The evangelical corner of social media is a strange, angry place in 2019. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the blogosphere have given everyone a platform to share their hot takes with anyone who might be listening. The last several weeks have been particularly busy.
Kanye, is his conversion legitimate, or is this just a publicity stunt?
MacArthur and Moore, who’s to blame for the “go home” comment?
Begg, is he really going to speak at a conference with “those” people?
I have fairly strong opinions on each of this situations. However, my concern in this post isn’t the rightness or wrongness of these trending situations. My concern here is the fact that so many of us feel the need, the compulsion to take sides on all of these issues.
My question is simple: Why in the world are we so eager to take sides, especially when the sides center around evangelical celebrities that most of us do not know and will never know on a personal level? Why have evangelicals become just another example of the “hot take” culture?
- Perhaps the internet and social media have convinced us that we know more than we actually know. Maybe our online “platforms” have convinced us that people want to hear all that we have so say … and yes, I’m aware of the irony involved in posting this online and assuming you want to read what I have to say.
- Perhaps we evangelicals are struggling with our identity. Maybe we are succumbing to the temptation to root our identity in evangelical tribes rather than in Jesus. To be clear, I want false teachers to be exposed. However, I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t jump to “heretic” and “heresy” when we’re calling out people who agree with us about 99% of what actually matters. There are tough days ahead for evangelicals, and the toughness of those days might just reveal who are friends really are and aren’t without all of us having to pick teams via social media.
- Perhaps our great learning and lack of persecution have just made us mean. Maybe the unprecedented freedom and prosperity that American evangelicals have enjoyed has made us like the church in Ephesus – we’re great at exposing false teaching, but we’re lacking in love (Revelation 2).
- Perhaps some of us (in Baptist circles) have forgotten the autonomy of the local church. Maybe our real aim is creating an unhealthy uniformity among sister churches when we should actually view some issues as matters to be decided upon by a local body of believers. I’m not calling for a doctrinal-free-for-all here. I am saying that some of the issues that get us so uptight may simply be issues of preference and application rather than matters of truth and orthodoxy.
- Perhaps the sound-byte culture promoted by cable news and social media has infiltrated the way we talk about each other. Maybe we have started latching on to the most recent statement / post / clip to the exclusion of a much larger body of teaching and ministry. Sometimes I think we simply fail to give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt, when the larger pattern of their ministry deserves just that.
- Perhaps we’ve just forgotten basic biblical wisdom about speaking and listening. Maybe we just need to be reminded about what Proverbs and James have to say about the tongue. Rather than defining wisdom (discernment) as always and quickly being on the “right side” of an issue, we ought to define wisdom as being quick to listen and slow to speak (Proverbs 26:4-5, James 1:19).
I don’t pretend to have all, or even any, of the answers here. I am genuinely curious about what seems to be a growing evangelical impulse to draw lines in the sand, pick a “team,” and demonize those on the other side of our recently drawn line.