both far away and close to you, or do you find that you are caring more and more for people who you will never meet, while simultaneously caring less and less for the people you actually physically are around?

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