Be The Change You Want To See On The Internet

I really need to get off of social media.

It’s the land of hot takes, petty zingers, pseudo-research, and half-baked responses. It’s the place where people who would probably try their best to manifest the fruit of the spirit in person hide behind their keyboards and deal shamelessly in the deeds of the flesh. Conversation is stunted. Growth is stifled, and I slowly lose my faith in humanity.

I’m being a little dramatic.

But I’m not making these proclamations as a voice from on high. My social media forays bring out just as much pettiness in me as I see in others. If we’re talking logs and specks, I’m walking around with a California redwood lodged in my eye.

Here are three things I would love to see less of (and more of) on social media.

#1 More Transcendence, Less Tribalism

We all like to feel that we belong.

I don’t have an athletic bone in my body, and when I did, I played tennis, which is not exactly a team sport. But I love a good sports movie. I love the camaraderie of a scrappy little group banding together to defeat the odds. I love the idea of a tribe.

What I don’t love is a clique.

Sometimes, I feel like the entire purpose of social media is to join the right clique and then spend the rest of forever measuring applicants to the clique and puffing ourselves up when we find them wanting.  We want an excuse to say “You can’t sit with us” instead of pulling out a chair and beginning a difficult conversation. We don’t even want to learn how to have a difficult conversation: we just want to learn a few easy tricks to shut it down.

I would love to see more people transcending the boxes and cliques that we so eagerly gravitate towards; more willing to share the truth that doesn’t fit neatly into our little tribe’s box because it’s more interested in prizing the gospel than the peer group we most want to impress. Tribalists can’t admit that the issues are complex, because it’s seen as giving ground to their opponents. Transcendents know that their God is capable of turning hearts even when we’re honest about complex truths. 

#2 More Stepping Away, Less Beating A Dead Horse

I often think about that scene in Beauty and the Beast, where Gaston rallies the unsuspecting townspeople who were handing out library books and baguettes at the beginning of the movie to a frothing mob carrying pitchforks and torches at the end.

That’s what it’s like on social media.

With just a few clicks of the keys, a member of our tribe can rally us to swift and decisive action. We become judge, jury, and executioner based on a tweet, a blog post, or a single sermon. Suddenly, someone who we aren’t in community with  — who we didn’t care a stitch about until we decided we disagreed with them — is our adversary. Just like that, confrontation is divorced from brotherhood and community.

And once we’ve tasted blood, we just can’t stop. The pitchforks will not be put down until the Beast is hurled off the side of the castle. No time to stop and think. No time to pray. No time to reconsider. And definitely never any chance that you could be wrong and need to apologize: kill the beast! What if, instead of running with the mob, one of the villagers had said, “Do we really even know this Beast guy? Maybe we misunderstood him. Someone should have him over for dinner.” 

Okay, so it would have totally ruined the ending of the movie. But in real life, rockstar move.

#3 More Thriving In The Gray, Less Black And White Thinking

Both of these things are so often the result of rigid, black-and-white thinking.

Now, before you go all 1990’s worldview book on me, see my last point and set the pitchfork aside. When I say “too much black and white thinking,” you might think I’m saying, “too much absolute truth.” I, too, was raised during the era of worldview quizzes that told you exactly who you were based on your answers to a few critical questions. I, too, love the neat little boxes and shiny little rules that keep us from ever having to admit that the world can be a complex, scary place.

The Bible gives us an absolute moral standard of life and practice. Absolutely. You will get no argument from me there. But there are actually places where  Christians have superimposed their cultural assumptions on the Bible and made new laws to keep from having to wrestle with gray areas.

I’ve written about this before when it comes to womanhood; variation scares us. We want the black or white, even if it means looking outside of the Scriptures to find it. But I encourage you to join me in wrestling in those gray areas and thriving in them as we allow the Holy Spirit and the clear boundaries of Scripture to be our guides. It’s a scary ride, and it means giving up the neat little boxes. But the Lamp will not fail us. We should be uncompromising where the Word is; that will make us unpopular enough without being uncompromising where the Word isn’t. 

Bonus Thing

The bonus thing I’d love to see on the Internet is less hot takes and more learning.

And not just from members of our tribe, but from people who push us outside of our comfort zones. We don’t have to be afraid to learn new things, because our God is big enough to help us understand whatever we find through the lens of his gospel hope.

Which also means we don’t have to hide behind “just preach the gospel” when hard things come up. We can actually engage people in those hard questions without using “just preach the gospel” to deflect them; then we can preach the gospel and apply biblical truth to whatever unique circumstance has arisen.

I’m going to try to be the change I want to see in social media. And I will fail. And you will call me on it. And I will try again.

Try with me.

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