I was surprised last week by how many of my Facebook friends suddenly became practising extras from Boston Legal. Statuses flowed with quasi-legalese liturgies, informing Facebook that they could not reuse any of their information, as per the Rome Statute.
In the fight of social media, the people were sticking it to Mark Zuckerberg. Fearing that their rights were about to be breached, more and more people joined this cause, threatening to overshadow the Gospel of Red-Peak-Flag as the latest Facebook craze.
As impressive as these statuses sounded, a quick Google search reveals the Rome Statute is a treaty focusing on major war-crimes—genocide and the like. Powerful, but not relevant when it comes to worrying your latest selfie might be used for marketing.
Similarly, a little bit more Googling—and thinking—would result in the understanding that Facebook just is not that into you. As a company valued at $256 billion—yet facing increasing costs—they currently have bigger fish to fry.
A race of thoughtlessness
I'm not singling out these posters as exceptions, but as exemplars of our current cultural mood. In our race to be first, we often share and discuss the latest news mindlessly. We do not have time to think; but instead we trust the cacophony and select the opinion that seems the best fit to us. When we're surrounded by stories, we do not have time to be selective.
I don't know if Christians are any worse at jumping on these bandwagons than any other group in society—but I do know we are no better. We seem to love articles and opinion pieces simplifying complex issues into one-sided diatribes, and are more uncomfortable with uncertainty and tension.
Bieber, meet Spinal Tap
I have unwittingly followed the footsteps of rockumentary star David St Hubbins (of Spinal Tap fame), who famously said, 'I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn't believe anything.'
A juxtaposition of articles appearing next to each other on my Facebook feed beautifully illustrates this truth. The first was praising Justin Bieber's recent interview with a Christian publication, revealing his new drive for faith and passion for following Jesus. The next was highlighting Bieber's penchant for alcohol, and the recent groping claims to hit the Bieb.
One sharer spoke about Bieber's belief, and holding him up as genuine example of faith. The other was talking about Bieber's life of sin and immorality. Both were fascinated by Bieber's claims to follow Christianity.
The mindless donkeys
It reminded me of the story of Christ coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. The crowds were ecstatic, excited by this narrative of the celebrity king. They had eyes only for success and glory—tuning out Jesus' words about death and suffering. If there were a Jesus bandwagon, they were on it. Dancing around, shouting in praise: this was their moment.
Yet, only a few days later these crowds changed their tune; the voices of praise were now calling Jesus an evil law-breaker. Before they wanted his glory—now they wanted his death. Their feet of faith stamped to the pipes of Rome. From one bandwagon to another, their fickle, one-eyed nature resonates with my regular practices.
When we think of worship, the popular image is a faithful follower, standing with eyes closed and arms raised amidst the masses. We talk about getting 'lost' in worship. Maybe this is appropriate at times. Yet, I wonder if this practice has helped create a generation of Jesus bandwagon followers.
Worship ain't just singing
Jesus taught that true worship is holistic—it involves our hearts, bodies and our minds. We are called to love God with all our mind—and this involves thinking. It involves wrestling with tensions and tough ideas. It involves not settling for cheap answers and mindless sentiments. Our very act of thinking is an act of worship.
Perhaps we need to relearn the art of asking questions and thinking deeply about life and faith, just as we have had to relearn the calling of social justice and care for the least.
Perhaps we need to think about the culture of celebrity, and the level of focus we put on one person's faith and actions—just because they can sing 'Baby oooh'.
Perhaps we need to learn to consider both sides of an issue, to see the world from the perspective of a resurrected king who knows the fickleness of human hearts.
CS Lewis called for Christians to embrace the delight of worshipping God with their minds, and engage with culture in a thoughtful and considerate way. Perhaps we can re-hear his challenge and become worshipful thinkers and curious questioners as we explore how we can create a new contemplative voice in our culture—rather than be believers on bandwagons.
Jeremy has kneed himself in the nose, smashed his mouth on a Frisbee and had his car hit by a dog. He can whistle, gargle and wilt spinach like a champion.
Jeremy Suisted's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-suisted.html