What a strange time to grow up. While change is obviously the one constant in life, the pace of technological innovation over the past few decades has been wild to watch. Here’s a short list of things that were fairly common not too long ago, but would be generally baffling to my teenage sons:
Sitting down at a specific place to “go on” the Internet
Waiting to get photos developed before seeing how they turned out
Listening for a dial tone
Needing to be together physically in order to trash talk and play video games with friends
Buying “box sets” to catch up on a TV series
Wondering what a classmate that moved away is up to nowadays
Owning a music collection
Getting driving directions ready prior to starting a trip
Sharing a file with someone on a disk or CD
Having the correct answer to a pop culture argument remain unsettled
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.
Well, as expected, the GOP-controlled Senate officially just told America that the best way to handle a guy caught trying to interfere with the next election is to do nothing, and settle things with…the next election.
There’s no sugarcoating it, we’re in dark, dark territory, but in times like these it’s more important than ever not to lose faith in the idea that actions have consequences, truth will out and that underneath their ghastly exterior shells (thickened through decades of careful, cynical conditioning), there are still caring human beings living somewhere inside many Trump-supporting Republicans.
In that spirit, I offer a few (hopefully) useful tips to help you maintain a modest grip on your sanity for the next nine months or so:
Stay vigilant: I came across this Twitter thread the other day, which absolutely nailed it re: what will happen next on the misinformation front. Brace for it.
Stay informed: Now is not the time to throw up your hands and tune out. Read, read, read, ensuring that you’re well-equipped for the many, many tense conversations you’ll have this year.
Leave the GOP: The modern Republican party has permanently bent the knee, and its members are nothing more than glorified Trump Organization employees at this point. If you happen to think this is a bad thing, switch parties, become an independent or investigate options like The Lincoln Project. Send a signal.
Don’t suffer fools: If your “both sides!” friends keep spouting ignorant nonsense and clutching their pearls about decorum, language or sexuality while ignoring staggering injustice and endless grifting, don’t let it slide. Be loving, but call them out. Relentlessly.
It’s bleak, and it’ll get a whole lot bleaker, but do your best to keep your personal light shining. A small spark is all it takes to eventually burn this whole thing down.
Since I post in a great many places, I’ve decided to start a free weekly email newsletter featuring a highlighted roundup of personal posts, generally-chilling news links and a healthy dash of the absurd.
It’ll slide into your inbox piping hot each Sunday morning, and I’d love to have you along for the ride. The first issue hits tomorrow, so please sign up now!
A while back I posted about my (then) social media setup. It’s been a bit, and the winds of change keep blowing, so here’s an update on where you can find me most of the time in 2020 (aside from subscribing for free to House of Kyle, of course 😘)…
Twitter: Always and forever, my one true favorite.
Spotify: My playlist output has slowed a bit, but I enjoy it tremendously overall.
Instagram: It’s grown a little exhausting in terms of people falling into the same endless influencer-y content patterns, but (despite the ownership) it’s overall still interesting, and there are real gems from time to time.
TikTok: As an embarrassing old man, I haven’t yet posted any content, but I’ve loved watching young people make goofy, creative, uncomfortable and unexpected videos. I fully endorse a return to the weird Internet of my youth.
Medium: I cross-post a lot of my blog content here, and read a ton of great pieces from others every day.
Facebook: I continue to despise this garbage fire of a service, but I still want to view my wife’s infrequent posts, and am reluctant to cut ties with a handful of people that (frustratingly) don’t use anything else. I’ve basically settled into a pattern where I cross-post Instagram stories and leave other content pieces up for a day or so before wiping the slate clean again. Shudder.