Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Unfriending" and Betrayal

The New Oxford American Dictionary garnered plenty of press attention when it chose “unfriend” as its Word of the Year for 2009. With one computer click, someone is no longer in your Facebook network − and possibly no longer in your life at all.

Don’t worry, this post will not be a diatribe about what Facebook may or may not be doing to civility in our culture. Rather, I’d like to take a cue from James Hillman, the brilliant Jungian psychologist, and point to the primal, mythic implications of “unfriending.”

What is unfriending, after all, but a form of betrayal? Maybe the breach of trust (either real or imagined) was on the part of the person being unfriended, maybe it was by the person doing the unfriending. Or it could have been on both sides. In any case, the act of unfriending in Facebook may be ratifying a betrayal that has already occurred.

As Hillman suggests in “Betrayal,” an essay included in the collection Loose Ends (1975), the central myth of Western culture is the betrayal of Jesus. The kiss Judas gave Jesus in the Garden, as the soldiers closed in, was the ultimate in “unfriending.” A close second was Simon Peter, disavowing Jesus for the third time as the cock crowed.

Judas and Peter were not just Jesus’ disciples; they were his friends, for that is what Jesus offers to those who follow Him. We are no longer strangers, but friends (John 15:15; Ephesians 2:19). And you don’t need to know the words of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by heart to know that He will never unfriend you.

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