…but we usually act like it is.
Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with someone about why I write so much about Christians’ concerning relationship with the social internet. This person has some insight into Christian organizations, how they are led, and why they often focus on the issues they do. He said to me, in paraphrase, “It’s a lot easier to get Christians to care about and give money to combat social media censorship than it is to get them to care about how social media is forming our hearts.”
I was frustrated by what this guy said, but I couldn’t refute it. I’ve been on the radio every other week for the last seven years, most of that time to talk social media, and I’ve been privileged to speak to groups on these topics too. What I’ve found is that lots of Christians are concerned about social media censorship. Too few are concerned about social media discipleship.
This isn’t surprising. We are more interested in the ways we can form the world than we are with the ways the world is forming us.
This isn’t to say social media/internet censorship isn’t a problem. It certainly is. But I worry that we as Christians are more interested in protecting our expression than we are our hearts.
Frankly, if I’m being 100% honest, I think a lot of Christians/Christian organizations focus on social media censorship and alleged suppression of Christian ideals because it raises more money than the alternative. But I’m more cynical than I should be, so that perspective could just be the cynicism talking. But it makes sense doesn’t it? People get more fired up about the “oppression of censorship” than they do a discipleship crisis. And when people get more fired up, they’re going to give more money.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the MIT Technology Review reported Facebook’s internal data that 19 of the top 20 Christian Facebook pages are actually not run by Christians trying to encourage other Christians with gospel truths – they’re troll farms run by Eastern European internet mobs that use encouraging Christian(ish) messages to manipulate and deceive Christians who don’t know any better.
The Internet is making fools of us. It’s leading us to hate one another more than love one another. It’s warping our understandings of authority and truth and beauty and love and purpose. It’s ripping churches, families, and countries apart.
In the face of all of these harsh realities, why are we so much more concerned with a platform suppressing our opinions about social issues? Because we want the world to adhere to a standard of faith we are increasingly neglecting ourselves.
What’s wrong with the world? I am
Christians’ biggest social media problem isn’t censorship – it’s discipleship. But the oppositional posture afforded by the image of fighting the secular, Jesus-hating culture and their efforts to suppress the issues Christians care about most is too lucrative to ignore in an effort to address the ways our relationship with social media is warping our own hearts.
In short, “the culture” makes for a better enemy than does our own heart. “They” are out to get us by suppressing our speech, nevermind what we’re doing to ourselves by scrolling Facebook for four hours a day. It’s like we’re hyper vigilant about the possibility of our homes being broken into as we burn them down ourselves.
This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s “Terms of Service” newsletter and is reprinted here with permission. “Terms of Service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective, and you can sign up at www.termsofservice.social. “Terms of Service” the book will be published on Feb. 1, 2022, and you can pre-order it here.