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Rage Against the Social Media Machine

     This will be the first part of a series on “Christians and Technology”.   Titled “Rage Against the Social Media Machine”, today I wish to share what the Lord has been dealing with me regarding a Christian Life through Social Media. We are talking about all platforms, known and unknown. For transparency, I personally only have experience with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Paler.  
     Over the last 3 years, the Lord has been dealing with me regarding how we, as a nation, use Social Media to propagate our “opinions” and “beliefs” in the hopes of spreading our opinions and beliefs to others. This can be good, if used correctly, but also bad for those bent on evil and misdirection. For self-professed Christians, we ought to take our use of Social Media very seriously. In the past, I have been very guilty and complicit in not using the platforms correctly; in this regard, I have repented and moved on.  Top Dog Social Media has identified 10 categories of social media users. See if you can identify which one of these you think you are. You may be a mix of two or three.  
  1. The listener – those that fly under the radar and only access media to be nosy and see what others are posting and doing
  2. The Activist – They realize the power of social media and strive to have their voice heard to make a difference.
  3. The Spammer (oh boy!) – this is the type of person that tells themselves their cheesy posts count as “quality content” 
  4. The Passionista – bonded by passion, this type of social media user focuses their time on exploring and sharing their passion with others online.
  5. The Social Butterfly – This breed of social media user never seems to stop showing you how small the world is by getting tagged in pictures with what appears to be every person you’ve ever met. If you want to know how popular they are, just check their social channels!
  6. The Trolls – manages to cross that line from unpleasant opposition to downright hate speech, no matter how sensitive or irrelevant the issue. 
  7. The Influencers – Influencers are those that are producing high-quality content and sharing their knowledge with their social media community. They are passionate about their topic and love to help educate others. They understand entirely the concept of “quality content” and live and breathe it every day.
  8. The Early Adopter – They were on Facebook or LinkedIn before it was mainstream and love to remind you about it. This unique user has also likely moved on to all the new, shiny social platforms that you might hear about months from now.
  9. The Black Booker – A real relationship builder, this person looks at social media in the most practical way possible: a means to communicate with other people.
  10. The Family Person – These users tend to avoid technology but fell in love with social media the moment they realized they could keep in touch with their family members from every corner of the world as if they were right across the street.

     Unfortunately, social media has been used and abused to intentionally spread false information, or at best, information intended as humor or satire is understood to be truth by the receiver.  Adding to the dilemma, self-professed Christians are also guilty of spreading things across social media platforms that they either know to be wrong, or, they fail to research what they are spreading thereby expanding the false narrative.  As Christians, I believe we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and a higher calling to only share what we know to be true, or, at least identify that the issue you share is of your opinion.  If it is satire or humor, we may want to ensure that it is clearly understood. In comparison, we have bottles marked as POISON that come with warning labels telling us “DO NOT DRINK”. Captain Obvious does not always apply.

     In the Corporate and Business world, there is a concept known as “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR).  CSR is a program where a business voluntarily develops a policy about how they will contribute to the overall good of their communities and/or society as a whole, generally using profits to pay for these programs. CSR can range from environmental sustainment programs to philanthropy initiatives taking care of people that cannot take care of themselves (Example: Hospitals and shelters).  While some business’s do this from their hearts, most organizations today do this as a marketing opportunity, “Look what we did”.  CSR, while honorable a few decades ago, has devolved into masking selfishness and pride with virtue and love. They mask their true intentions with feel good statements and a wink and a nod.  In comparison, some people will intentionally spread information across social media platforms with the full intention to influence people while also knowing that they cannot backup the information they have shared; they themselves do not know if the information is true, but they want it to be. The truth is that just because you want it to be true does not make it true.

     Why is this important?  Because too many American’s are getting their “news” from social media platforms. “Online news websites are more popular among those ages 30 to 49. About four-in-ten (42%) in this age group get news often from websites and news apps. About a quarter (27%) of 18- to 29-year-olds get news from news websites, making it the second most commonly used platform for news for that age group. For these youngest adults, social media is the most popular news platform – 36% get news there often, topping news websites, TV (16%), radio (13%) and print (2%).”  Imagine the level and degree of influence that social media has on our younger generation. As Christians, we should consider this as we share and spread items considered “newsworthy” across whatever your platform of choice.

     I myself am extremely guilty of having participated in sensationalism, but I experienced a heavy conviction in my heart about 3 years ago. Recently, I have observed an increase in hostile and ugly arguments, serving absolutely no purpose but to divide us even further. Some try to use social media as a debate tool when it is literally impossible to do so – you cannot use social media to debate something into someone’s heart. As Christians, we absolutely cannot forget that our primary objective is LOVE.  In my “opinion”, we should feel free to use social media to share the truth BUT we also need to believe it, and know it, to be true ourselves.  It is frustrating and disheartening to continuously see social media posts that persist in old stories that no longer matter (such as Obama’s birth certificate). Too many times, these same stories were false last year, they did not magically become true today. We should also consider that the spread of false information is also contributing to significant increases in depression and anxiety.

     As Christians, if we pass a false story (whether knowingly or not), this not only impacts your own integrity, but can also impact the Christian community. I believe it is ok to share your opinion about a topic, but, you ought to indicate that it is your opinion if not obviously so.  Think about your heart and the impacts to others. Is your message coming from your heart, or, are you so outraged by an issue that your human bias is blocking what your spirit is telling you?

     Here are some Christian guidelines as proposed by Truthful Words:

  1. Don’t Be Rude—Show Respect For Others: One way that you can be distinctively different from the world while using social media is to think of others more highly than yourself (Phil:2:3-4)… When God’s people make the conscious effort to stop putting “me” first, they are less apt to be rude and more able to think of others’ needs and feelings above their own.
  2. Don’t Be Excessive: Remember the Fruit of the Spirit and exercise temperance (self-control) (Gal. 5:22-24)! Don’t forget to let all things be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). 
  3. Don’t Be Possessive Or Too Dependent: Remember these Biblical admonitions: Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:4). Ye shall make you no idols (Lev. 26:1). Consider taking certain days to fast from your devices or media, replacing that time with a renewed focus on improving your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ so that you do not allow social media to run your life.
  4. Don’t Be Secretive: Applying scriptural principles to your use of social media is a great way to guard yourself from being in bondage to them. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? (Gal. 4:9).

     “Incorporating “yourself” into your social network or blog in a God-glorifying manner for example could be posting that you had specifically prayed for something and the Lord answered. Instead of talking about your achievements, talk about your latest ministry or witnessing adventure, mission trip, or family day. Share about the blessings and the challenges that the Lord gave you through those activities. Talk about the people you spend time with and the character qualities that you like in them. Use media options to glorify the Lord by having a true meaning to your posts. Ask the Lord to give you a redeeming purpose for your blog, Facebook, and YouTube posts, or personal websites. It is important to once again stress that we as Christians need to be distinctively (yes, even radically) different in the way that we use whatever the world promotes or the culture deems acceptable. The strength of the choice is in your hands. By God’s grace, you do not have to allow anything to have power over you (2 Cor. 12:9-10).”

 

References:

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/10/social-media-outpaces-print-newspapers-in-the-u-s-as-a-news-source/, accessed 29 June 2019

Rosenberg, Matthew J. (1 April 2002). “Review of Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility”International Affairs.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#2923aa4b2e5a, accessed 29 June 2019

https://topdogsocialmedia.com/10-types-of-social-media-users/, accessed 29 June 2019

https://www.truthfulwords.org/articles/media.html, accessed 29 June 2019

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/08/rage-against-the-social-media-machine-how-did-it-get-to-this/, accessed 29 June 2019

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_social_media_driving_political_polarization, accessed 29 June 2019


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The Story of Rehoboam

     One upon a time, in an ancient land, there was a king named Rehoboam. King Rehoboam had inherited the kingdom from his father, who was considered the wisest man in all the world. During the reign of his father, the land thrived, kings (and a queen) from all over the world would visit Rehoboams father to partake of his wisdom to see if he would impart something significant to them for their own kingdoms. Rehoboams father, and his father before him, was a devout follower of “the way”. 

     Now, the father of Rehoboam did make some mistakes and strayed from “the way” and it had been prophesied that the land might eventually suffer as a result of his infractions, but the land was still awesome at the time Rehoboam took the throne. One day, Rehoboam was confronted by a people asking that Rehoboam honor them just as his father had done, and, if he could find it in his heart, they asked Rehoboam if he would even offer them a little more freedom. Rehoboam, wanting to be wise, consulted with the same elders that had provided guidance to his father before him. These elders recommended that Rehoboam loosen the reigns a little more as these people were an honorable people. But, Rehoboam did not like that guidance, so he decided to ask his buddies, those that he had grown up with.

     Rehoboams friends told him that he should tighten the reigns and restrict the people even more, for they were focused on ways of old. There was no sound reasoning to this guidance other than they felt Rehoboam might appear weak if he allowed these people to live free, plus, the ways of his father were considered antiquated and not of the times. So, rather than listening to the counsel of the elders that had helped his nation thrive and grow, he listened to his young friends and told the people to get stuffed. Not only would he not give them more freedom, he restricted their activities even more and punished them further. 

     After turning away from the request and will of his people, they fought him and even killed one of Rehoboams servants. A rebellion was kicked off which lasted for hundreds of years. The people of the land grew angry and despised Rehoboam for the remainder of his reign. King Rehoboam had successfully divided his nation in only one generation. 

     At the time of Rehoboam, his generation had decided that they wanted to pursue their own activities, their own agenda. They wanted to establish their own moral code and, if necessary, they would push their code on to the people of the land. They had become naïve and weak due to the prosperity that their nation had achieved over the previous 80 years. It was their forefathers that had grown and conquered the land, it was their purpose to maintain it; however, they decided that the way to do it was to force a new belief system through violence and choice of words. A once successful and thriving nation, following established ways, had been torn apart. 

     A thousand years later, a new prophet would walk the land – the true story continues. The people of the nation had become negligent and, achieved such a level of weakness, they had been conquered and overrun by many different foreign nations and were currently occupied. This new prophet was advising the people that the world was renewed, that there was light in the darkness. But this new movement was under attack, the people of the movement were being tormented and, rather than fight the battle, they would just convert to the ways of the foreigners so that they could live in peace. They did not really believe in the foreign ways, but it was just easier to comply.

     But the prophet continued to preach, that there was wisdom and revelation in “The Way!”. If they kept “the way”, their eyes would be enlightened to the right understanding, that there is hope. While it is easier to conduct ourselves in a way that our bodies desire, “the way” is alive in mercy and love, as long as we stick together in grace. That if they kept “the way”, that the people will thrive, but they needed to keep the faith, not just methods and activities.

     The prophet reminded the people that if they remember what their lives were like before “the way” and compared their lives to “the way”, they were happier and more successful. It wasn’t until the foreigners started to attack “the way” that the people were made miserable and fearful. He reminded them they “the way” is a new covenant and was bound in the blood of those that preceded them in death. For, the people are one, by Spirit, and connected to the source of “the way”. 

     For this very reason, the prophet bowed his knee’s to “the way” so that he would be strengthened through the Spirit in his own body and spirit. He argued that the people should continue to walk worthy of “the way”, bearing one another in love and endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace. They should feel renewed in the spirit of their mind and speak truth with each other and their neighbors. It is perfectly acceptable to be angry, but do not allow this anger to fester or it would bring on bitterness. Only speak what is essential to the cause and necessary to maintain “the way”. 

     Let the bad people continue to do their thing, but feel free to speak out against the new thing, against the foreigners, for while it may seem dark, the people of “the way” will bring light to the darkness enveloping the world. However, beware of letting bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking, put away all malice. Walk circumspectly but not as fools. Do not be unwise but understand the will of “the way”. We are not wrestling with people of flesh and blood but against rulers and authorities of evil. 

Concluding Analysis:

     Rehoboam allowed “the way” to be overcome with the progressive movement of personal agendas and power of his contemporaries, and his nation was divided as a result. A thousand years later, the people were beginning to wake up to the reality that they were happier and more successful when they followed “the way”, it was only when they were attacked for their beliefs that they would be tempted to stray and were miserable as a result. It is possible to be happy, even while being persecuted. It is ok to speak out in anger against this persecution, but, this anger must be dealt with before going to bed each night; hence, we should remain on guard against bitterness, wrath, and malice. All is done with love as the motivation, saying only what is necessary for edification. This is what it is like when we follow “the way”.


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Keep Going, Keep the Faith, Keep Pressing Forward

As we get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I also look at it as a time to reflect on my own personal relationship with Him. As I meditate on this season, I am reminded about how much I continue to suck at being a Christian – and I am not alone. If you continue to read, you will understand. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

Since becoming a Christian, there are some of our faith that will remind me (either verbally or body language) that some of my favorite things are not considered a part of the “Christian circle” and I should destroy them, throw them away or otherwise get rid of them.  I am talking about such things as my music preferences (which includes rock and yep, even some heavy metal), I like beer, and I will read books and watch movies that are secular in nature, amongst other things. [I do like Christian music and I am constantly reading Spirit filled books as well – just FYI]. The thought is that these items will influence my heart and drive me away from Christ – or preclude my walk in some fashion. There are things of the heart and then there are things of the mind – look at the heart and you will see and find a person in love with Jesus. But I suppose there are some that will continue to think, no matter what, that I suck at being a Christian.

But, we then get into the true imperfections of my soul and those things that are valid areas of my personality and character that are a “work in progress”. I talk loud and I talk too much. Depending on who is around me, I will still toss out a little “soldier speak”. I am a large fan of fairness and I am a champion of justice, BUT, I am unfortunately talking about justice and fairness in the eyes of Marcus. I continue to allow the wrong people to push my buttons and I will lash out however it seems appropriate to me at the time. The good news is that this is nowhere near the level it was for me 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago, but it still happens nonetheless. Now this is an area where I continue to suck at being a Christian.  Ironically, after a day like this and an hour of self-criticism and repentance, I will get home and initially relax with a beer and a song or two from Iron Maiden or Metallica [while repenting]. However, I will eventually switch my music choice to worship, reminding me of my salvation and redemption in Christ. I will close out EVERY day, before going to bed, with scripture and a prayer discussion with my Father.  I am always thankful to Him for continuing to correct the flaws of my character, giving me a wonderful family, and taking care of all of my needs – His will for me and not my own. Sounds Christianeeze , right?  Romans 7 reminds us that the struggle is real. In Happy Joy, Romans 8 further reminds us that there is a solution to the struggle. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

And THEN, we get to the true meat of the Christian challenge – the nature of the WORLD itself. Continuing to behave as a true and faithful man of Christ is very difficult and challenging.  Losing my oldest son in February of 2011 was very close to the final straw for me, almost took me down. Yet, here I am, continuing to profess my love for Christ, sharing Him with anyone and everyone that will listen, and not concerning myself with what others might think of the position I hold near and dear to my heart. Why? Read Romans 8 again. Keep Going. Keep the Faith. Keep Pressing forward.

We watch our politicians struggle to come together across “The Great Divide” in order to make decisions in areas such as economics, immigration, security, and life choices. We watch as professed Christians condone abortion or tax us in the name of government services. We watch as our national citizenry continue to lose focus on identifying who we are supposed to be as people or who we are as a nation. We watch as Christians publicly condemn people for their life choices instead of remaining compassionate and operating in love for others regardless of their decisions. And we watch as over 2400 Christian denominations argue about their interpretations of Law versus Spirit and right versus wrong. We are taught that the bible is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow – yet some work to change and mold the bible to fit the choices we make as a society in the modern world. If the founding fathers of our great nation were using the same bible 250 years ago as a guide in forming our constitution, then how is it possible that our constitutional processes are wrong and need to change to validate “progress” according to the world today. In this regard, I must suck at being a Christian as my Spiritual beliefs don’t fit the mold of the progressive movement. Nonetheless, while I may not be progressive enough, I still love others no matter what their views and I Keep Going. I Keep the Faith. And I Keep Pressing forward. 

We watch as some argue that science is stronger than faith and then watch as the same group says science is wrong in declaring what gender we are at birth – but I suck at being a Christian because I hold an opposing view even while continuing to love those that declare it. We watch as more church leaders are caught in scandals or, even worse, identified as pedophiles. I suck at being a Christian because I am glad that these people are being caught. But I Keep Going. I Keep the Faith. I Keep Pressing Forward.

So why, as I suck at being a Christian, do I keep going, keep the faith, and keep pressing forward?

Because there are guys out there that are good, honest Christians. There are guys out there with tattoo’s, who occasionally use “soldier speak” and who like to drink beer.  These are people who exhibit behaviors that would typically get you kicked out of the God Club. Aren’t they living in sin?  Do they suck at being Christians like me?  This is not why I am a Christian, just FYI, that would be a stupid reason.

These same guys love me for who I am and they love people who are hurting and messy. These same guys, tough on the outside, share openly about how they hurt and are repeated failures. They love their wives unconditionally and always speak highly about them. It is the joy I see in their eyes even in the middle of their tears and pain. They absolutely do not pretend to have it all together nor do they claim to have all of the answers – it is ok to simply say “I don’t know”. They Keep Going, They Keep the Faith. They Keep Pressing Forward.

What they do know is contagious, it is infectious – if only you were to listen. They are big, bold, and beautiful and it is fascinating, if you will only pay attention.  They are like me in many ways, we don’t believe that it is simply about believing in Jesus and living a morally correct life to get to heaven. It is much more than that. A life in Christ is not following a simple set of rules to earn God’s favor. If that were true, there are more morally correct people out there who live much more moral lives than Christians. In fact, I would argue that it is very possible that there are more non-Christians helping more people than those sitting in Church on Sundays.

To the dude with tattoo’s, the dude that talks loud or way too much. To the dude that likes to occasionally listen to rock music or drink a beer when he gets home from work. To the dude that occasionally talks like a soldier. We all believe in the same thing – that the cross where Jesus died is a reminder that as good as we try to be, we still need someone to save us from ourselves because at the end of the day, we like to compare ourselves to scoundrels. If Christianity teaches anything, we learn what a train wreck we are and when we see people in this light, we are humbled beyond compare. We might suck at being a Christian but we are real, heart felt, Christ loving men that keep going, keep the faith, and keep pressing forward.

Some religions say: “This world is going to hell. It doesn’t matter. It’s not real, but a shadow, so we wait until we die and escape this. We wait until the next life.” However, Christ teaches that His goal regarding the resurrection is to transform the world. Christ teaches His goal is a new heaven and new earth here on earth. Not that we convert people to our tribe and wait for God to nuke this place, but that we’re in the business of restoration. That we bring hope to the hopeless. That we love everyone regardless of their views or choices in life. That we help the needy, poor, and oppressed. That we give generously, freeing the captives and the addicted. That we transform the world where disease and suffering are alleviated. That we treat others different than us better than ourselves.

The truth is, being politically incorrect, that some Christians happen to be really skilled at covering their flaws and look pretty externally. And even the one’s who are pretty on the outside usually get disillusioned or just end up judgmental cause they are “nailing it” (although that attitude reveals massive heart issues). I happen to be “that guy” that occasionally wears my train wreck on his sleeve. But I keep going, I keep the faith and I keep pressing forward.

This may be surprising to many but the day that I became a Christian is not the day I asked Jesus into my heart. I had not even been attending Church, so I had never confessed to anyone that I was down with this whole confusing Jesus dies on a cross, resurrects, and is God, but God can’t die because he’s eternal…….Instead one day (labor day weekend 2008) I had an experience that was so over powering and so over whelming that I instantaneously knew that I had been wrong my entire life, I had the epiphany that “I’m all in and I guess I’m one of them.” It would be another two weeks before I prayed the confession and started openly identifying as a Christian. I started going, I started in faith, and I started to press forward.

So, Why Am I A Christian?

Because I know I’m a flawed human being. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now. I know there are some church people out there that are good at following the rules but I also know that there are Christians out there acting out in judgment instead of compassion and love. I can be outrageous on occasion when I should be silent and I can be neutral-silent on other occasions when I should be loud. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, he sees opportunity for growth. When I give up, he whispers, “No, you can make it”. This is why, even as I suck at being a Christian, I Keep Going, I Keep the Faith, and I Keep Pressing Forward.

So maybe if we can all accept the idea that God’s love is wholly separate from our actions, receive it, and give it to others maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel it’s important to beat people down with their theology and doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people. Maybe then, even millennial’s will stop looking at Christians as bigoted and judgmental and out of touch with the times.

I think maybe then, we might even just see Christ’s kingdom here on earth.


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