Pastor Jeremiah Steepek: A Viral Hoax

There’s a story making the rounds on Facebook and the Blogs about a so-called Pastor Jeremiah Steepek, who pretended to be a homeless man in order to teach his Church a lesson. The tale is spreading very quickly. This is how it goes:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

Clearly meant to elicit an emotional response, Urban Legends deals with it:

Description: Viral story

Circulating since: July 2013

Status: False, though likely inspired by real events

Full text: As shared on Facebook, July 22, 2013:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

Analysis: When you Google the name “Jeremiah Steepek” the only hits you get are instances of, or references to, the selfsame story reproduced above. Which is to say that there seems to be no evidence at all that a Reverend Steepek actually exists, let alone that the story about him is true. The anonymous text is bereft of supporting details — no specific church is named, no city, county, state, or country, and no eyewitnesses.

A viral image purporting to show Pastor Jeremiah Steepek in disguise is actually a 2011 photo of a real homeless man on the streets of London taken by photographer Brad Gerrard.

We have every reason to believe the story is fictitious, albeit probably inspired by real-life events…

Rest here.

It’s never good to spread lies… Why not simply tell it as it is: A fictional anecdote?

 

Modern Friendship

Israeli Embassy: If Jesus and Mary Were Alive Today, They Would Be ‘Lynched in Bethlehem by Hostile Palestinians’

RT:

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Israel’s diplomatic corps finds itself in hot water after posting an inflammatory message on an official Facebook page. Although the message has now been deleted, this is not the first time Israel has used social media to post controversial views.

The message appeared on the Israel in Ireland Facebook page – which is linked to on the official embassy site – on Monday morning. The post comprised a painting of Mary and Jesus, accompanied by the following caption:

“A thought for Christmas… If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought…”

The message sparked immediate heated debate, but was taken down within hours.

“An image of Jesus and Mary with a derogatory comment about Palestinians was posted without the consent of the administrator of the Facebook page. We have removed the post in question immediately. Apologies to anyone who may have been offended,” said an official statement from the Israeli embassy in Dublin.

Since then, the Israel in Ireland page has been shut down altogether, and the link on the official website has been removed…

 

Church Uses Facebook for Sacramental Scrutiny at its Peril

Religion Dispatches:

For all Il Papa’ssocial media encouragement the last few years, the Roman Catholic Church continues to struggle with digital ministry practice, particularly where new media intersects the church’s medieval sacramental structure.

In 2011, a new smartphone app aimed to support preparation for and the practice of confession ended up generating more confusion than contrition when a not particularly social design invited people to conclude that absolution was granted by way of the Confession app itself rather than, according to Catholic teaching, through the mediation of the priest.

No wonder Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day earlier this year highlighted silence and listening—the heart of Christian practices of contemplation—by way of encouraging the development of “a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.” And, we might add, actions.

Blog a bit, tweet a bit, share your favorite liturgical recipes on Facebook if you like, the Holy Father seemed to be saying to the Catholic faithful, but once in a while, for the love of God, zip it.

All in all, not a bad idea, but I suspect the silence His Holiness had in mind had nothing to do with the kind of creepy, panoptical Facebook surveillance that led the Rev. Gary LaMoine of Assumption Church in Barnesville, Minnesota to prevent 17-year-old Lennon Cihak from receiving the sacrament of confirmation, a rite of passage usually administered to Catholic teenagers to “perfect the work of baptism” (the first of the sacraments, in Roman Catholic teaching) and mark their maturity as Catholic Christians. Likewise, the boy’s family members have been prevented from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion at the church.

LaMoine singled out Cihak on the basis of a photo posted on Facebook which showed his support for efforts to defeat a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would have defined marriage exclusively as between one woman and one man. The amendment was defeated by voters, with no small amount of support from progressive Catholics, who rejected energetic lobbying from the church hierarchy on behalf of the proposed amendment.

In some Minnesota parishes, for instance, an expensively produced DVD mailed to parishioners in support of the now-failed amendment was returned in collection baskets with “Give to the poor,” “Care for those in need,” or bible verses such as “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:24) written on the packaging.

The DVD give-back was more than a gesture of spiritual or political defiance. It also highlighted the ethic of mutuality and equanimity at the heart of new social communication practices that have emerged from our engagements in digital social media locales like the Facebook page that became the focus of sacramental censure for Cihak and his family.

The ethical environment of the new media world is early in its evolution, with occasions of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, and other nefarious digitally-enabled transgressions rightly causing concern. But the overall culture of the internet, as it has morphed into social and mobile forms that have shaped relational practice both on- and offline, has generally retained the democratic, collaborative, transparent, and dialogical ethos of its earliest enthusiasts.

No reasonable communicator these days, then, expects a passive mass of consumers to gobble up a magisterially-broadcast message whole, not having the opportunity to share their own, potentially influential, perspectives. Hence those Twitter hashtags at the bottom of your TV screen. We expect interactivity. We assume someone’s listening. We live ready for conversation.

If you blast out a message—whether it’s a DVD, a tweet, or a smoke signal—and you think that’s the end of it, you haven’t been paying attention for the past several years to how communication works these days. So, perhaps the Pope is right: you ought to be listening more.

Likewise, it would take fairly rigorous monastic seclusion to have missed the memo on transparency as a virtue that is considered essential for ethical living in the digitally-integrated world. In the past decade, the Roman Catholic clergy abuse, News of the Worldphone-hacking, and Wikileaks scandals have marked new, and only very incompletely explored, ethical territory as we sort out the best ways to balance personal privacy and public safety as these are impacted by our engagement with new media.

But even given difficulties defining necessary and appropriate boundaries of personal, professional, and institutional transparency, we can see the virtue of transparency overall as having a stabilizing ethical function that invites openness and honesty while discouraging secretiveness and duplicity.

When Lennon Cihak felt moved to share his opposition to the proposed Minnesota marriage inequality amendment, he may have been inviting conversation or at least the nodding engagement that the Facebook “like” button offers. Indeed, many of his Facebook friends apparently “liked” or commented on the post without (so far) sacramental repercussions from Fr. LaMoine.

Yet Cihak had no reason to expect clerical surveillance in a social community where the expression of personal perspectives is rich relational currency. It functions not merely as self-construction or -revelation, but as digital generosity which enriches relationships as it invites further engagement—in the best of cases, even with those of differing perspectives.

Father James Martin, SJ, for instance, criticized LeMoine’s actions against Cihak and his family on both Facebook and Twitter, tweeting “If you deny the sacraments to those who favor same-sex marriage, you must also deny it to those who fail to forgive.” His Facebook page has spilled over with conversation—some of it heated, but most of it respectful—on the weight of Catholic teachings on sexuality in particular, and full acceptance of all of the Church’s teachings in general, in decisions regarding access to the sacraments.

There is arguably something sacramental in this dialogical practice, at least some sort of “visible and invisible grace” pointing to the kind of compassion, love, and justice that is at the root of all Christian teaching. Christians, Roman Catholic or otherwise, draw these ethically essential virtues from the model of Jesus Christ. For LeMoine to ignore them at the intersection of his sacerdotal and social media practice is profoundly disturbing to the equilibrium for which Pope Benedict argued. Some might even say “sinful.”

 

Sign of the Times

 

Everyone Knows your Sin… On Facebook

HT

 

The Facebook-Free Baby

Yahoo

Growing up, I never had tan lines. Want proof? There’s a color snapshot on display in my parents’ home: a naked 2-year-old is shown from behind, climbing up a bathroom counter. For as long as I can remember, a framed 3×5-inch print has sat next to the sink where it was taken. My dad doesn’t carry a copy in his wallet. My mom hasn’t distributed it to family or friends. Up until now, unless you were invited into my childhood home, you never would’ve known this cute little portrait even existed.

Proud parents have been perfecting this genre for decades. While the intimate moments themselves remain largely unchanged, how we choose to share them—much like the tools for capturing them—has evolved dramatically since my parents first became parents in late 1979.

Today, the default is, of course, Facebook. Although privacy settings allow us to control which circle(s) of friends has access to parts of our profiles, many people either don’t understand how to use them or prefer not to. Plus, like record labels and print publishers, parents are discovering that once content becomes digital, it can be easily copied and redistributed willy-nilly (hello, grandparents!). The result: photos of kids in compromising, colorful circumstances, and status updates recounting even more compromising, colorful circumstances, intended for a select few, are now spread out over the Web for everyone…

I would never tell anyone how to raise their kids. But I’ve decided to draw a line in the sand with mine. When it comes to my son, who is 3 months old, I am doing away with privacy settings altogether—by abstaining. That means my wife and I won’t be posting photos or discussing him online publicly (more on that later). Like a kid born into a vegetarian or Amish family, that is just the way it will be.

This hasn’t been easy…

You can read on here.

And for me, it’s a ‘blog-free’ son and daughter. Most people just don’t get the great risks that exist to themselves, their family, and their friends.

 

What If Facebook Got Deleted?

Contemplating the idea here.

Facebook and you

Source

Social Media on the Rise for Weddings

Social media getting out of control:

New York: As her grandfather sat pleasantly perplexed at her wedding, Lauren Barnes reached into the recesses of her strapless white gown, whipped out her iPhone and accepted her groom’s Facebook relationship change to “married.”

“Nothing’s official,” she said, “until it’s Facebook official!”

In today’s $78-billion-a-year business of getting married in the United States, those wacky viral videos of whole wedding parties dancing down the aisle seem positively 2009. Social media, mobile tools and online vendors are abundant to offer the happy couple extra fun, savings and convenience, though most of the nation’s betrothed aren’t ready to completely let go of tradition.

Some send out video save-the-dates, include high-speed scannable “QR” barcodes on invitations, live-stream their ceremonies for far-flung loved ones to watch online, and open their party playlists to let friends and families help choose the tunes.

They invite guests to live tweet the big day using special Twitter keywords, called hashtags, and create interactive seating charts so tablemates can chat online ahead of time.

One couple featured a “guest of the week” on their wedding blog. Another ordered up a cake with an iPad embedded at the base to stream photos at the reception. A third Skyped in a “virtual bridesmaid” who couldn’t make it, so she was walked down the aisle by a groomsman via iPad…

There’s more, with examples,  here.

 

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