“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” – II Timothy 1:7
If you believe all you see on social media or cable news, you may be under the impression that the world is on the verge of implosion. That we have finally tipped the balance where climate change, politics and the Illuminati will finally destroy society once and for all as we spiral into anarchy and oblivion of our own making.
But once you put down your phone, take a deep breath, and let your brain rest a moment, you will likely realize that the times we live in are not really unprecedented. In fact….this is all pretty normal.
From ancient times the world has generally been in a state of chaos: empires rise and fall, universal justice has never been established, and road rage has been going on since the first autos hit the highways. This is not the first US government shutdown, and it is surely not going to be the last.
There truly is nothing new under the sun.
So why are we all living in a mad frenzy?
My wife is reading the classic novel 1984 right now, and so I have also been thinking about the themes of totalitarian government, oligarchal collectivism, and manipulated information (Yep, I’m a nerd).
In 1984, each day starts with the “Two-Minutes Hate”. This involves gathering everyone together to view the ‘enemy of the people’ on a telescreen, then the people proceed to scream and yell and convulse and lash out in irrational hate towards the enemy throughout the two minutes. It is never clear if the enemy even really exists.
Every time I login to social media I feel like I am living through Two Minutes Hate. There is a constant war of words, a line of combatants taking sides in a battle that only exists because twitter tells us it exists. Issues that only rile us up because facebook tells us we should be riled up. Headlines are manipulated, hashtags are manipulated, facts are manipulated.
We lash out angrily at the people on ‘the other side’, who we know only as an avatar picture. We make decisions and base our conversations on trending hashtags, without ever considering that someone behind a computer is telling us what is trending, deciding what today’s debate should be about. We are all being told what matters, what to argue about and what to hate each other about.
Yet, unlike 1984, no one is force feeding us information and we have access to facts whenever we want them. We are generally just too lazy to look beyond whatever is trending. Then we find ourselves caught up in some ridiculous argument that doesn’t even matter – be it in our conversations or in our social media interactions. We eventually start to live in fear, and then we start to live in hate.
But all the screaming in the world will not solve any problems. All the hate will not solve problems. What will solve problems is the love, power and sound mind we find in Christ. When we base our interactions on a firm foundation of truth, compassion, empathy, and a willingness to be ridiculed without engaging, we will find a peace and a joy to survive this crazy world we live in. Which is not easy work.
Yes, some of these topics can involve us directly: jobs and lives are affected by these trending issues of the day. We can’t control what is trending, and we can’t control all the world throws at us, and we have to remember that this too, shall pass. What we CAN control is how we address others: in love and truth or in hate-filled ranting against ‘the enemy’.
At least that’s the way I see it.