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Craig Detweiler sees spiritual significance underneath the stereotypes.

Selfies are blessings from God. At least that’s the contention of Craig Detweiler in his new book Selfies: Searching for the Image of God in a Digital Age. Where others see only shallowness and vanity, Detweiler, an expert on faith and social media serving as president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, sees the outpouring of creativity and the reflection of a self-imaging God. Pastor and film critic Wade Bearden spoke with Detweiler about the historical lineage of selfies and the spiritual possibilities and pitfalls of social media.

In Selfies, you mention how a handful of Facebook friends told you they would never be interested in a book about “such a superficial subject.” Why write the book, knowing it would face such an uphill climb?

I think our ambivalence, or even anger, regarding the whole concept of selfies is exactly why I wanted to write this book. We feel like selfies reflect the worst of who we are, and yet it’s coming out of us. It’s coming out of our own need for expression, for validation, and our desire to be seen.

Is there a way to redeem selfies? If not, then I wonder if there’s a way to redeem ourselves. If the medium itself is so inherently fallen that we can’t imagine a way of elevating or rescuing it, then maybe we’re in far more dire straits than we realize. Or, maybe our hope in Jesus is limited.

You say: “Rather than seeing selfies as the problem, I approach selfies as the start of a solution.” In another passage, you also wonder how one might receive “selfies as a sacred gift from the original Giver.” How can selfies be a sacred gift?

To me, so much of the crisis in our country and culture is rooted in issues of identity. …

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