What’s in a hashtag?

BY PASTOR GARETH on January 22, 2018

Just because I was born in the 1980s, don’t assume I’m technologically competent or up on the latest technology trends … because I’m not. For the most part, this is intentional. I am always careful about how much I wade into the latest fads and trends in all aspects of life. Up until 6 months ago, if you asked me what hashtag is I would have given you a blank stare followed by the response: “I don’t know … but I’ll find out.”

Of course, when you look up a picture of a “hashtag” you see it’s really just a rebranding of the “number” button on a telephone’s keypad. (Back in my younger years – before cell phones – I’m pretty sure you could use this number to redial the last phone number dialed … or maybe it was to switch between lines when you had a multi-line home phone??)

Knowing, then, what a hashtag looks like, I immediately recalled reading Beetle Bailey comics where Sarge is chewing out Beetle for some act of insubordination (see photo). As I now know, this is not what a hashtag is.

If you look up “hashtag” on dictionary.com you get the below definition:

1. (on social media websites) a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it

In other words, if there’s something significant going on in the world today and it has extensive social media attention, it likely has a “hashtag” attached to it. These are the trending hot topics of our world today.

Leaving all conversations about the benefits, shortcomings, and sociological impact of the technology involved aside, it is important for us as Christians and leaders to be aware of what is going on in the world around us. Theologian Karl Barth, perhaps the most influential theologian of the 20th century wrote: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible”. In our tech-savvy cultural milieu, I’m afraid that all-too-often for the church it is the other way around – we allow the culture (newspaper) to dictate how we understand the Bible. We can be quick to jump on the bandwagon of a particular cause or trend because it seems right. Yet we do not always take the time to carefully examine it through the lens of what Scripture teaches.

For the next several evening services that I will be leading, we will try to tackle some of these current trends and hot topics from a Biblical perspective. I by no means pretend to be an expert on these things, but hope to accomplish at least 3 things through this series:

To engage in meaningful dialogue with what is going on in the world around us
To give us a lens (and a framework) for examining these things
To encourage further conversation and reflection on all our parts so that we each feel better equipped to engage in meaningful conversations about these topics wherever we find ourselves
A significant part of what will make this series work is you. What are the burning topics for you right now? I’d like to know and hopefully address them at some point during the series.

Looking forward to diving into God’s Word together,

Pastor Gareth