Many adjectives have been used in the past 20 years or more to describe our moral decline as a nation, a culture and society. We are in moral free fall, morally bankrupt etc. Of course, what is happening to all of us goes well beyond morals.
In a social-media age has become easier for us to be truly disconnected people. People can connect with us, follow us/ friend us without really knowing us. Relationship connections are easy but they often become quite shallow. Today we can build a platform or become a minor celebrity just through making YouTube videos or amassing large numbers of Twitter and Instagram followers.
It is no accident that you as a Christian are in a position to use these platforms for the glory of God. Yet it is all to evident we have lost the value of a faithful life lived on the ground and in the ordinary everyday mundane things of life. God delights in the inner being of men and women, nurtured and developed over time through fellowship not only with each other but with him. This takes time and requires us to slow down, be reflective.
Jesus is the sinless example of the intersection of public and private living. Jesus did not have a public ministry until his thirties. First, he spent decades doing the hard manual labor of carpentry. For the majority of his life, Jesus was unknown and ordinary. Yet he was faithful in the mundane. He worked with his hands and created form and beauty out of planks of wood.
Being unknown by people is ok, the only one that truly matters is Christ, do you know him?
All of us for the most part have been sucked into the vortex of social acceleration. Many people are mentally exhausted from trying to keep up with our technology and all we feel we must do. There is no private time for many people as we are always on our smartphones, addicted to social media and other things. No time to just sit and think, to reflect on our lives and the people around us. We are killing ourselves.
Why are we in a freak show?
Satan finds ways as we also do through our sin nature to turn a good thing into something not so good. Social platforms are very engaging, and as a for profit business they use algorithms based on that engagement to optimize the feeds for engagement, which is usually anger and contention, which translates into profits etc. Common wisdom says its good to be connected but in the case of social media it connects us in a disconnected/connected way that has never happened before.
So, we now have strangers commenting and critiquing each other in a rapid-fire way that gives no time to thoughtful discussion but lends itself to angry retort and yes you get blocked or canceled. We then are talking to each other and to strangers who are rating us. Calculations were made by social media companies that the more we argue the more we engage and the more money they make. This change took place around 2010-2012.
Today we are in a crisis of knowledge and how it is validated. At the end of the day if you can’t agree on what’s true and false, or a common set of facts, a common view of reality, then self-government becomes near impossible because you cannot change someone’s mind or persuade them even with facts that what they believe or say is faulty.
This is where we are today. And many Christians are no different in their willingness to put aside Christ as the center of their lives and instead buy into a conspiracy or a cult of personality that satisfies their needs or calms their fears.
Where are you today in this matrix of folly?
Polarization has been on the increase for years. We want to separate ourselves into tribes that agree with our views. American exceptionalism was for a long time the ability to disagree with other people and often to lose and then come back to fight another day. It was not personal for the most part. That was one thing that separated America from the so-called banana republics of the world. Now we seem to be the largest banana republic in the world.
Recent examples include Steve Bannon said in his podcast: “A second term for Donald Trump should start by displaying the severed heads of Dr Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray on the White House "as a warning". (link here) “Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters, calling for attacks on the Trump administration at a rally in Los Angeles Saturday: “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” (link here) These are just two examples from both sides of the political spectrum and there are many more.
We have Affective/Emotional Polarization. It appears as Americans we hate each other (in general terms) so much we believe anything that casts someone else in a bad way so then you don’t feel obligated to check sources or facts. This social breakdown makes us vulnerable to manipulation by other Americans or our enemies. As it turns out all the Russians… (fill in the blank), had to do was sit back and watch us attack each other, no misinformation or bots were needed.
For most of our past as a culture the so called “unmoved movers,” were religion, ethnicity, and gender identity, these shaped our political views. Now religion is just one more choice of activities, your ethnicity may be suspect and gender is now a consumer item. Compound all of this with expressive individualism, moral relativism and a total mistrust of institutions and you have the United States in a nutshell. Very little in our culture shapes our soul now as we are mostly performing and trying to get noticed.
It is no wonder that young people are leaving the faith or just not committing as they watch evangelicals and others in the church mingle with the worst the world has to offer. That’s our Moral Freak Show. Some of you may remember Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church who made waves with his book Love Wins which questions Hell. He has been labeled a heretic by many yet he was a very gifted pastor and theologian. Some may disagree.
“While talking about the various cultural and faith-based projects he has been involved in since leaving Mars Hill, he admitted that he never felt at home in the evangelical subculture where he once made his name.
"Even when I was a pastor in a local church, that seemed like a strange freak-show," he said.” From Rob Bell interview (link)
Politicians have become performative instead of formative. Recently a GOP official - Dave Ball, in Pennsylvania said of Senator Toomey: “We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” said Ball during the TV interview. “We did not send him there to ‘do the right thing’ or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us.”. (Link)
Christianity and church attendance have declined greatly for many reasons. Yet this is one more indicator of social breakdown. Faith has been made a servant of politics and much of what Christians believed has been subverted into conspiracies and other lies to validate obscure and down right ludicrous claims. The recent example of Jesus flags and insurrectionists praying in the congressional chambers. Not the first time Christ has been used as a mascot to dignify people’s actions.
As people of the Christian faith, we know that Jesus says you’ll know the truth and the truth shall set you free, and the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. The logical assumption that of all the people in our culture it would be Christians above all that would care most for the truth. Christians should be trying to ascertain truth and not create their own. Since we all seem to have given up the reasoning ability to agree on reality the idea of what is really and truly the way things, how do we understand it, how can we come to know it, that should be in the forefront of our minds as Christians. Sadly, what we have now is going the opposite direction with Christians jumping into whatever conspiracy of the day fits the bill.
Truth telling requires we understand that there is an objective truth, but there’s also a subjective means to that pursuit of truth and we must be open to being wrong. Paul tells us in Corinthians that we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. God’s Word shows us that every part of us as human beings has been corrupted by sin. Therefore, none of us can see truth completely and fully. Our best efforts yield some of the truth or part of the truth.
There was a time, not to long ago that we had family structures in which our elders and others helped us to see what was right and wrong, what was evil and irresponsible. As the family structure has broken down very few o us have the benefit of family members to tell us anything. There are marvelous exceptions and I would point to the Amish as one group but there are still families in America that support each other in many ways. But by and large our culture has eliminated the nuclear family.
Many people can debate and discuss but never debate for victory. What we can debate for is truth. We debate most of the time for victory and on social media there are those that have become professional scoffers who just want the satisfaction of proving someone else wrong. This intractable attitude of contention and division has infected many Christians who fell they must defend their position at all costs rather than realizing that the other person may just need to hear another point of view? A discussion may not change either persons opinion or point of view but we at least will know what the other is thinking. And is should never be personal where we wish someone was dead.
You will find none of this divisive talk or actions in the life of Christ.
In all of our arguments and discussions the other person will be right about something. They might not be right about your central argument which is because all of us focus on different things. When we have the grace and mercy to acknowledge that the other person is partially right, we pull back the curtain of reality to reveal none of us have a firm grasp of anything. Many people are easily provoked into conflict, but part of our higher calling is also being good at reconciliation, at putting our disagreements behind us.
We all know what we need to do. Matthew7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
That scripture is a deep piece of wisdom. We all know we are too judgmental, too quick to attack each other. We all know we need to slow down and be more forgiving.
Jesus showed us how to bridge the gap between the public and private life. And he empowers us by his Spirit to do so ourselves.