twitter and the early church

Weird Catholic Twitter reminds me of the early Christian church.

Many of my Weird Catholic Twitter (WCT) brethren and sisthren would scathingly criticize this hot take, because if WCT likes anything almost as much as being Weird and being Catholic, it is criticizing Other Things.

But that’s okay. They will continue to put up with me, because they are kind of stuck with me. And also, I don’t take this comparison very seriously.

I converted to Catholicism for a few reasons, but one of the biggest was from looking around me at the multitude of Protestant churches I or my friends had attended. I saw a community of people trying to be good and do good things, but a community in splinters. I knew multiple people who had formed and broken off from more churches than I could count. Some met in homes, some met in high school gymnasiums, and some met in tragically ugly sanctuaries with lurid orange carpet and a suffocating presence of old person smell.

This can’t be the church that Jesus meant to build, I thought.

So I started reading about Catholicism. My questions were answered. Soon, I was home.

But I didn’t know many other Catholics. I turned to the Internet and discovered that my theological love for Catholicism was matched by a love for the Catholics I found there.

Carrots for Michaelmas, a wonderful blog, led me to find the author on twitter, Haley Stewart (@haleycarrots). Through Haley, I discovered the realm of Catholic Twitter and eventually, with enough follows and RTs and stalking, I began to make friends. Weird friends, but friends. You never forget the first time you get a shoutout from Tommy Tighe (@theghissilent) on his excellent podcast, The Chimney: bringing you everything trending in Catholic Social Media! For me that was June 22 In the Year of Our Lord 2017 (okay, I had to, uh, look this up).

ANYWAY back to Catholic Twitter and the Early Church.

WCT is actually somewhat difficult to define because A) not everyone in Weird Catholic Twitter is Catholic and B) We sometimes have big arguments about what it even means to be Catholic and C) the parameters of who is “in” WCT are pretty loose.

It’s not a secret club or a password-protected forum. It’s just a group of people who met online or in real life; argue about everything from doctrine to sandwiches; and share memes, funny anecdotes about our lives, and reminders to GO TO CONFESSION with each other. The only requirement is being able to enjoy Weird Catholic content, or at least Catholic-adjacent, looking at you Orthodox friends and the few Protestants who inexplicably hang around.

So here are the 8 reasons why Weird Catholic Twitter is a (good? bad? proximate??) modern parallel to the Church of the New Testament.

Let’s start with a (brief! I promise it will be brief!) look at the Bible (it’s okay, Catholics, I was once a protestant. I will help you read it).

Acts 2:42-47 describes the newly baptized members of the Church.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.

And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We’re going to parse this, because I know how much y’all love hermeneutics (and the phrase y’all because wow a lot of you are Texans).

1) Devotion to Teaching

Honestly, the past 2-3 times I’ve been to confession have been because someone tweeted “BY THE WAY YOU SHOULD GO TO CONFESSION ASAP” and so I did, and it was very good (tbh it was probably @hashtag_dta, thank you!).

Catholic Twitter can be very silly, but we take the teaching of the apostles very seriously.

Especially Mariology. There is literally nothing that Catholic Twitter takes more seriously than Mariology.

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2) Devotion to the Communal Life

Speaking of communal, we tend to be a little more socialist than your typical Christians. It’s so great. The leader of socialist WCT is indubitably the Bruenig family, @ebruenig, @MattBruenig and the as-yet un-Twittered but oft-tweeted baby Jane.

We’re very much about healthcare for the sick, government programs to feed the hungry, and a need to revisit the imprisoned and systemic injustice. We also want babies to live and the death penalty to die. So, not your typical progressives, but all about the public good.

3) Devotion to the Breaking of Bread

We care a LOT about the Eucharist. We argue about Eucharistic Ministers, we argue about whether or not and when to abstain from communion, and we had an epic showdown about gluten-free wafers. But we never forget that consuming the actual Body of Christ is an incredible gift and one we wish that everyone had. And as Leslie Knope put it,

people caring loudly at me

4) Devotion to Prayers

YOU GUYS this is the coolest thing. Thanks to Catholic Twitter, I see dozens of prayer requests a day, for everything from a private intention that begs a quick Hail Mary to a frightened parent’s plea for help from the ER while their child waits to be seen. Catholic Twitter HAS YOUR BACK. The replies fill with promises of prayer, requests for updates, and words of encouragement.

And because this is, after all, the internet, and people stay on it way too late every night, you’re guaranteed a response no matter what time of day you or your loved one loses the tip of their finger and requires urgent medical attention (this has happened more than once in WCT).

4) All Things In Common

Again with the socialism! It’s almost like you CAN learn something about politics by reading the Bible, lol. But whether it’s a GoFundMe for someone’s exorbitant healthcare costs (single payer, amiright folks?) or a birthday gift of some candy or baked goods, we like to share what we can with each other.

It’s not that we don’t have rivalries. But then again, so did the early church.

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p.s. this tweet is a joke

5) Meeting Together Each Day

Catholic Twitter is a national thing in which many participants have not and perhaps will never meet on this side of heaven, but dammit if we don’t go on Twitter every day, even when we low key hate ourselves for doing it.

Pope Francis makes me feel better about this. He called the internet “a gift from God” and a “fully human form of communication.” It’s more than mindless entertainment, it’s a real way of checking in with people I care about to see how they are doing and if they have posted any new cute baby pictures. You know, the really important stuff.

But I will admit that despite the metaphorical flipping of tables and cracking of whips (and less metaphorical money changing) that goes on, Twitter is no temple. 

6) Breaking Bread in their Homes

A year ago, I was a pretty lonely new mom and a convert who had just barely begun to figure out what this whole parenthood thing was about, let alone Catholicism. Now, I still don’t really know what parenthood is all about, but I have made several dear friends through Catholic Twitter and have even started meeting regularly with them to play games and break bread. We recently celebrated Michaelmas together and hope to make it our liturgical tradition.

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Despite being located from coast to coast, we On-Line Catholics try to meet each other when we can and it’s so much fun to share a meal with or even host Catholics from other parts of the country. The bond of cooking and eating together is so real. It’s what the early church would have done if they had nothing but the internet in common.

7) Eating with Exultation

We may not be called Catholic Instagram, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t share pictures of our food and talk about our favorite foods and drinks. Well, mostly drinks. Okay, it’s beer. We talk a lot about beer. We share pictures of our beer. We exult in our beer.

8) Every Day the Lord Added to Their Number

Something the early church seems to have been very good at is evangelization. This is actually not something that I think the current church is very good at, although I’m not sure why. But on Twitter, we take our faith and put it out there on the internet for anyone to see, which is a start. And also…

GET THAT FOLLOWER COUNT BOI

BONUS 9) MEMENTO MORI

skull-and-crossbones-77949

More present to the early Christian church than in our churches today was the nearness of death. The first few watched our Lord die on the cross. They and others were martyred. They expected and welcomed an artificially early death.

We can’t understand that experience in our context today. But we can remind ourselves that death is coming, and it is not to be feared. Catholics on Twitter LOVE to remind each other memento mori. Remember that you will die. Order your life and your faith. Pray. Go to confession. Fear not.

And follow @pursuedbytruth, the nun who put a skull on her desk and began to tweet about it every day and started a movement to remind us that we will all die.

And if that isn’t how the early church would use twitter, I don’t know what they would do.

 

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