Church Leaders All A-Twitter


(system) #1

The social networking phenomena known as Twitter has seriously taken hold in many Christian denominations – and notably so within Adventism. Adventist church leaders have long vowed never to repeat the same mistake made when they dissed H.M.S. Richards’ radio pioneering efforts. So now they eagerly embrace every new technology, wisely recognizing that this is much easier to manage than people.

And our leaders also realize that, especially within a conservative denomination like Adventism, many members really like following. So twitter is a natural. Sort of like an instantaneous and ongoing campmeeting.

At the recent NAD Spring Meetings in Silver Springs Md., much discussion focused on how to better exploit Twitter. There were multiple breakout sessions provided. Best attended were: WWJT (What Would Jesus Tweet?) and Tweeting the 28 – How to Communicate Doctrine in 140 Characters or Less.

Church leaders at all levels were exhorted to communicate frequently with faithful followers, known informally as Adventwits. This raised considerable discussion from the floor. Of course there was the issue of how to get anything done with so much texting taking place. But it was noted that with all the meetings they normally attended, there usually would be ample time. Surprisingly, the most intense debate centered on how to quote the Bible with fidelity when limited to 140 characters. Many verses are longer. One controversial suggestion was to omit vowels to meet the limitation. This was derisively labeled ‘shredded tweet’ by those most concerned with inerrancy. It looked for a time like the group was deadlocked until one conservative conference president provided a creative compromise. Omitting vowels would be ok as long as everyone used the King James Version and not more dangerous translations. There was an amendment proposed to add the Clear Word, but this was narrowly defeated.

But even with the luxury of committee meetings, finding enough tweeting time to meet the almost insatiable demand of followers has proved problematic. So Adventism has quietly turned to outsourcing – along with many other denominations, including Mormons and Catholics. A recently turned-public company – Tweets R Us (NasdaqGS: TRUS) has been retained to augment the actual tweets from church leadership. This provides more volume for adventwits to receive, while retaining a modicum of sanity for the harried administrator. The concept is simple. Each potential TRUS subscriber initially fills out a comprehensive ‘Tweet Harmony’ questionnaire – to allow the computer-generated tweets to seem as authentic as possible. The actual tweets are first routed to TRUS servers before being sent to the real Twitter computers. Any ‘dead air’ is filled-in by TRUS with pseudo-tweets. Still, once in operation the actual person being emulated may need to make modifications. For example some leaders were chagrined to learn their followers were receiving mundane tweets like: “flush, whir...” “Now washing hands with liquid soap.”

Naturally this augmentation might be viewed as morally suspect by followers, so it needed to be kept confidential. But it gets worse – as you might expect in an article like this one. According to special Spectrum correspondent Robert Langdon, recently a young hacker – on loan to the Illuminati from the Russian Mafia – penetrated security on TRUS servers and managed to scramble tweet routing between leaders of different denominations.

So, for example, followers of Adventist GC President Jan Paulson were surprised to receive hourly Twitter Pater Nosters – in Latin. Some thought – ‘well, the guy’s an intellectual, after all’, others thought he was sending really hard anagrams. But this was nothing compared to when followers of Pope Benedict received the following: “Entering the temple basement.” “Now baptizing Thomas Aquinas.”

Fortunately the security breach was quickly corrected and communication has returned to normal. But technical glitches are to be expected and setbacks like this have in no way deterred Adventist leadership from seeking new ways to incorporate technology into church life and mission. The latest effort has been to create a Shawn Boonstra avatar in preparation for virtual evangelism. The initial campaign has tentatively been titled claIM Second Life.

Rich Hannon is a software engineer who lives in Salt Lake City. When not telling lies his interests focus on philosophy and medieval history.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1650