Empires of Dust: The Political, the Religious, and the Cultural


Our online empires are merely empires of dust. There are celebrity pastors, parachurch organizations, gifted authors, denominational gurus and of course amateurs like myself all vying for the limelight of being heard. The various cultural news pieces provide fodder to all of the aforementioned parties to hop on the evangelical online merry-go-round until the average social media user is left dizzied from the inundation of tweets, status updates, videos, and blogs surrounding the moment. I can’t quite describe it, but this has led to a gnawing in my soul for the past couple of months. It is somewhere in between disgust and annoyance. I’m typically a “go with the flow” kind of person, which makes this feeling that much more intense. An initial admission of guilt and a few points of reflection can hopefully lead to balance.

Guilty as Charged

Initially, I must admit that addressing this via the medium of a blog post is certainly counterintuitive. Nonetheless, if taken in the spirit intended, then my hope is that it will cause reflection and balance. Speaking of reflection, I feel compelled to confess that there was a certain amount of pride in my life in gaining social media affirmation. In many ways the anonymity of a Sci-Fi/Theology/Parody Twitter account helped deflect the attention. I still have to keep myself in check, but my addiction to social media affirmation is in a much healthier place than it was at one time. If you take a step back and self-evaluate, how would you assess your own use of social media?

Evangelical Merry-go-round

The political, religious, and cultural issues are coming so quickly and forcefully that the onslaught of vitriolic dialogue makes me to look on in disbelief. The various evangelical circles all circulate their favorite blog articles regarding the topic of the day and then ardently defend their position while taking cheap shots at the opposing view. Another day comes and so does another topic or issue. Theologians are political experts. Seminary students are sociology experts. Bloggers in general are just experts on everything by their own estimation. The evangelical merry-go-round is whirling, but more than centrifugal force is at work as many seem to fly off the handle. My desire is just to invite those jumping on and flying off to go sit on the swings and chat.

Consider Dignity and Be Dignified

The realization that Imago-Dei (in the image of God) is a theological concept equally applicable to all of humanity and a little introspection make a tremendous difference. Every person you encounter has as much inherent dignity as you. Their purpose and pain is as meaningful as your own regardless of their age, economic status, race, or style. May the gospel remind us that all people share depravity, dignity, and hope. Look at others through Christ and I’m certain you will find compassion and empathy. Furthermore, posing questions to yourself before posting is remarkably helpful. Is the issue complicated enough that nuanced positions are called for? Have you recognized the God-given dignity within the person or movement you are criticizing? Is your language hyperbolic to the point that you make it nebulous if applied in scenarios where it should actually apply? Have you taken time to think through the motivational causes of the other perspective? Will your response contribute clarity, consideration, and compassion? Many more should be posed, but these offer a meaningful start.

These online networks of ours do serve a purpose. It has not been my intention to merely rail against social media, but rather to encourage examination of motive and means. Sara Groves’ song Obsolete offers a haunting reflection on these “invisible empires.”<

Are you and I an apparition
Flickering up on the screen
Sending out our best transmissions
Waiting in our velveteen
Tell me you can really see me

And I don’t know where we are
Are we passing through these wires
Are we walking through the streets
Of invisible empires

The empires are useful tools for what they are. But make no mistake, they are only empires of dust.

Photo by thaths via Flickr

Chris Dunn
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