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FaithOut.com, Godtube.com, and Our Online Ivory Tower

I’ve been getting a lot of email invitations to join FaithOut.com, which claims to be the first “Christian alternative to Facebook.” If you want to join FaithOut, go right ahead. I’m sticking with Facebook, and I ‘m a Christian. My spirit is stirred at what some believers are doing in the online realm of things. Instead of engaging and impacting the online culture for the Kingdom, we’re attempting to create an online Christian subculture into which we can retreat. GodTube is another very popular example. (I actually use GodTube simply because of a lot of videos that are offered there that you can’t find on mainstream alternatives, but nonetheless…) This, in my estimation, is quite similar to the popularity in the brick-and-mortar world of Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops, and other forms of Christian alternatives to secular offerings. Here are my concerns…

1. We’re missing the point of what being the “salt of the earth” is all about. We’re hoping to remain safe inside our salt shakers. If we aren’t in a Bible study at church (nothing wrong with this unless it prevents us from engaging people outside the church), we’re shopping at a Christian bookstore and surfing FaithOut.com. But salt, by its nature, permeates the culture – it spreads out and flavors everything around it. Salt can’t flavor other salt – that job is done.

2. When we offer alternatives, it’s rarely as nice as what the world can do. I’ve heard it said that “whatever the world can do, Christianity can do it ten years later and 90% as well.” I agree. Many of our attempts to create an alternative subculture are shabby attempts and cheap imitations.

3. We bring our motives into question. Facebook has a $15 billion value. I’m not sure why. I like Facebook, but if some servers blew up, it would be worthless. Nonetheless, the advertising revenue possibilities are such that it’s extremely valuable. FaithOut, GodTube, etc., etc. are ad-driven. They mimic the revenue models of secular counterparts. I don’t have a problem with someone making money online. But I think branding a major media conglomerate as a “Christian alternative” with the intention of making millions of dollars off of it could get our testimonies in trouble. I only hope that Christian entrepreneurs who launch such ventures are honest about wanting to profit so that we aren’t being double-minded in our approach.

For me, it all boils down to our missionary mandate. Imagine if we decided to find an uninhabited portion of land – some virgin forest unexplored and untouched by human machete. Further imagine we declared it Christiantopia – a “Christian alternative” to living in a nation. Hey, we could elect whatever president we wanted, pass laws that honored our convictions, and have Christian music piped into every home (of course, we’d argue about whether it should be traditional or contemporary).

The problems with this mindset are obvious…

  1. God is creating such a place – a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem.
  2. If we created it, we would mess it up instantly.
  3. God’s will isn’t that we have for ourselves a special and segregated “Christian nation,” but that we impact our own.
  4. We would remain in the confines of our comfort zone

Someday, God will provide us the very Christian utopia for which we long. In the meantime, I think His command is to “get out of the saltshaker!”