Posted in theology

There’s always the Coconut Telegraph

By Elizabeth Prata

In January of this year, after Joe Biden was inaugurated and it was clear that Washington DC would get clear of President Trump, the purge began. Social media was expelled of conservative voices, organizations, and accounts – wholesale. Many people reported their accounts were suddenly and without warning suspended. It was as if a rock was thrown onto an ant pile and the ants had to scurry for a new home. Religious and conservative voices were no longer welcome, this much was clear.

Lots of people, including me, were not only shocked at the simmering hatred that oozed to the top of the bottle and overflowed, but were chagrined at how we had taken social media for granted. It was as if we thought it would always be there. We’d become so used to the gift of being able to exchange spiritual concepts, discuss theology, and proclaim Jesus’s excellencies on all these free public platforms, we felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under us. How would we get the word out if we were denied opportunity to Facebook, Tweet, or Instagram?

Of course, the situation settled out, and other social media platforms came into being and welcomed Christian voices. But it gave us pause, to think an important and useful medium would suddenly no longer exist. We had to retrain our minds to the time “before social media” and remember that the word of God always goes forth.

I thought of all the times in the Bible when I read “We have heard”. Here is example #1-

Ananias said, Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” (Acts 9:10-14).

All of Palestine had heard of Saul the persecutor. Damascus was about 200 miles from Jerusalem. It would take about 60 hours to traverse the distance between the two cities if you were walking. Yet the entire area had heard of Saul’s murderous persecution. Without social media.

Here is example #2-

Rahab said, “Now before the spies lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have despaired because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard these reports, our hearts melted and no courage remained in anyone any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth below.” (Joshua 2:8-11).

The Red Sea crossing was roughly 3000 miles from Jericho where Rahab lived. Yet a woman in an area thousands of miles away and thousands of years prior knew of God and His works for the Hebrew people. Without social media.

John MacArthur said in his sermon “Lessons from a Leper“- Let me tell you something.  The Galilean grapevine was very efficient and word spread rapidly.  And He couldn’t go into any town, He was literally, totally overcrowded, couldn’t function. “So He stayed out” it says in Mark 1:45, “in unpopulated areas and they were coming out to Him from everywhere.”

Another name for the grapevine is coconut telegraph. I lived on a sailboat in the 1990s, before cell phones were in use. We still managed to get the important news and weather from each other. Jimmy Buffet called this method of exchanging news among boaters and between the islands the “coconut telegraph.”

coconut telegraph is defined as: ” n.— «SSB networks are simply an organized meeting place on a particular radio frequency at an established time, where an unlimited number of boaters can meet and share the latest weather forecasts and local news. Nets are usually controlled by one person, who acts something like a telephone operator to direct the flow of callers. This method of sharing information is sometimes called the “coconut telegraph.” It’s a way of exchanging information and stories between sailors and how they stay in touch between ports. There are always ways for humans to spread the information they want shared.

Even after Babel when God confused the languages, humans figured out how to pass information from one to another despite speaking different tongues.

I’d say that the January purge of Christian and conservative voices off of social media by oligarchs of, that it was a wake-up call. We rest secure that the Gospel will always proceed into the hearts and minds of all that God wills and desires, but we should prepare to be creative. We should prepare to be flexible and not rely on social media always being there. Memorize the scriptures. Memorize good hymns. Buy extra Bibles- some of the more culturally unacceptable topics are already being “de-platformed”. They’re being banned from Amazon sales and in other online bookstores. It’s probably only a matter of time until Bibles themselves are banned from online sales, too. Pray for the Lord to give us creativity in how and when to share the Gospel.

It certainly has been an interesting year. Many locales are still forced to remain in lockdown, prevented from gathering in church. Public spaces in many places also are closed to in-person gathering, such as restaurants, arenas, clubs, and other places where people discuss religious topics among like-minded individuals (to be heard by eavesdroppers and bystanders). We need to be flexible and creative.

Nevertheless, the Lord makes a way. He did in Palestine, when Rahab, Ananias, and the crowds had heard. Whether social media exists or not, the phrase “we have heard’ will be sung by the many in heaven who “have heard” Jesus’ everlasting Gospel.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

2 thoughts on “There’s always the Coconut Telegraph

  1. Such an excellent and timely post, Elizabeth. I so agree that we should be memorizing scripture now. There may come a day when we will not have access anymore to the online versions so many rely on these days. And access to physical bibles may be limited. Hiding it in our hearts will assure we always and everywhere have access to the Word of Life. I agree that we may have to find creative ways to communicate and get the Word out!

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