Texting through Lent

By  Kevin Hurren, Youth Speak News
  • March 14, 2012

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,” reads the Gospel of John. While this opening verse will always be true, I wonder what John would have to say about taking the Word and, well, texting it.

That was the challenge I embarked on this Lenten season with the “Texting through Lent” calendar. Designed as a daily devotional calendar for teens and young adults, it attempts to incorporate various multimedia devices, especially cellphones, into Lenten reflections. When I saw this calendar hanging in the walls of my former high school, I knew it was a challenge I had to accept.

While some of the days on the calendar focus on meditating about a specific concept like forgiveness or vocations, the majority of daily challenges involve texting a summarized Bible passage to friends and family. Though the creators of the calendar may be a little disconnected with the exact language youth use (for instance, one of the texting challenges involves messaging “Rmbr UR dust and 2 dust U shall return”), the overall idea of the calendar is certainly intriguing.

At the very least, it makes one realize how often we separate faith and aspects of social networking like texting. Having already gone through a number of challenges, I can tell you that a Bible passage is the last thing people expect to receive in their inbox. Of the friends I’ve texted thus far, I have faced resounding confusion.

The interesting part is that no one questions what I’ve texted. They understand that it is Lent and, for the most part, the passages sent are well known. Rather, they question why I’m texting it.

The common notion is that the Word of God is delivered by a priest in a church. This reminded me of a series of lectures I attended revolving around Canadian educator and philosopher Marshall McLuhan and his theory that “the medium is the message.” McLuhan explored the idea that the way a message is delivered is embedded into the message itself, creating a relationship which in turn influences how the message is perceived. While some of my texts haven’t been drastically different from anything one would hear at church, the meanings seems to be getting lost because of the medium.

This may, in fact, be something the “Texting through Lent”  calendar, and projects like it, are attempting to overcome. Since social technologies have become such an integral part of youth lives, there shouldn’t be any reason one’s faith can’t extend to be part of this world. When it comes to religiously significant times such as Lent, we should be striving for meaningful discussions — not just within parameters of church grounds — and texting might just be a way to initiate such discussions.

While texting may not hold all the answers, it’s one way to think about leading a technocratic generation towards religious engagement. Until that happens, I’m going to continue my Lenten texting challenges, no matter how many questions or LOLs I get. 

(Hurren, 18, is a media information and technoculture student at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.)

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