When Loud Christians Lose Their Voices

silentchristian

I know lots of loud Christians, though these days I am finding too many of them are selectively loud.

They live at a high volume and know no inside voice—but only when it comes to the handful of sins they fancy condemning; those ones that reliably grab the headlines and consistently rally the faithful and generate easy Amens in the pews. Then they commandeer the megaphone and the airwaves with such regularity and relative ease; deftly marshaling their resources of pulpit and platform and political bedfellow, to brandish showy outrage at a failing humanity.

Then their brimstone tirades and finger-wagging crusades become ubiquitous. 

Yet there are times when these perennially loud religious folk suddenly come down with acute moral laryngitis; days when they lose their usual prophetic voices and are rendered conspicuously silent:

When black men die at the hands of police.
When area mosques are vandalized.
When shooters rampage gay clubs.
When Native Americans brave dogs and bulldozers to defend their graves.

When dark-skinned people seek shelter on their shores.
When the Presidential politics of fear come wrapped in stars and stripes and crosses.

In these moments the once ever-present Church suddenly disappears.
The perpetually loud Church says nothing.
The brazenly bold Church goes into hiding.
The freedom-loving Church seems less interested in freedom.
The pro-life Church becomes less passionate about life.
The For God So Loved the world Church shrinks down to the Red States of America Church.

And this silent sermon is preaching loudly to the watching world about what really matters to far too many professed followers of Jesus. It is once again reminding millions of people that there really isn’t that much Good News for them; that the Gospel is a white man’s luxury item.

Where are our timely Sunday sermons? Where is our collective righteous anger? Where is our visible presence on the ground and in the protests? Where are our perpetually zealous pastors and evangelists?

The world hears you, quiet Christians. I hear you. Jesus hears you.  

If you’re pro-life just as long as that life isn’t black or gay or Muslim, you’re not really pro-life, you’re pro straight, white life. You’re pro-babies—as long as those babies grow up to join the NRA and vote Republican.

If your idea of freedom is the kind reserved for only those who look or vote or worship the way you do, it isn’t really freedom you’re burdened with, it’s protecting privileged affinity.

If there is a border of nation or pigmentation or religion around those you feel most called to defend and protect, you’ve made God into your own image and crafted a special-interest Savior who lobbies only for “your kind”.

Because Christian, if as you so rush to proclaim, all lives really do matter to you—then you should be fighting for a whole lot more of them right now. You should be much louder than you are right now. You should be in the streets and at the pulpit and over the airways championing the sanctity of  life; in Tulsa and Charlotte and Aleppo and Pulse. 

You should be so loving the world in a way that more resembles Christ. 

In these moments, organized Christianity will be damned for its silence or redeemed for its volume. It will be proven to either be complicit in the wounds of the world, or it will become the balm that stops the bleeding. It will either look away or it will look into the mirror.

Today we who claim faith will either be a clear resonant voice of equality and justice—or a loud, clanging cymbal of selective, self-serving noise.

But know this, Christian: you are being heard in these days—whether you speak or not.

 

 

The Golden Age of Social Media Outrage

AngryComputerGuy

Life tends to become repetitive. If you look carefully you can see the patterns.

Here’s one:

Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley offers compassion for victims of gun violence in Orlando on Instagram.
Olympian Gabby Douglas doesn’t place her hand on her heart during the National Anthem.
Comedian Ellen Degeneres shares a Photoshopped image of herself on the back of Track and Field Legend Usain Bolt.

Begin immediate and unrelenting social media sh*t storm.

Open up the floodgates for The Internet to be outraged.
Cue millions of us falling over ourselves to fire off the Tweet that will be heard ’round the world the next morning.
Commence the incessant public badgering of complete strangers.
Enter an army of finger wagging, shame-throwing, just-add-water keyboard activists to save the world.

In every case and dozens like them every single day, history repeats itself:

We pile on relentlessly with expressions of volcanic indignation, as those involved explain their misinterpreted intentions, defend the purity of their hearts, apologize profusely, and then limp away battered and bloodied—and we all go back to keeping up with the Kardashians and sharing cat videos, feeling the momentary intoxication of our own self-righteousness.

Then we simply turn our gaze away from the feigned interest we had in whatever deep, underlying issues of humanity we claimed to care about in the moment—and scan the screen in front of us for whatever else is trending.

We aren’t known as a deep people anymore, as much as we are a combustible people.

We’re all brilliant at generating instant, scalding anger and packaging it in 140 characters, but not as adept at doing our homework or sustaining interest. The extent of our historical research tends to involve retweeting excerpts from books we’ve never read or sharing memes we haven’t fact checked and believing we’re authorized to speak—and not just speak, but speak with volume and venom.

Never mind that an entire world is within the reach of our finger tips, and that we could learn and dig deeper and begin the real work of addressing the pervasive ills of our world. But that’s too time-consuming, too laborious, too boring, and not as good at producing endorphins. We’d rather just put people we’ve never met and have no relationship with on blast and soak in the cheap applause of the gathering crowd.

And yeah, maybe it’s redemptive, but maybe it’s just bullying for sport.
It might be compassion, but it might be anger created for public consumption.
It could be speaking truth to power—or it could be just throwing shade to gain followers and grow our brand.

This isn’t a question of whether one or all of the examples above resonates with you or me as insensitive or misguided or dangerous or historically ignorant. Of course it might. It isn’t a question of whether or not we should speak into issues of injustice, bigotry, institutional racism, or any other social sickness. Of course we should. It isn’t a question of whether we get to police what moves someone else. Of course we don’t.

The question, is whether or not we really give a damn in these individual moments or whether we simply want to feel or appear like we do.

It’s about whether the fire in us is for the cause—or whether it’s just to start a fire.

It’s a useful thing every once in a while to ask ourselves if we really care about whatever it is we say we care about in the middle of our daily online engagements, or whether we just need an object for our anger. And we can only answer this question for ourselves. I get worked-up almost every single day, but more times than not what begins as righteous anger quickly morphs into a desire to be angrily right.

This world is broken, friends. People are hurting.

Racism, violence, bigotry, terrorism, poverty, and illness are real and insidious and they deserve our sustained attention. There are a billion things that are calling out to us and asking our hearts to respond, asking our voices to speak, asking our feet to move.

But they aren’t likely to be easy to hear above the din of our self-made social media storms, and they’ll require a whole lot more than the time it takes you and me to share a graphic, compose a Tweet—or to write or read this post.

There is more than enough injustice and suffering in this world to merit our outrage.

May we choose those things carefully, so that our time here isn’t just filled with momentary bombast, but with meaningful, redemptive passion that makes the planet better, not just louder. 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump is Not the Problem, America. We are.

TrumpRally

Whoops, our bad…

This is on us, America.

We’re gonna have to own it.

Donald Trump is not the problem now. We can’t blame him anymore. This isn’t about him any longer.

The truth, is none of this is out of character for him; the never-ending parade of verbal gaffes, hateful tirades, and childish tantrums. There is plenty of precedent. History loudly testifies on his behalf.

His business practices, his bankruptcies, the wreckage of Atlantic City, his marriages, his reality TV tenure—that’s some body of work.

Donald Trump has always been horrible.

The problem is that 27 percent of America is justifying, defending, and celebrating horrible. We are sanctioning it, funding it, claiming that horrible speaks for us. We are asking horrible to lead us and represent us in the world, to steward the futures of our children.

27 percent of us are repeatedly excusing bigotry, rationalizing recklessness, explaining away allusions to violence, giving a pass to brutality.

27 percent of our people are choosing to look the other way while it’s all hitting the fan, because we’ve decided that we don’t mind the mess or the smell.

A quarter of us are shrugging off the most despicable, vile, irresponsible behavior and claiming it’s somehow what we need to be great again.

And that is the national tragedy here.

This election season was an X-ray, revealing something about the core of who we are. It illuminated the insidious Cancer that we find ourselves presently afflicted with. It showed the anger and racism and homophobia, and most of all the toxic fear embedded deep within the marrow of America.

And a quarter of us are fine with this. More than that, we’re consenting to its metastasizing.

27 percent of this country doesn’t care how ignorant of the issues Donald Trump is, how untruthful he is, or how low he stoops—none of that matters. It’s all somehow fine; acceptable collateral damage of what we deem the bold moves of a rugged outsider who voices our frustrations.

Making fun of a person with a disability, calling for protestors to be roughed up, calling women fat pigs, suggesting his opponent should be murdered: These are apparently acceptable leadership qualities today.

This is freakin’ Presidential stuff now.

We’ve fallen this far this fast.

This is the problem; that so many of us refuse to let facts or reality or reason interfere with how we feel, with our desire to rage against the status quo.

27 percent of us are riding this terrible train even if it’s heading straight off into the abyss because we don’t have the guts to admit our mistake and pull the damn brake wire. We’d seemingly rather save face and deal with the impending impact, terrible as it might be.

This all isn’t the fault of one dangerous person. It isn’t the fault of those 27 percent who support his cause. No, 100 percent of us need to own this because we’ve all played our part.

We have become this frightened, this angry, this vulnerable, this divided—together.

Churches, politicians, corporate America, public servants, working folks; ordinary people of every color, creed, and persuasion—we’ve all had our hand in it. This has been created on our watch.

This is where we are now. This is who we are now.

This is the country we’ve all built together, and this is what we’ll have to deal with together.

Yes, we should be afraid and embarrassed and disgusted right now.

But don’t look at Donald Trump, America—look in the mirror.

This is our mess.

 

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5 Truths to Help You Not Lose Your Soul or Your Mind on Social Media

o-CELL-PHONE-facebook

Social media is my home and my workplace.

As with many people, I live a good portion of my waking moments here, engaging, writing, responding—virtually existing. As fruitful as it can be, there’s a toll this all takes though, a price we are all paying that most of the time we are oblivious to. We usually just absorb the negativity and the vitriol and we allow it to become part of our normal operating system. If we’re not careful, over time it can rob us of our basic humanity and it can fundamentally alter us in a way that isn’t pretty. 

Today, I wanted to share a few thoughts to help you navigate life out here, and not lose your soul or your mind in the process.

1. Love the trolls, don’t feed them.

The great beauty of social media is that it gives everyone an equal voice, allowing people who have felt or been silenced to be heard. This also means that we are all provided with our own potential bully pulpits, and from time to time we all use them simply to express our anger and our outrage at those in our path, whether those things are merited or not. We all take our turns playing the ticked-off contrarian looking for a fight. We are all capable of being reduced to trolling for a negative response and little else. Spend enough time in the virtual world and you will invariably be the target of someone else’s prior hurt and past experiences and lazy stereotypes. Their agendas will not be pure, their methods not admirable, and their goal not conversation but the cheap high of throwing shade in front of a crowd. Try to determine when people are seeking understanding and when they are looking for the attention of a hateful response—and refuse to give them the latter, for your health and for theirs. Don’t feed the trolls.

2. Remember who you are.

We are all viewing people from the small, selective window of what they choose to reveal on social media. This means we are all evaluating others with incomplete information, always engaging them without really knowing them but feeling as though we do. Remember that people are doing this with you too. They will use a limited body of work by which to categorize and summarize you, believing that this is accurate and speaking from this deficit. The key to not losing your soul on the Internet is in remembering that someone else’s perception of you is not your reality. Just because someone places a label on you, doesn’t mean you have to wear it. You are the only one who knows your truth, so never let those who know less about you, define you. You know who you are. They don’t.

3. Time is always on your side.

The greatest mistake most people make on social media is allowing the manufactured urgency of Twitter feuds and comment sections to pull them into believing that they must respond immediately. We so readily unleash words simply because they pop into our minds, without considering whether they are helpful or warranted or necessary. In the middle of the frenetic crossfire of passionate opinions and strong stances that we find ourselves immersed in every day, it almost never occurs to us that we can simply pause. Yet there is almost never an occasion where waiting is not the better option; when slowing down doesn’t let wisdom and dignity catch up with us and offer us a better response—which sometimes is no response. It’s okay to wait. It’s okay to be silent. There’s goodness there.

4. Social media communication is inferior communication.

I spend a great deal of my life here in the virtual world and love so much about it. Yet although it has allowed me to reach millions of people and to cross paths with more disparate perspectives than would ever be possible otherwise, I know its limitations. I understand that it is not the ideal. Social media conflict often looks like a conversation, but in the end it can only be at best a series of public monologues. It is the separate ping-ponging of perspectives which does have value, but because it doesn’t allow realtime interaction, facial expression recognition, and because it is often done surrounded by an interjecting chorus of ill-informed onlookers, it is always going to be terribly flawed. Even at its best it will always be inferior to sitting across from someone, seeing their face, listening to them, hearing their story. We obviously can’t have this with everyone we interact with on social media, but the more we are able to, the more we will build true, bridge-building relationships with those who believe differently than we do.

5. Know when to apologize—and when not to.

Words are wild animals. Despite our best intentions and without much warning, they will damage people. Despite our sincere, laborious efforts to choose our words wisely, they will sometimes be the wrong ones, or they will be received in a manner in which we didn’t at all intend. People will be hurt. The same words that to some are laced with compassion will to others feel like bitter attack. When those words do damage we need the compassion to know when our choices have been irresponsible and to own those choices and to seek reconciliation with those who are hurt. Other times though, we will need to accept that our most carefully crafted truth will really make people angry and that this is okay. Often, especially when we are speaking into injustice, the turbulence that our words bring is necessary and quite good. Unrest can be beautifully redemptive. Sometimes to defend the underdog you have to risk really ticking off the big dog. Check your heart regularly for pure motives for sure, but never be bullied into silence simply because people get angry.

Hopefully these things will help you as speak and engage and live life out here in social media with a bit more compassion, integrity, and humanity. You and I will surely fail miserably at some point today. Do your best, but give yourself a break when you fail and keep going. We’re all trying to figure out who to do this.

Hold on to your soul.