Have We Lost our Christian Minds?
Disclaimer: In the lead up to writing this article, I confess I have at times lost my own mind.
What the !%# is going on in our world that has us so divided, so frenzied and at times apocalyptic? I’m reticent to comment on ANY posts or feeds because in the cacophony of mindless , emotion-driven and partisan responses. Any chance of reasoned, civil conversation is muted in the noise.
The increasingly divisive rhetoric of the past years used by politicians and other social commentators has "allowed" many to bare their prejudicial and judgemental souls. Politicians and the public now have greater social license to express divisive, hateful and prejudicial attitudes that once were disciplined by a common sense of civility and reasoned thought. Whatever you make of the policies coming from the new US President, there is a larger global narrative empowering (and confusing) the issue.
Consider: Sunday evening January 29th 2017, a young man entered a mosque in Quebec City and killed six worshipers. The Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard has responded with great wisdom and statesmanship. His words were careful, affirming and measured. He then encouraged the nation to cautiously and carefully consider their own words in response to the tragedy:
“Words spoken, words written, are not trivial,” Couillard said. “It is up to each of us to formulate them, to choose them. These words can unite, heal or they can divide and hurt. It’s up to us to choose.”
No doubt, the Premier was very aware of the consequences of the global rhetoric that is tearing down respect among peoples.
We live in a social media age that has given rise to the slacktivist, a term that combines the words "slacker" and "activism" to refer to people who use simple measures to support an issue or social cause involving virtually no effort on the part of participants. We think our words, opinions, posts and re-posts will make the change we want to see. Unfortunately, many of those words posted are inflammatory at best and outright degrading at worst.
I do not intend to discount the power of social media and words. It’s the medium I am using to try influence your thought. However, I want to remind us what each of us can DO within our personal sphere of influence that includes, yet goes beyond, words. It’s in the space of personal relationships and attachments that the follower of Christ will have the greatest impact.
First, let me comment on three steps for each of us to take. Then I’ll finish with comment on how our local, personal efforts can actually change society.
Read: A wise person thinks before they speak, says the Scripture. A part of thinking is to be well informed. That won’t come from single sources. Read widely to avoid the confirmation bias that is so easily satisfied in our news feeds. Read the Word of God. Jesus has a response to so much of what is occurring right now in either specific command or general principle. Should we not start there, by being informed about His Way, Truth and path for abundant Life for all? Honestly I think many Christians have lost their Christian minds (or surrendered them) to other forces. Capture your thoughts; renew your mind with the mind of Christ.
Reflect: Sit on your opinion or thoughts for a while. Reason through your response based on the Scripture, talks with friends and mentors and some good old quiet time to let your frenzied mind slow down enough to hear the Spirit. It takes time to crawl off whatever soapbox or stance onto which you had quickly climbed. Scripture is clear that what we speak with our mouths is an overflow of what is taking place in our hearts (Luke 6:45). So, let's examine our hearts before we utter words because our words are a clear reflection of what is going on internally. Once you let the words and opinions out, they will ‘mark you’. They will also mark others in a certain way and carry a measure of influence and impact.
Respond: Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 that unless our righteousness (and aren't we so righteous on FB??) is better than that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, we wont enter and experience the Kingdom of God. Neither will others! They justified themselves through doctrine, thinking & traditionally held beliefs/practices. If they were here today their righteousness would also show up in their Facebook pontification and their slacktivism. Jesus is asking us to ACT. Each of us has arenas where we can act based on our reflection and convictions. Some examples:
- Pray. This isn’t a Christian ‘apple pie and motherhood’ statement. Prayer is power. See 1 Timothy 2:1-3.
- Speak/write to and influence government officials. It’s your right and your duty.
- Write on social media and other platforms. Exposure to issues and the words you use matter to the public and to the persons/issues for which you are advocating. Choose and use words wisely.
- Act through agencies, churches and associations to address the issues for which you hold convictions. Christians, this may at times mean you should be working side by side with other faiths and non-church related organizations when you are able to address common concerns. You are members of the human family, not just your faith.
- Be the change within your personal circle. How do your convictions show up in your personal choices, behaviours and words? Getting fired up about change and posting it on social media is merely 'slacktivism'. Social media raises awareness but it has no hands or feet. There is no substitute for getting out there, rolling up your sleeves, and working on the issues you want to see changed.
Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity” describes from a sociologists point of view how the obscure, marginal Jesus movement became the dominant force in the western world in its first 3 centuries. His conclusion is that Christians revitalized life in Greco Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships that were able to cope with the urban problems of the day. "To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity offered a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity." (pg 161). Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear and brutality of life in the urban Greco-Roman world. Does any of this sound somewhat familiar?
Jesus offers humanity a new culture, a new way of being. Let’s live it out in such a way that our own culture takes notice of this better Way, accessible through His Truth and resulting in true, abundant Life.
Harv Matchullis - Encompass Partnerships' Director