This was lobbed at me yesterday morning before prayer. "I never said that," I defended.
"Yes," another person chimed in. "You did. You once said in a sermon, 'I hate Facebook.'"
Perhaps I did.
And so what? That may have been a comment, but what was the context? I learned this little zinger in Seminary (see misquotation 2 below): The context determines meaning. Which means, in context of course, that what you say always fits into a larger conversation. People who misquote me never remember the context (see misquotation 1 below)
Here are a few of the misquotations:
- I hate Facebook (and other forms of social media).
- I hate Grace College.
- I hate big churches.
- I hate vampires.
1. "I Hate Facebook"
The first misquote never has a context. It comes stripped naked from a sermon like a newborn child. Whenever I hear people citing me, it goes something like this: 'The apostle Paul... blah blah blah. Missionary journey... blah, blah, blah. I hate Facebook."
Or, "Jesus said... blah, blah, blah. Sermon on the mount... blah, blah, blah. I hate Facebook."
Seriously, people? Did I say that?
Moreover, I reserve the word "hate" for really egregious things. You may properly quote me saying, "I hate Michigan." (Context: I do not hate the state or the people, just the football team; and not even the players, coaches, or fans, just the giant, godless, gold-and-blue conglomeration. "I hate Michigan" is short for "I hate the Michigan Wolverines football team." And when I use hate, what I really mean is that I want them to lose every game except a bowl game against the SEC, because, as you can guess it, "I hate the SEC.") Two other things I have spoken hate over are uncooked onions and sin.
Facebook, like any tool, is amoral, not worthy of hate, simply preference. I understand its value to connect, lament, fuel political agendas, and farm fake animals. I like that our friends made a Facebook adoption page for our family. I like that our church promotes and celebrates one another on Facebook. But Facebook is not my preferred tool. I prefer to self-promote, sound super spiritual, and employ whit using Twitter (Follow me today @timsprankle) I prefer to look like a good dad and pastor on Instagram. I prefer to expand my thoughts to an invisible audience of twenty on this blog.
What I hate is how tools that are intended to unite us actually divide us. They fuel envy and distraction. They intrude into our personal space, all the while those who sit within our immediate context seem miles away. And remember, context is supposed to determine meaning -- my physical presence should define me more than my digital fingerprint. Blah, blah, blah.
2. "I hate Grace College"
This is a big "Thank You" to Grace College and Theological Seminary. In spite of what others feel, or what I may have been heard to say in a college chapel many new moons ago, I don't hate you. I never said that. You provided the context for my wife and me to meet, for our romance to flourish. You gave me room for my theological passions to grow, for my career in running to start its course.
If I'm bitter, its only because the campus got so much better since I left, adding a Disc Golf course, rec. center, athletic arena, several new dorms, and track (upcoming). I may not always give when the Phone-a-thon calls, attend Homecoming, or show up to basketball games, but I assure you, I would never root for Bethel. "I hate Bethel." (See note on Michigan above).
"I Hate Big Churches"
Big churches can do things little churches can't: They can host big groups of people, hire big staff, give big gifts (e.g., minivans to single moms), serve big groups, steward big budgets and fill big buildings. Little churches can do all that on a little scale, which is why they're called little. Not only I am grateful for the generosity and gospel impact of my fellow big churches, I am envious of their reach. At the same time, I am not shy about my preference to serve in a little church because I believe the ceiling for personal intimacy and pastoral care is bigger in a smaller church. This preference may not be accurate, but it is not hateful.
"I hate Vampires"
This quote has come back to bite me several times. And it is true. I also hate Zombies.
Hopefully, I've saved face and perhaps Facebook in the process. I hate being misunderstood, but it's inevitable in this world. Preachers and teachers will incur a stricter judgment because their words are meant for public good, not personal preferences (James 3:1). I'll leave my petty hates to game days.