As early as 1882 the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared that as far as Western European civilisation was concerned, “God is dead.” The conviction that science and reason could explain everything meant the collapse of a divine foundation for absolute moral values.
Nietzsche anticipated the rise of lawlessness as more and more people “discovered” the non-existence of God. In principle he was correct about a growing practical atheism (Psalm 14 verse 1), but in practice human beings cannot function in a moral vacuum.
What no one predicted in advance was how social media would release the power of ordinary individuals to publically name and shame their peers.
Pride in the Fall
Human beings have basic needs beyond, food, drink and shelter. We need “the glory of God” to thrive (Romans chapter 3 verse 23). When deprived of this glory people are driven to be proud of themselves; this is at the heart of the social media craze. Not enjoying God’s glory people must glory in themselves.
In Jesus’ day the Pharisees boasted in their own righteousness (Luke chapter 18 verse 9), today people glory in the things Christianity has always seen as morally shameful (Philippians chapter 3 verse 19). Objects once taboo have become vehicles of pride. For instance, one of the lecturers at St Francis Theological College in Brisbane, is an openly a transgender woman.
Much fuss has been made of the fact that the current New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern will give birth to a child whilst in office. But since our society is devoid of moral symmetry woe betides anyone who draws attention to her unmarried status and the relational disorder which besets a child born out of wedlock.
When veteran journalist Charles Wooley interviewed Ardern for the 60 Minutes programme describing her as “attractive” the internet lit up with charges of creepy sexism. Some have defended journalistic freedom against today’s “thought police”, but likely all in vain because the roots of this new morality go much deeper than reason.
We live in a society given over by God to a “darkened understanding” (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 18). As Victorian assistant police commissioner Brett Guerin found, even using an alias on YouTube won’t protect your identity. Finding no mercy he jumped before he was pushed. This is not all about public figures.
A Christian lawyer friend has been defending a fellow believer whose Facebook post described the gay lifestyle as “inherently wrong”. The education department of the Northern Territory was seriously considering disciplinary action against him.
The LGBTQI lobby is working strategically on partnerships with politically engaged millennials to ensure society never goes back to where it has been before. Ironically, the only way to ensure a morally uncensored lifestyle is through a new form of censorship.
Not a top down one imposed by government, but by the pressure to conform according to social media “likes” and “dislikes”. Those who openly maintain a traditional Christian position on topical moral issues, such as euthanasia, can expect to find out quickly who their true “friends” are.
In an age of increasing anti-Christian bias anyone with an online presence should expect to be hunted. This sounds very gloomy, but it’s nothing new; “Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.” (1Peter chapter 4 verse 4)
When Bob Dylan sung, “And the first one now will later be last For the times they are a-changin”, he functioned as a secular prophet whose words echo Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God (Matthew chapter 20 verse 16). It’s time for Christians to accept our lot as outcasts in this world. The most valid spiritual response to the vigilantism of our society is not better arguments, it’s a blameless life.
Jesus predicted (John chapter 15 verse 18) that Christians would to be attacked for their beliefs; but we must never give our opponents behavioural reasons to attack us. We must live without fault in a world whose rejection of Christ is growing stronger daily.
If the all wise God allows vigilantes to come your way you have the great privilege to repay reviling with blessing (1 Peter chapter 3 verse 9). My counsel to all Christian social media users; Don’t keep your head down!
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
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