Having been raised Catholic, and recovering from having been immersed, I find myself scratching my head at the news regarding Beis Rivkah High School in Brooklyn, New York. The Jewish high school's officials pulled out every member of the 11th grade who had a Facebook account and demanded that they delete their account and pay $100 to the school or face expulsion.
While their reasoning does make sense: it's against Jewish Orthodoxy to indulge or frequent in "immoral" or "immodest" behaviors; so, with Facebook being the greatest social networking glutton, there's little doubt that many of the female students were "talking" to male students, and that the male students were "fantasizing," as school officials and anonymous students have suggested.
It's one thing, however, to take away someone's Facebook page because it violates strict religious doctrine, but it's another to force students to pay a penalty for being involved in something that is not lawfully illegal outside of the walls of the school. That, to me, seems illegal. A private school charges a tuition for a privately funded education, but to be forced to pay someone so that you, the payee, cannot any longer have a Facebook page, seems counter-intuitive and asinine. But I digress...
And, shouldn't this be more of a household choice for parents and individual students; a violation of religious code may be blasphemous, but there must be some wiggle room instituted to accommodate such a technologically advancing world in which a connection to the internet and to one another is often the only way to survive in the United States. It's understandable that orthodoxy requires modesty and humility, but creating an online profile page is essentially the same as simply smiling at someone else in the hallway. Are they going to outlaw any kind of human interaction between the males and females at the school?
While it might fit snugly in with their dogma, in all reality they have to, at some point, observe the gravity and reality of the situations they are going to be encountering in this changing world; and the very real possibility that they can and will alienate some of their membership by observing "ancient" and, in some ways, anachronistic, rules.
This, I think, beckons for a larger dialogue to be unwrapped: is religion now a "social network" also, and, in a way hasn't it always been? Are the strategies and outlets simply changing along with the platforms on which we communicate?
Would Jesus have had a Twitter? What might he have said, and would he have reached the masses just as easily?
When Jesus stood atop the Mount to deliver his sermon he strategically chose a location where he would be audible and seen, thereby reaching as many people as possible within sight range and earshot. But, if Jesus slowly had gained multiple followers on Twitter, and they had each convinced others to "follow" Jesus, would his patronage and following have grown, developed and helped spread the ideas even quicker than he could?
Perhaps religion and social networking can live in harmony. And can find a way to educate one another.