By the time Justine Sacco’s plane landed in South Africa, she was the #1 trending topic on Twitter, and the most hated person in the world.
Just before the American took off on vacation to visit her friends and family is South Africa, she fired off an ill-advised tweet that said
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white.”
Midway through her flight, unbeknownst to her, the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet was taking off, with the internet using it’s combined resources to mercilessly (and humorously) shame someone for a really bad joke, and have a laugh at her expense.
By the time the internet had finished with her, she’d lost her job, could no longer date, and had become the punchline of every late night host. Shame on her.
Kylie Jennings (of Kardashian fame) recently said in a interview that every morning, the first thing she does when she wakes up is check Google to see if her name popped up…because her greatest fear is that someone said something bad about he on the internet.
C’mon, it’s the internet. And she’s a Kardashian!
But consider this, here’s someone who’s got what everyone else thinks they want, fame, money, recognition, she’s got it all, and yet she’s terrified.
Last week in the NY Times, there was an article that mentioned that the biggest problem about the election every 4 years is not that the election is rigged, but that elections are always divisive. Because every four years we learn that we don’t’ belong, that people don’t think like we thought they did, and we begin to learn that we don’t’ really have a place to belong. We find out that we are on the outside looking in, and the world gets a little bit more lonely.
The theologian Paul Tillich points out that for the longest time people were mostly concerned with guilt, then we were concerned with the fear of death, but today our overwhelming concern is with the fear of shame.
But shaming is not a new problem.
Several times in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says I am not ashamed of the Gospel. Have you ever considered why it would it be necessary to issue this disclaimer?
It might be helpful to remember that the Cross functioned primarily as a tool of shaming, in a culture that ran on honor and shame. Jesus’ death was a public mocking of a naked, religious weak and dying man.
Mess with us, and Rome says…this is what happens. We strip you bare, we parade you through your hometown and fillet you in front of your friends and family.
That’s the world that the first Christians lived in, they were afraid of the same things we were.
So for the next few months we are going to go through the Gospel of John, which is actually written to a situation very much like that. John is writing to people who have been publically shamed and kicked out of their communities, their families because they believe Jesus is the Son of God.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is always inviting people to make choices between what is right and what is easy. He’s asking them to willingly leave what they know, to even sometimes invite great shame into their lives.
He’s inviting them to be a part of a community that is centered around a Cross.
One of the things we forget is that the word to describe the Cross used in the Bible is scandal. It was something designed to cause public outrage and humiliation, the Cross is filled with shame, but John’s got another word for it.
John calls it Glory.
John wants you to know that even when your greatest fears come true, even when you face shame, when your world falls apart, and there will come a point when it does, that when you are the outcast, take heart…
You are in good company.
If you are in Abilene, we’d love to invite you to join us at Highland on Sunday mornings at 8:30 (a capella) or 11 (instrumental) this fall for this series, if you don’t live in West Texas you can check out the podcast here or the Live Stream to our services here.