Well… where to begin? Context helps, so here’s some: we’re in the middle of an escalating pandemic. We’re finally dealing with our deep issues of racism and injustice toward people of different skin tones. We’re watching the world economy do somersaults as it defies its own dismantling. And our collective psyche is reeling as we are still reacting — let alone responding — to a multitude of crisis.
We human beings tend to classify our own era as “the most _______!” or “the least _________!” or “We’ve never seen _________ before!” These exclamations help us classify and understand what’s happening, but that doesn’t ensure accuracy. This isn’t the first pandemic. It’s not our first painful conversation about ethnicity. Economies naturally do somersaults as they expand, contract, and sometimes even crash for good. A brief survey of world history relieves us of our arrogance and reminds us that we’re not all that special.
Then again… this might be one of the first times that all of these events have taken place simultaneously. If I’m wrong on that, I hope you’ll let my general confession of historical ignorance be a request for correction. This is a unique time, and here’s one tangible proof: the presence of the internet. All this stuff has happened, but probably ot at the same time and definitely not with the internet as ubiquitous as electricity and K-pop.
We see the internet as both uniter and divider.
As a uniter, the Internet allows us to be connected, share ideas, express our hopes and dreams, and relieve the loneliness that accompanies isolation. It gets us up to speed on the deep seated issues of racism in our nation and world, helping us to see life through our brothers and sisters who have experienced oppression as we address injustices that have existed for hundreds of years. The internet makes it possible to quickly distribute a federal stimulus and to do our banking from home, even as we watch our own savings accounts dwindle because there is no paycheck anymore. As for our collective psyche, it is good to have something to entertain us — a church internet broadcast, tweets and ‘grams about politics, and Disney+ (I hear today is Hamilton day).
Indeed, the internet unites us. Of course, it also divides us. People are avoiding Facebook the way we avoid hornets nests and vegetables we dislike. Twitter is mostly the airing of grievances, like a never-ending Festivus. Family members have new capacities to feud because of a Bernie Sanders meme. The internet has given us a home to billboard our personal beliefs which were never intended for public consumption. Do you ever long for the days where you didn’t know a family member was a racist? “Yeah, but I’m glad I know that because I’m going to confront them online!” which always works (nope) and only means that things are going to get awkward with the cousins.
Then, there’s the media. I agree with Brooke Gladstone who said “The media do not control you. They pander to you.” Media Conspiracy? Government control? Nah. It’s clicks and views and shares, my friends. Civic and consumer are synonymous in the United States. Media use the internet to control you — to click on something that registers with your fears or convictions — so that they get the $0.001 through ad revenue. It’s the same kind of “control” that your grocery store uses to make you buy two packs of Oreos for $7 instead of one for $3.99.
I haven’t written (or, blogged, as the parlance of our time goes) in a while, nor will I make a promise that I’m back at it again. One of the reasons I recoiled from writing is that my brainyworks and soulyworks were sloooooly working through all that was happening both in the world and in my own life. I’m currently on leave (another topic for another post) which has given me some time to really process.
For the sake of my own conscience, and maybe for my kids to someday see, I wanted to look back and make sure that I made a few things clear.
First, God did not cause or inflict Corona Virus on us. This happened because viruses and animals and irresponsibility all mix together catastrophically in a way that will only someday make sense and, hopefully, teach us how to human better. God is with us in Jesus during this time, and we are right to pray for a cure, for protection, for a vaccine… and we are also right to support one another just as the early Church did during their own famines (see Acts 11:27-30).
Second, it is wrong to treat someone differently because of the color of their skin. Jesus, a man of Middle Eastern descent with a Jewish heritage, loves everybody. For followers of His do to any differently is an act of insubordination in the Kingdom of God. As a white dude, I am largely blind to the injustice and oppression that my Black brothers and sisters have experienced their entire lives. Now is a time to listen, to respond with humility, and to become a student of the gospel for the world, not just a certain ethnicity.
Third, I confess that my control-freak nature is really challenged by the unknowns that face us. Will there be enough? Will anything be familiar again? Will my boys have a good life that isn’t tethered to a Google classroom? How will we do Special Education for kids like my daughter Lexi? If nothing else, economic and social uncertainties reveal what may have become an idol in our own lives. Has the prayer give us this day our daily bread ever made more sense to you than it does today? I have no reasonable choice but to trust Jesus, which is where He always wants us to be.
Fourth, the internet is a uniter and divider. The internet isn’t bad or good. It’s nothing more than a reflection of our own human hearts — hearts that are mixed up, both united and divided, between each other and even our own selves. One thing that helps me not get bogged down is this: I really try hard not to take myself too seriously. It seems like most of us regret being offended at some point. Granted, some offense is rightly placed and expressed. Ruthless evil is offensive. Ignorance is… a human right. I can laugh at theirs as I laugh at mine.
Finally, the only one who knows everything is Jesus. The only one who promises and fulfills the restoration of all things is Jesus. The only one who joins us in our human suffering while lovingly putting up with our general disregard for truth is Jesus. At this era and every other, it is imperative to keep our eyes on Jesus. How? We might pray like this:
Lord Jesus, help me keep my eyes on you as the author and finisher of my faith.
Lord, help me seek your presence in every action, every thought, and every word (especially the words I post online).
Lord, release me from my misplaced offense as I realize your grace and mercy toward me — that I might extend the same to the people who annoy me.
Lord, help me see people of every ethnicity with your eyes, especially as you reveal my own biases and blindness.
Lord, help me be fueled by your joy as I push fear aside, since fear is out of place in your Kingdom.
Lord, I’m probably going to bungle something today, so give me grace and power to do better tomorrow.