Priests post Twitter #ashtag selfies for Ash Wednesday (oh, Lordy)

Technically Incorrect: To place their traditional ashened foreheads in the public domain, priests take a modern approach.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Under its new, remarkably human pope, the Catholic Church seems hell-bent on reaching a bejeweled hand toward its flock.

It wants people to understand that it does, despite possible previous impressions, understand how people deal with life's vicissitudes.

Is there a danger, though, that this will drift toward pandering to humanity's trivialities?

This thought crosses itself within my mind on hearing that some priests are posting Twitter selfies with the #ashtag hastag to commemorate Ash Wednesday.

This is a solemn day in church lore. Yesterday, you tossed your pancakes. Today, you begin to toss in your mind just how many sins you commit on a regular basis. You thoroughly naughty person, you.

This is the beginning of Lent, a time when you make sacrifices in order to contemplate your very moral weakness. Some people take this so seriously that they're even giving up Facebook until Easter.

Clearly, with "ashtags," some priests have decided to be where -- and how -- their people are. One such AshTag, from Father Chris Dunlap, comes with the message "Rejoice and repent." For some, this might feel like a slightly sado-masochistic thought.

But all of them show a selfie featuring a priest, with the traditional ashen cross on his forehead. Business Insider offers many more examples of priests who have flashed their ash.

Does the church condone such tweeting? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops certainly does. Its Twitter feed emitted an encouragement for all the faithful to create their own AshTags. It tweeted: "Did you get ashes today? Snap a pic & tweet your #ashtag selfie!"

If this wasn't a sufficient incentive, the tweet added a picture of a book called "Lent and Easter with the Church Fathers," accompanied by the words: "You could receive this book!"

It's not clear how your ashtag selfies will be judged (lighting of the eyes? angle of the cross?), but the USCCB is giving away 50 copies to lucky ashtaggers.

This tweet hasn't been without its critics. One Twitterer, Stephen Okey, replied to it: "I have no real objection to #ashtag, but I think turning liturgical observance into a contest is theologically problematic."

The whole world is theologically problematic, if you ask me. However, another commenter on the post -- the Call To Action movement -- mused: "What about the Church mothers?"

Ultimately, the church is attempting to create interest and involvement. It can hardly be faulted for that.

Those who might feel this an excessive trivialization and gamification of a solemn belief might consider that life is fundamentally a silly game.

We're all just trying to find the best way to deal with that and at least enjoy a few wins.