Though I belong to a small - and perhaps decreasing - minority, I have not kept my thoughts regarding selfies secret (see posts here, here, and here), thoughts which have been all but confirmed by science.
You can imagine, then, my great wonder at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would support something so inane and self-referential as the #ashtag, for the second year in a row, even going so far as to reward it:
Did you get ashes today? Snap a pic & tweet your #ashtag selfie! You could receive this book! http://t.co/7ajjVIA7hn pic.twitter.com/2Svm8IYoIL
— USCCB (@USCCB) February 18, 2015
It seems to me the epitome of encouraging narcissism and contradicting the spirit of the Gospel proclaimed just before the imposition of ashes wherein the Lord Jesus says, "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them" (Matthew 6:1). The very purpose of the #ashtag is to be seen!
Still, as I pondered this contradiction before Ash Wednesday and throughout the day yesterday, I could not quite come up with the words to describe my concerns, but I am happy to see that David Henson, who blogs on Patheos at Edges of Faith, found them:
These churches, leaders or organizations aren’t encouraging people to receive ashes as part of the liturgy, as a way to enter into Lent, or as a way to ponder our mortality or the sobering reminder that we are dust and will return to dust.
Rather, they are implicitly encouraging people to come to church in order to post of selfie. It fetishizes ashes. It centers the purpose of ashes in the public consumption of photos and social media rather than in reminding us of our mortality. The systemic push within the church for Ash Wedneday selfies is an exercise in whistling past graveyards. That’s the unfortunate context of the call to “get your #Ashtag.”