Monday, March 11, 2013

Testimony (ugh, I totally hate that word)

Is this testimony?  What is?
1. A formal written or spoken statement

2. Evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.

Synonyms: evidence, attestation, witness, proof

Common parlance for Christian testimony:  the story of how one became a Christian.

Ugh.  I think I hate the word "testify" in a Christian context.  Mostly because it is usually equated with things like this...

This is what I think about when I usually hear
about Christian testimony.
What can it mean it witness to Christ, to testify, in the midst of digital cultures?  

My immediate reaction about Christian testimony is telling.  Part of me does not even want to get near the idea of Christian testimony, digital or non, because I find it to be so obnoxious and off-putting.  And in digital cultures, it just means that you have a much wider reach for your hateful rhetoric.  Take for example, Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church (note when navigating to this website, the title is NSFW, and you will be offended if you are a reasonable human being).  This could be considered digital testimony.

On the other hand, you have such things as Unvirtuous Abbey, a twitter account that describes themselves as "holier than thou, but not by much.  Digital monks praying for first world problems."  This is the sort of testimony that I can get behind.  You can tweet your prayer requests and Unvirtuous Abbey retweets or responds.

There is also Lent Madness, a digital movement that is also a Lenten devotion, in which saints of the Christian church are put into a March-Madness like bracket and people read about the saints and vote for their favorite.  This is also the sort of testimony that I can get behind.

What both of these things have in common is that they do not take themselves too seriously, they are fairly inoffensive and the process of testimony is participatory.  In many ways, Christian testimony in a digital context is reflective of the wider change in communication with the advent of social media.  Christian testimony in digital cultures is no longer the model of a speaker/writer disseminating information about their religious experience in one direction to an eagerly receptive audience.   Digital witness to Christ must provide for an exchange of information, story, and experience.  It should be participatory.  Digital testimony must not be aggressive, but rather open and hospitable.  It is not about being right or wrong, but about sharing experiences and being willing to learn.

So what can it mean to witness to the Gospel in digital contexts?  I think it means being real, being open, and sharing one's experience of being a Christian.  Without expectation for a certain response (conversion, repentance, etc) or judgment.  This blog is actually testimony.   But I still experience a visceral recoil at the idea of "Christian Testimony."  Yuck.  I guess I am afraid of being lumped in with all the crazy Christians who give the rest of us a bad name.


Anonymous said...

Amy, with some of the readings that we have done in regards to testimony, I wonder if some of the things that make recoil from testimony are things that don't fit into the definitions of testimony that are offered?

I wonder if it is possible that places like the Westboro Baptist Church are not testifying, but rather "condemning" or "judging"? The thing I found to be the most helpful in reading about testimony this week was that for one of the authors (and for myself) it is edifying (it builds people up) it doesn't tear them down.

I'd be curious to know if you have ever had a time in your life when someones testimony has built you up or inspired you?

Anyways, thanks for your honesty as well in regards to testimony, it will help others who may be uneasy as well talk about their discomfort.

GMa Rose, PS said...

A while ago, at an evangelism workshop, I was introduced to testimony and witness as just you telling your story (like in court) The witness is not the judge or the defense attorney, or even the jury, deciding if the facts add up. The witness does just this: gives testimony to what you saw, how things affected you, etc. We are called to tell our story, where we have been affected by the grace and mercy and love of Christ. That's all. I think that can be done through social media - by using Luther's good old doctrine of Vocation - doing your best for and with others in whatever role you are in - in and outside the community of the faithful. Maybe then it won't seem so daunting. You don't have to be anyone except who yourself.