Over the past several years, I’ve written again and again about the complicated relationship between evangelical Christians, politics, social media and general concerns about divisiveness, so this recent video from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez resonated with me in a big way:
She’s of course 100% right about the ongoing use of faith as a smokescreen for bigotry, but while there’s no shortage of racists and dangerous conspiracy theorists in the church, there’s a far greater number of those that a) stay silent over concerns that they’d cause strife or b) semi-delusionally try to swing the pendulum in the entirely opposite direction by posting wave after wave of “just having my coffee and bible time!”-style content.
I’m all for trying to keep things light (or show off when the church is celebrating or doing a meaningful act of service), but when otherwise well-intentioned members actively avoid using the Internet as an important place for meaningful public conversation (rather than just a marketing tool), it has a number of effects nearly as dangerous as outspoken bigotry.
At our own local church, for example, right after the 2016 election we had a midweek service specifically focused on social media political conversations between church members. While the general intent was to ensure that things remained civil (obviously a noble goal), my immediate reaction was that it sounded like advice to stop talking about politics entirely, which disturbed me a good deal. This impression was backed up a few weeks later, when I received the following message from another member:
“I know brothers for whom these political posts are a big stumbling block. I’d be happy to discuss further, and show more scriptures related to the issue, but for the moment I highly suggest you stop posting about politics (and as [PASTOR’S NAME] urged from the pulpit, delete previous posts).”
Needless to say, I did not take this advice, and I’m honestly still angry and shaken by it years later.
Some results of the church’s silence since then:
- An endless stream of misinformation goes unchallenged (and spreads within isolated-from-reality friend feeds). You’d think topics like climate change or the importance of vaccinating wouldn’t be controversial or cause people to “struggle.” You’d be incorrect.
- While we pat ourselves on the back for having a racially-diverse crowd on Sunday mornings, concerns about systemic racism (especially if it involves law enforcement, another evangelical sacred cow) continue to go unaddressed. As an example, I said the name “Colin Kaepernick” at a church crowd participation exercise a few months ago, and it went over like a lead balloon.
- We keep erring on the side of decades-old Biblical interpretations surrounding the role of women in church leadership, as well as on outreach and support to members of the LGBTQ community generally. While we did recently have an encouraging midweek lesson on “eternal vs. cultural” truths (which I took as a bit of a toe in the water), the online silence continues to remain deafening.
If seeing posts about these topics are a “stumbling block” for you, I suggest you check your privilege, consider the anti-evangelistic effect your silence has on those affected, and most importantly think about how Jesus himself might proceed.