It was Sunday afternoon before I knew anything about the so-called standoff between students from Covington Catholic High School and an Indian elder. I’ve scaled back a lot on the amount of time I spend on social media. On weekends, I almost completely avoid Facebook and Twitter. Sunday afternoon, I was reminded why.
It didn’t surprise me when celebrities like Patton Oswalt and Kathy Griffin tweeted their hatred for the young man with the smirk on his face and the red MAGA hat. Griffin used Twitter to ask that the kids be doxxed and shamed. Bakari Sellers and Reza Aslan Tweeted their fantasies about punching the 16-year-old in the face. Comedian Patton Oswalt jumped into the fray as well. Remember, many of these are the same people who spent the last couple of years telling us how much we need to listen to kids when there was a group of teenagers saying things in line with the Progressive platform.
While troubling, none of that surprised me. It’s what self-righteous celebrities do in an era of outrage that Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff have coined “callout culture.”
What did surprise me was the reaction of many Christian leaders. Megan Bahsam documented a few.
Prominent pastors, theologians, and Bible teachers quickly expressed outrage. “Let’s be clear, this isn’t simple hate, it’s demonic activity,” tweeted one pastor. Another publicly wondered if college admissions offices would post their pictures with the message “Do not admit.” A theologian commented, “This is white supremacist terrorism.” Others posted videos that showed a still image of the student’s smiling face next to pictures of smiling Nazi youth and young civil rights era segregationists.
Finally, a leading Bible teacher with nearly a million social media followers tweeted, “I cannot shake the terror of adolescents already indoctrinated in enough hate and disrespect to smile that chillingly and jeer without shame or fear of God. Uncurbed, this utter glee in dehumanizing is what humanitarian horrors are made of.” She added in a later tweet, “It reeks of the vomit of hell.”
All based on a 15-second video.
Basham goes on to point out that some of the Christian leaders responsible for these comments deleted their tweets and even asked for forgiveness. Others did not.
When I was growing up, Christian leaders were notorious for jumping on the bandwagon. A couple of years after reggae music made a comeback there was Christian reggae. The same with ska. Now that outrage is fashionable, many Christians are just as quick to jump on that bandwagon, only this time, rather than bad music, the cargo is dynamite.
Too many people seem to have convinced themselves that HBO is making a movie about all of this and they want to be the one lone voice who stands up during the dramatic scene at the end with the emotional music playing and, “speak truth to power.”
But rather than raging against the machine, many blue-check believers are just a part of it.
Those Catholic school kids aren’t perfect. Wearing hats that are sure to draw the ire of so many with little or no adult supervision in an environment where tensions are so high wasn’t the wisest of choices. But does that mean that Nicholas Sandmann, a junior in high school, deserves to be doxxed?
And what about the other protest group that was there? You know, the one yelling racial slurs, gay slurs, telling kids to go back to Europe, and saying even worse things to a black kid in the Covington group? Do their actions, “reek of the vomit of hell” or not so much since they weren’t wearing red hats?
These are the nuances that we miss when we rush to jump on the bandwagon without thinking. But something else is missed in our lust to display our outrage. When we are quick to respond emotionally, we almost never act in wisdom and we almost always fail to properly represent Jesus. And representing Jesus, not our political stance or level of outrage, is what we must be known for.
For some, any act done while wearing a MAGA hat is justifiable. They rationalize it away with sentences that start with, “But the liberals…” Others are so consumed with “justice” and “ending racism” that they’re willing to pursue injustice and participate in racism to stop it, forgetting that true justice cannot coexist with lies and that the answer to racism is not more racism. But such is the case when we build our house on the sinking sand of identity politics. We are left with a circular firing squad where our commanders on social media yell, “Ready, fire, aim,” with each day’s new outrage.
Christians must be different. We need a better understanding of the gospel. Perhaps if we understand the work Christ did to reconcile us to the Father (2 Corinthians 4:16-21), we won’t be as quick to act mercilessly toward others. We need to live lives of continual repentance. Before we take to Twitter to pluck the grain of sand from our neighbor’s eye, we should take a look at the steal beam in our own (Matthew 7:1-6). Much evil is done under banners of the right and the left but if we really want to see, “the vomit of hell,” all we need to do is take a closer look at our own sins.
Perhaps more than anything else, we need to love. The world doesn’t need more keyboard activists with blue check-marks writing one word sentences about how This. Needs. To. Stop. But the world could sure use more love. And I don’t mean that in the generic, have a Coke and a smile sense. I mean it in the sense that is most clearly displayed in the gospel of Christ and most vividly demonstrated by the Church, that is, when we’re not so busy marching to the beats of our political gods.
There is plenty for Christians to be outraged about. But when our outrage is not based in the truth and wisdom of God and empathy for others, we’re just another voice in the mob.
We desperately need to repent, drop our pitchforks and torches, and take up our crosses.