We live in a culture saturated in anger, polarization, and tribalism. Every day, there is a new event that ignites a firestorm on social media, in our community, and even across the dinner table.
These cycles seem to be getting shorter and more intense with each passing month. For reference, go and look at the headlines in newspapers from a year ago. The stories that evoked mixtures of shock and vitriol are distant memories even as the scars and broken relationships from the insults hurled remain.
It is not that these events weren’t important. For many, these events had a massive impact even as the rest of the world moved on.
Rather, it seems our world only knows one way to respond to issues so as to treat them as significant: outrage. Nuance, empathy, and exchange are interpreted as weakness. The only way we can convey the importance is by shouting over the crowd. Secure within the echo chambers of our carefully crafted social media feeds, our society seems to be unnervingly willing to demonize anyone outside their walls.
Temptations to Rage
Faced with this anger, it is alarming to watch how easily Christians willfully—if not gleefully—join in. When the volume begins to rise, we match the intensity. More than outliers, I’m convinced we’ve become progressively desensitized to the way we casually and broadly dismiss others. Rather than heed James’ warning, we are quick to anger, refuse to listen, and reserve our love for those who pass certain litmus tests.
As I argued in Christians in the Age of Outrage,
Outrage is motivated by a desire to punish or destroy rather than reconcile and refine. It is frequently accompanied by hubris and a confidence in its judgement, categorically rejecting any nuance. Outrage is fast and decisive rather than reflective, choosing to exhibit God’s retribution rather than reflect his persistent, steadfast love.
At its core, outrage is when we let our flesh and this world set the model for our anger rather than Scripture.
We might expect this attitude from a world lost in sin. However, this reaction is wholly at odds with people who claim Christ as Lord. It is with a deep sadness that the most vicious posts I’ve witnessed online have come from those who have “saved by grace” in their online bios; somehow unaware that their actions repudiate their confession.
Temptations to Retreat
In talking with Christians, I rarely have to convince them that Christians can be tempted engage in the outrage of our world. However, what can be difficult is convincing them that their retreat from the outrage is problematic as well.
Even as a vocal contingent of Christians give into outrage, there are a sizable group that simply check out. They retreat from any and all engagement, citing the anger they see as justification. In a respect, this is understandable. No one wants be branded intolerant or a heretic and besides, no one ever changes their minds online, so why even engage?
The truth, however, is that this response can be just as destructive.
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Source: Christianity Today