Baptism in the Age of Selfies

Log Flume

 

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post on one of my Facebook groups.  The question was something like this:

“Is it okay to use a GoPro camera on a person during baptism?  Too much?”

My initial response was, “I’m appalled at even the suggestion.  Baptism is not and was never meant to be a form of entertainment.”

Apparently, I was in the minority in this group.  Although it’s a church related group, it’s not a theology-focused group. I ended up receiving a number of negative responses, eye-roll GIFs, etc.  One person said, “We’ve been videotaping baptisms, funerals, and weddings for a long time.  What difference does it make how close the camera is?”

It took the question to be a legitimate question, not a trolling or argumentative question. Here, in part, was my response.

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Hi, thanks for your question.  While I understand that this is not a theological forum or group and there are many, many differing views, I would like to offer my thoughts because I think it is ultimately a matter of theology.  And because this isn’t necessarily the forum for in-depth conversations, I’ll try to be brief.

The theological question is:  Does the church and its rites (Baptism, the Lord’s Supper) become a theology of self-glory (what I do and what I get) or a theology of the cross (what Christ has done)?

My concern with a GoPro camera either in the water or on a person’s head makes the focus about them. The emphasis becomes “Look at what I have done.”

I would assert that we live in a culture that is steeped a theology of self-glory.  The fact that we have so many “selfies” and reality shows are but two small evidences of this.  My concern with a GoPro camera either in the water or on a person’s head makes the focus about them.  The emphasis becomes “Look at what I have done.”  It would seem that we’re treating baptism the same as taking pictures at a log flume ride at the amusement park.  I don’t see any glory to God in this.  I may very well be wrong, but I cannot see it.

I personally have no problem with a video camera at the back of the church taping the events.  In this case, the video camera becomes a quiet observer of the event.  However, when the camera becomes much more of an active participant, I believe it the line is crossed and the rite becomes a theology of self-glory.  It becomes a version of a selfie and reality TV combined.  This is why I personally don’t allow cameras on the chancel/altar (or stage as some may say) during baptisms, weddings or funerals.  I also ask that no flashes be used during this time throughout the church because I believe these rites to be holy moments in which God is glorified.

Without trying to be rude at all, I’d like to give a little thought experiment to see where the line might be for you or others.  At a funeral, would it be okay to put a GoPro camera on the deceased’s head so that when people come to give their last respects you can capture it on camera?  Or if not on their head, why not on the casket?  Again, I’m not trying to be rude.  I’m simply trying to see what would be the reasoning you or others would give if you see this example as crossing the line.

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It’s hard to be a follower of Jesus in a selfie culture.  We keep trying to make us the center of it all. 

It’s hard to be a follower of Jesus in a selfie  culture.  We keep trying to make us the center of it all.

Should we celebrate and have joy in our lives?  Yes!  Most definitely!  We should be joyous. Not because of what we have done, but because of what God has done for us.

What are your thoughts about church in the age of selfies?

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