Grace. Well, that just happened.
This past week, Ben and I were watching TV. It was Christmas break, full veg mode. Ben had finally decided on a show to watch (he always flips through the channels during commercials) but I was only listening peripherally, more engrossed in playing my guilty pleasure-- Candy Crush Soda Saga. I asked him what he was watching. "Buddhist Traveller," I heard.
That's odd, I thought. "Buddhist Traveller? Sounds interesting, but I've never heard of it. What's it about?" I asked, not looking up from my iPhone.
"Um, it's about this Buddhist monk that travels around the world," he explained.
Ok, now my interest was piqued. Enough to look up from my phone to the TV. But it was just an average looking guy, in regular street clothes, with an accent I couldn't place. Was it New York City, or maybe Boston? Yes, it must be Boston...but maybe he had grown up somewhere else, like California. Come to think of it, I wasn't sure what a Californian accent sounded like aside from a Saturday Night Live skit that parodied inhabitants of the the Golden State. And I knew that wasn't true. Was it?
It just wasn't computing. This guy did not look like what I expected a Buddhist monk to look like. Where was his saffron-dyed robe? And a Buddhist monk traveling around the world with his own show on the Travel Channel?
"I didn't realize Buddhist monks could travel around like that." I was really confused.
"Oh, well, he's on sabbatical. They let their monks take a one year sabbatical," Ben explained, very matter-of-factly.
Well, I guess that kind of make sense. I had seen plenty of college and seminary professors take sabbaticals during my educational career. Why couldn't a Buddhist monk have a sabbatical, too? Though, it reminded me of how Amish teenagers have their rumspringa, a time where they can bend the rules a little bit before they get baptized and officially join the community as an adult. Did Buddhist monks have rumspringa? I thought of what a Buddhist Amish person would be like-- aside from the whole religious aspect, not completely different.
"I didn't realize they took sabbaticals like that. Seems cool, I guess." I replied. I watched for a few minutes. I guess it made sense-- these lifestyle channels were always looking for a new angle. Regular ol' travel or food shows weren't enough any more, you had to have an unique perspective: weird foods, extreme terrain, or an edgy "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" host, like Anthony Bourdain. This host was a more tame Bourdain.
The show cut to commercials and I looked back down to my phone, but before I was completely consumed with the saga of crushing those candies and soda bottles, I heard a tv spot advertising the show we had just been watching: The Booze Traveler.
Why would a Buddhist monk on sabbatical have a show about trying alcohol around the world? I know he's on a Buddhist rumspringa, but that seems a little extreme. I feel like his superiors would not be pleased about all that alcohol.
Then I realized Ben was laughing. That deep, sincere belly laugh that comes out when he is truly amused.
Ohhhhhh, I thought. Ben is really good at making up stories. And I am either really gullible or have a very expansive imagination.
And you are?
I've come to realize that words are powerful, but can only do so much when it comes to describing people. You need to experience them. Learn their quirks. See how the spark of who they are dances in their eyes or sits in the way their lips tremble when they try to hold in a laugh.
It relates to how we engage social media as people of faith. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... how do we use these tools (communities, really) to not just showcase religion/Christianity/faith/the Church, but to really get at the heart of it. Martin Luther nailed his thoughts on Christianity to the doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg (#NotUpForDebate). Today, the internet and social media is our door, where people get their information and where they look for ideas. #NewChurchDoor
For me, being an almost pastor-- heck, being a person of faith, means engaging in social media and figuring out ways to allow it to get at that spark of who people are and maybe, just maybe, seeing a glimpse of the Light.
So, about this class you're taking...
I'm really excited about taking a Religion & Media course this January through my seminary, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and our sister seminary, Luther. I'm hoping that I can learn more ways to engage technology, not only for connecting with people and fostering relationship building, but also for teaching and proclaiming the Word. #ltsg4.400