On Vulnerability In a Me, “Meh” & “Whatever” Culture

August 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

meh2The current state of the age is reflected in the tendency to mock, smear, and sneer. The general sway is the use of half-truths and emotionalism in order to support arguments largely based on opinion.

Take for example the popularity of social media for the exchange of intellectual debate. The low point here is that this platform tends to only empower sociopaths (I am possibly understating it). These individuals are numerous and reactionary. They are part of a technocratic tribe who thrive on conceit using the anonymity of the internet to avoid moral accountability. Tearing at anything that might feed their internal need for importance, attention and social acceptance, they bully, victimize and congratulate each other on seeing their victims fail.

When it comes to being vulnerable in online ‘communities’ things are seriously grim.

Jean Bethke Elshtain makes a valid point when she states that these are

‘disembodied communities – social media, or techno-cyber consumerism is a flawed instrument that gives us a vague resemblance of real community…it can be a force for steady desocialization, for isolating us rather than really connecting us’ (Maxwell School Lecture 32:23)

If Christians exist as community, found within Elshtain’s comments is a caution about how we use the technology we are blessed with.

The quest for relevance is often steered through the treacherous waters of tolerance. The price for getting this wrong is syncretism. This is particularly important for those of us who choose to use our real names in social media. Doing so is a vote for accountability, however we are open to slander or the temptation to give up because of unfair criticism or lack of response.

How are we to exercise our openness in a me, “meh” and “whatever” culture?

How is this self-centred, indifferent aggression to be countered by a community whose very life is fuelled by the Spirit of God? How is the Christian confession, which is filled with fiery love for mind, body and soul to respond? How do we engage a culture that continually demands for it’s message to be watered down in order to appease through tolerance rather than bless through loving service?

In answering these questions it is helpful to remember this –

Accompanying each new day is the invasion of light – this heliocentric object produces life and effectively calls it forth, as its own existence was called forth. Darkness flees in a dance designated long ago by our loving Father who is himself moving and yet unmoved.

Conversely the morbid light of the moon does not produce life (G.K Chesterton, Orthodoxy). This is because its vague light only reflects that of its super efficient counterpart, the sun.

The Holy Spirit calls us to remember this.  We are summoned as children of the day to preach an evangelical ethic which teaches Grace and Law, which embraces the existential reality of our adoption by God as ‘children of the light’ (Paul, 1 Thess.5).

This is Good News, ordered truth, loving and honest. Open to rejection, yet wise and strong enough to answer it justly.

Vulnerable grace is here understood as responsible action, over against blind compassion. This is because vulnerable grace is authentic compassion – it is an embodied reality, personified by the contribution of Christ who is himself ‘grace in the flesh’ (John Webster).

This is contrary to a fake and blind compassion which is grounded in a self serving ideology. An ideology that looks to human attempts alone in order to reach for justice in honour of the just God, yet falls short of creating justice because it fails to see that the just God has already reached out to us through His son.

Behind the façade of blind compassion is an image of inclusiveness that is in fact inequality. Its mechanized vitriol alienates and limits the rights of those who rightly and rationally stand opposed to it. The party line is brought and sold as morality is exchanged in the marketplace. Thus blind compassion becomes a political commodity used to buy popularity. It is joined by the double standard of those who rage uncompassionately at those they allege have no compassion.

This tyranny of good intentions (C.S Lewis) allows people to purchase their own tyrant. With the weakening of honest debate, thanks in some ways to social media – as Elshtain would put it, another pillar of Western democracy falls to the radical idealism that seeks its destruction. Respect and reason are gagged. Consequently the vulnerable are left downtrodden and genuine liberty abused, raped and torn.

It is clear to most Christians who have a balanced knowledge of the biblical narrative about the return of Christ, that we are rapidly approaching either the climax, or the end of the beginning, with regards to the history of the world.

For the scriptures and its multiple authors across a number of genres, tell us that God has one plan for humanity. That plan was laid out through our gifted Jewish cousins and exemplified in the incarnation of the Messiah, Yeshua Ben Joseph. A carpenter from Nazareth, who as a Jew died on a Roman Cross, was raised three days later, and appeared to his followers, eating, laughing, and talking. Each moment fused with His heart-beat, scarred flesh and in every word the renewed promise of life beyond life.

If you are a Christian, moving beyond the me, “meh” and “whatever” culture must echo the words recorded in Joshua:

‘Put away the gods of your fathers served beyond the River in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Josh. 23:14-15)

Therefore, the suggested imperative is:

Make improvements be creative and remember that it’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts. Allow God to ‘take care of the rest’ (Keith Green).

This is nothing but a rational decision based on the evidence of relationship, not opinion, half-truth, chance or superstition.

Looking at the words within the bible and our current freedom, valuable things which have been carried to us by so many, a large number of whom died for doing so, “meh” and “whatever” just doesn’t cut it.

We are aligned in deep gratitude with Jesus the Christ; Lord and Victor, the one who was and is and is to come. I want there to be no other leader – there can be no other.

My Lord and my God, our hope once again is placed in you, may our eyes and hearts be opened to your life-giving compassion, and may this be expressed in our wisdom, compassion and vulnerability towards others.

Amen.


Related reading:

Consecrated – Walter Bright

Origins of “Meh” – 2012, from http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3806

2 responses to On Vulnerability In a Me, “Meh” & “Whatever” Culture

  1. 

    I like the differences you stated between vulnerable grace and blind compassion. So often it feels we are condemned for the latter.

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    • 

      Agreed. In Australia, at least, Christianity is misunderstood to the point where some treat us as though absolute tolerance is the only expression of Christ-likeness – or love. The irony is that those same people who presume that often do not believe in absolutes. Blind compassion for us then becomes absolute tolerance. As Jesus said if a blind man leads another blind man they both fall into a pit – since we could assume that one of them was compassionate enough (ignorant? arrogant? – possibly even courageous?) to lead the other. So for me this whole deal about absolute tolerance (blind compassion/love) is false theological thinking. I think that the real basis for this is hedonic utilitarianism rather than gospel ethics. I appreciate your comments Sis, thank you.

      Like

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