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Facebook and Christianity don't mix, says Chicago parish

Pope Benedict XVI gave Facebook his blessing in January, shortly before his fan page launched on the site, and invited Christians "to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible."

But during this time of year, when many practicing Christians give up Facebook for Lent, a Chicago parish advises churchgoers to keep kids away from social media 365 days a year, the Chicago Tribune reports:

"[Facebook] is exactly the opposite of the Christian culture where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to blot out their sins forever," St. John Cantius parish leaders wrote in the church bulletin.

The warning was directed at families trying to raise their children in a wholesome environment. It indicted social networking sites for encouraging vanity and dishonesty by providing an outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality. It also pointed out, for example, that acronyms such as PIR (parent in room), POS (parent over shoulder) and GYPO (get your pants off) can lead children far astray.

"God entrusted parents with the care of their children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way 'to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter.' Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal."

Seriously, though.

As an "outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality," Facebook is hardly World of Warcraft. When it comes to "encouraging vanity and dishonesty," kids can get plenty of that at the 7-11. The newsletter isn't pointing out any dangers to kids that are unique to Facebook or even social media. There are much stronger arguments for quitting Facebook and frankly, the proliferation of weak arguments dilutes the valid ones.

Agreed, when unmonitored, Facebook can be an enormous time suck or worse. And parents should stay apprised of their children's activities, both online and off. But kids are future adults, and as such, must live in this world. Facebook is very much a part of this world. How are kids going to learn to deal with the real world if they're not allowed near it?

Facebook is an amoral tool — whether you're quoting Charlie Sheen in your status update, or practicing e-fellowship. In an interview with NPR, Presbyterian pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow suggested worshipers not give up Facebook or Twitter for Lent or any other reason:

If social media is addictive and it's holding you back from connecting to God and your understanding of spirituality, then, yes, by all means, pull back. But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time is another way to look at it.

More on the annoying way we live now:

Helen A.S. Popkin is always going "blah blah blah" about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Facebook and/or Twitter.