I know a lot of people who turn to Oswald Chambers for their devotional material. They read My Utmost for His Highest every day. I’ve read that devotional a number of times myself, but for the past couple of years I’ve been using a book that Ms. Hazel Howell of Canton, Ms. sent to me.
It’s Madeleine L’Engle’s Irrational Season. The more I read it, the more I love it. I think even the title is fitting for the days in which we stumble about.
I can remember being in second grade and pulling L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time off the library shelf at Oahu’s Helemano Elementary School and taking it home to read. I was completely taken with the story of Meg’s search for her father — a search I would emulate myself one day, although I didn’t have an inkling of that then.
I often find something that rings so true in L’Engle’s words that sometimes I have to sit on it for days, like a hen laying an egg. Such was the case with this tidbit: “The Spirit, too, sees through the snare of avoiding pain by taking up causes.”
In the graphs preceding that statement, L’Engle said, “Jesus couldn’t have cared less about the cause of the leper or the rights of the leper, but when there was a leper in his path he did not walk around him.”
That startled me like a dog bite to the face — something I understand all too well.
I grew up in the “cause” generation. The first cause I remember fighting for was the right to wear pants to high school. I know it sounds archaic, right? But seriously, we had to wear dresses — to a public high school. Until sometime in the spring of my freshman year the school board decided we could wear pant suits. Those polyester things that were unbearable in a Georgia high school that lacked air conditioning. Still we wore them. By the time we were juniors, things had lapsed so badly we were wearing hip-hugger jeans ala Cher style.
Integration was the next big battle. But that’s another post for another day, suffice it to say there were some rough days at school for all of us during that era. Knifings, shouting matches, protests, threats on all sides and sheer ugliness on most everybody’s behalf. And church wasn’t much better.
Then there was Vietnam. For me, there was always Vietnam.
So I learned early about causes, about social justice, and injustices. And I have long believed that being a Christian who did God proud meant you had to fight for a cause. But then I read L’Engle’s statement and that got me to thinking about a lot of things.
In particular it got me to thinking about social media and how some people use it in such productive ways, for such great causes — like when it’s used to raise money to build schools in Vietnam, or wells in Africa, or to help those suffering in Haiti or Joplin, Mo..
Those are just a few of the good ways in which it is employed, where the cause seems important and good, for the benefit of us all.
But too much of the time social media is used in such a negative, destructive way.
People get behind a cause — or a personality — and they go completely apeshit. Seriously. It reminds me so much of what I saw as a young girl during that first year that our high school was integrated. Parents acted the fool. People said the stupidest things.
One of those that has lingered with me all these years, and I don’t even recall which adult said it to me, but they told me to be careful because black people always fight in gangs. (I wonder if black kids were being told the same thing about white kids?) Whoever it was giving me the warning must have scared me because I remembered it all these years.
I never got into a gang fight, though, until I started writing commentary online.
It’s no secret that the Internet is a double-edged sword.
I’m a big girl, who grew up actually street fighting in the trailer parks, so when I write commentary that incites the masses, I don’t go to bed bawling. I don’t get drunk. I don’t get all uppity and dismiss everyone as idiots. I just do the very thing Professor George Venn told me to do from the very first days I began writing — Ignore all the flattery, all the criticisms and keep writing.
It’s served me well so far.
I know that when I say stuff readers like they are high-fiving me and sending readers my way.
I also know when I say stuff that pricks them, or worse yet, stuff they absolutely disagree with they are going to call me an egg-sucking dog, or worse.
There have been death threats.
They have cursed my children.
They often comment in an uncomplimentary way about my physical appearance — as if I’m somehow blind to this aging body.
They dismiss me as an idiot.
And when they really want to drive the knife in they attack my faith.
But I’m not the only one this is happening to.
In the past few months I’ve seen a number of high-profile Believers come under the very same sort of Internet Gang Rape. That’s what it is, you know, when we divvy ourselves up on one side of the fence or the other and begin to assault one another.
When we choose a cause — or a personality — to defend, we get all outrageously righteous. We get defensive and say ugly things about other people. We belittle them. Dismiss them as ugly or stupid or fill-in-the-blank.
Social Media has done as much to divide us as it ever did to connect us. Don’t like someone’s theology, their book, their politics, or their blog post? Use your media powers, Wizard.
Whether you consider yourself Emergent, Progressive, Evangelical or Carrot-Topped Chosen, whether you gather in a coffee shop or somebody’s backyard, or the local Tavern or a warehouse church, there is still truth to be found in Hebrews 10: 24& 25:
Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
That’s the Message version.
I used it purposely because I like the reference to being inventive in encouraging one another. I think we are failing miserably at that.
We tattoo ourselves with Jesus then…
We dress up in the gang color of cynicism and call it humor.
We dress in the gang color of self-righteousness and we call it discernment.
We dress in the gang color of exclusiveness and we call it unity.
We dress in the gang color of judgement and we call it being holy.
We dress in gang color of hate and call it the bonds of love.
Social Media has given Christians a legitimate venue for being a gang member.
We are so busy trying to defend our homies or fight the good cause, that we are in threat of completely quenching the Spirit, who we all so desperately need right now.