The Christian Life and Social Media

Yet another famous Christian is drawing criticism for posting pictures on social media that some deem inappropriate. This time it’s not Jerry Falwell, Jr., but rather actress Candace Cameron Bure. Bure achieved fame with the comedy television series Full House in the 90’s.

Bure, an outspoken Christian, drew criticism from some Christians for a photo she posted to her Instagram account. The photo is of her and her husband, his arm draped over around her shoulders and resting, well, resting considerably lower than her shoulders. Based on current standards of decency the photo isn’t terribly controversial. They’re both fully clothed and there are no other erotic or sexual aspects to the photo other than the location of his hand. Clearly it’s intended as a playful photo.

Critics point out the picture isn’t appropriate for social media and indiscriminate sharing by someone who is a Christian. One critic claims when determining what photos to post to social media, choose only photos depicting something you would do in front of Jesus. It’s an interesting guideline, if a theologically strange one. I understand where he’s coming from but I chafe at that way of expressing it. Marital intimacy does take place in front of God, though that’s not really something we tend to want to think too much about, or perhaps we should think more about?

I don’t think the issue is so much what would we do in front of Jesus (I suspect that will consist of basically worshiping him, a spectrum of possible photo options I suspect the critic himself would find too restrictive). The issue is really what do we share and with whom? The photo – while tacky – is not intended to be offensive or titillating (couldn’t resist). Shared with closer friends and family there might not be any offense or objection. But shared to a social media account followed by literally anyone, the photo does seem unnecessary to say the least and inappropriate at worst.

Why choose to share such a photo in the first place to the world? What is your goal? In this age of carefully curated social media pictures and comments it can’t really be argued you just weren’t thinking. Clearly you were thinking, the question is what were you thinking? What did you want to convey, and why? The issue of causing a brother (or sister) in the faith to stumble that Jesus teaches on in Matthew 18 applies here. And not knowing who is looking at it or why, it seems that regardless of what positive statements you want to make about playfulness in marriage are outweighed by the risk that someone could be led into sin or misunderstand your message.

Another critic points more accurately (in my opinion) to the inappropriateness of such a picture in public. Marital intimacy – playful or otherwise – is not something the world needs/should be privy to.

That being said, we have to acknowledge interpretations of what ‘too much shared intimacy’ means changes over time. Even the most conservative of Christians would probably agree that 1920’s women’s bathing suits are unnecessarily restrictive and overly modest, while women from the 1920’s would likely disagree. Movie studios once dictated that not even married couples could be depicted sleeping in or laying on the same bed together regardless of whether they were doing anything affectionate or not, and I doubt many Christians would feel such a limitation was still necessary today. While the Bible talks about chasteness as well as modesty, it doesn’t provide a lot of solid examples or directives about how this looks – perhaps knowing darn well (as only God can) that specifics will change over time.

And curiously enough, when it does provide specific directives, Christians are prone to ignoring them. Hmmm.

Bure has since pushed back against such criticism. Her defense is twofold. Firstly, it’s her and not a someone else. In other words, the picture could only be considered offensive or inappropriate if another person was touching her intimately. Since it’s her husband, no harm-no foul. Again, in a more private or selective sharing of the picture this might be very true. But in posting it to an openly public social media account, the concerns raised in Matthew 18 again should predominate.

Bure’s second objection to complaints is less about the social media posting and more a defense of playfulness and intimacy in marriage. Again, her point is true, but is this the best way to convey these things? Is it necessary for her to convey them in the first place, and why? After all, the assumption is that married couples enjoy their intimacy together. Is it necessary to demonstrate this in a publicly shared photo? Erring on the side of caution, I’d argue no.

How we communicate Biblical truths (the God-given beauty and joy of marital intimacy, for example) matters just as much as the truths themselves. Social media escalates this exponentially as you have no control over who is seeing what you post, the effect it may have on them, and so. And we should be open to the possibility that, while we thought what we were posting was OK, maybe it really wasn’t. Not because it was anything wrong per se, but simply because the Internet is a dangerous place to put much of anything.

What’s valuable is the opportunity for dialogue and discussion. I’d have preferred if her critics started out by asking why she posted the picture in the first place. That might help mitigate some of their concerns about it. And perhaps in such a conversation Bure might be led to rethink her own position as well. Unity, rather than bickering, might be demonstrated and achieved.

That takes a lot more work, but it’s what we’re called to as followers of Christ who are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. Even on Instagram.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s