The rise of Twitter and other social media sites is threatening to kill off quiet reflection, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.
Instant reaction has rapidly replaced “reflective comment” in an era in which angry remarks can be spread to “the far corners of the Earth” within seconds, the Most Rev Justin Welby said.
The need to compress arguments into the 140-character limit for Twitter messages can distort discussion on complex subjects, he told an audience including David Cameron and the Labour leader Ed Miliband.
The Archbishop also spoke out in defence of church schools in the wake of the so-called Trojan Horse allegations of infiltration by hard-line Muslim groups in Birmingham.
He said that they embody values of “tolerance, acceptance, and generosity”.
He also spoke about spending time reading Christian and Muslim scriptures with his friend Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the Leicester imam.
His remarks came as he addressed 120 MPs and peers and almost 600 church and charity representatives at the annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in the medieval Westminster Hall.
He spoke of Christians around the world as a “suffering church” but said they were also “generous and hospitable” and should be “utterly at home” in a multi-faith world.
“The church is not an NGO with lots of old buildings – it is the Church of God, rejoicing in the realities of cultural diversity in a way never known before,” he said.
But he said it was necessary to have “fuzzy edges” to accommodate thousands of different cultures.
“In a world in which cultures overlap constantly and are communicated instantly – and, judging from what I get, often with some friction – you need space to adapt and to meet with one another, and you have to trust the sovereign grace of God for the consequences,” he said.
“The comments that even 20 years ago took months to reach the far corners of the Earth now, as we know, take seconds.
“Instant reaction has replaced reflective comment.
“That is a reality that you deal with in politics and it demands a new reality of ways in which we accept one another, love each other, pray for each other.
“The best answer to a complex issue … is not always given in 140 characters.
“The church of this century must be a generous church because of that communications revolution, because of technology because we are face to face with everyone everywhere always, in a way we never have been in history.”
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