Multiple Fractures (and Why Tweeting Doesn't Fix Any of Them)
Having been back in the throughs of America for six months now, I suppose we're getting used to the tides of life here, again. Sort of.
However, the tidal wave of the holidays is now upon us and I don't think that's something I will ever get used to again. There is good here. It's nice to experience the brilliance of autumn in the Southeast. That's a fantastic thing. I love the fact that we are close to family and friends. But ... like the systems in any culture ... you take the good with bad. The brokenness with the things to be praised. Recent pre and post election banter tends to publicly highlight the things which are tending to upset people.
It is interesting to me that there are so many Americans who now seem to consider themselves "activists". I get it. We're Americans. We're supposed to change the world. < sarcasm > It's what makes us "exceptional" < /sarcasm >. . The novel, and somewhat ironic, idea of social media justice is an interesting trend. From ice-buckets on the head to football players wearing (and Tweeting) pink, to changing the profile picture to something provocative, it seems that there are many who desire to be a part of some sort of revolution. Something bold. Something significant. Something world changing. That's truly a good thing, albeit I think the forms which "desire for change" takes on are incredibly insufficient.
"Raising Awareness" is the catch-phrase of the hour. I don't deny the fact that "Raising Awareness" isn't a bad first step in a myopic, "selfie" culture; however, awareness doesn't actually change anything. It's not enough to be "aware" of realities outside of myself (although it's not an unhealthy step). Unfortunately the majority "social media justice" stops at the point of awareness. Some of the more unscrupulous organizations use viral public awareness to raise more money, often going into personal pocketbooks and not so much going toward "the cause."
As a Christian, and as a part of the universal body of Christ, the Church, we need to think through issues of societal transformation and justice more carefully and at somewhat deeper levels than the rest of the world. The organization I currently work for bills the church as "the world's largest social network". I believe that to be accurate. This global social network, of which we are a part, needs to work and think more deeply and honestly about the problems she has around her: poverty, unemployment, hunger, oppression, inequality. And think about real solutions, rather than just preach at them. (Word and deed. Deed and word.)
Here's a core problem for us: brokenness arises out of fallenness; and we often fail to grasp the fact that there is more than one thing broken. On one side, the brokenness of societal systems is elevated above everything else. Structures need to be fixed, mended or replaced. Structures that make the poor, poorer, the rich, richer and the oppressed and vulnerable without support. More oppressed. More vulnerable. Societal structures is a vast and complex problem - and, to be clear, it IS a problem. Every culture and society have structures in place that result in injustice and oppression. Every culture and society also have structures in place that are made up of God-given, Biblical ideology. We often exalt our own culture as the preeminent culture, blessed of God and holy. Or, particularly true for those who've lived outside of their own culture, we verbally bash the evils with which we are most familiar, and exalt another culture as preeminently perfect (Look at how African people live in community, we need to be more like them. Look at how the French eat butter croissants and never get fat, we need to be more like them, etc.).
Ugandan culture is broken (but contains beauty).
French culture is broken (but contains beauty).
American culture is broken (but contains beauty).
Go down the list of nations, and the cultures they contain. It's true for every society on the planet. There are aspects of every culture that are breathtakingly unique and beautiful. There are structures in every culture that need to be remedied; placed into a Biblical garage and repaired. I believe this is the work of the church as the church relates to society. While there are redeemable aspects, every culture and every society is broken at its core. The healing of the Gospel is the only remedy.
On the other hand,Christians to need to embrace the fact that it's not just society and societal structures that are broken. Even if every structure of oppression is completely treated and cured, the problem will not be completely healed. That's because the problem is also in the core of the human heart. A more fair, more just structure can be put into place, and, yet, the rich will still be plagued with greed, selfishness, immoral behavior and pride. The poor with the same sickness. The fallenness of the human heart is the human condition, and affects more than culture. Redeemable? Absolutely. That's why Jesus came to earth and died. However, this is where the church (the greatest social network on the planet) must walk in redemptive power and witness. Salt and light. Jesus is the answer to the human condition, rich or poor; powerful or vulnerable.
One of the most beautiful things about the Gospel is healing. Healing for a society. Healing for a soul. When wholeness of society and soul align, real change, real justice, real peace can happen. There are examples of this happening around the country, and around the world.
Christians who begin thinking in terms of redeemed structures and redeemed hearts, do see real change in their communities. Structures are fallen. The human heart is fallen. They interact with one another much more profoundly than we even understand. I don't have any real answer as to how this happens, at least in an exacting way. However, I do know that Christian ministry in the 21st century is going to require us to think carefully and Biblically at both of these elevations, at the same time. American Evangelicals have had an historically difficult time doing this. It's a necessary challenge for us to embrace.
Think societal structures.
Think condition of the human heart.
As Christians these complexities should drive our thinking more than Instagram and Twitter.
These complexities should also drive a more thoughtful response.