So I was chatting with Mel, (“Why There Can Never Be an Online Church,”) and a few other wise souls too, when I suddenly realized why I disagree. It’s because we are the church, you and I, those of us in the Body of Christ. The church is not something that happens in a building on a Sunday morning, the church is a community of believers.
Where we go, “the church” goes, too. Or so it should be.
I share a lot of concerns about the dangers of interpersonal or rather depersonalized communication, like one might find on the internet, and within social media. Are we losing our humanity, our ability to perceive one another as full human beings rather than avatars hidden behind a keyboard?
I think that’s a valid concern, the problem being, we see plenty of that happening IRL, on the ground, absent the internet. Man’s ability to dehumanize and depersonalize his enemies (or stab his friends in the back,) has been going on for centuries, certainly long before the internet.
Heck, we can even depersonalize and dehumanize God Himself, “dehumanize” Him in the sense of remaking Him in the image of the worst man has to offer, rather then the best.
Recently I’ve been bearing witness to a Christian twitter mob lined up against Beth Moore, a dark, ugly “witch hunt” if you will, and what I found so facinating was the whole idea of language as metaphor. I have nothing else to describe the kind of fascist, stone the adultress, burn the heretic, vibe that currently surrounds her, except references to the past. And so this is a metaphorical “witch hunt,” a reference to the precise same kind of behavior that happened long ago, pre internet.
Speaking of “witchcraft,” the biblical word there is “pharmakeia,” the same word we get pharmaceuticals from. The US is currently experiencing the largest opioid epidemic in history, involving pharmaceuticals that have killed more people in one year then we lost in the entirety of the Vietnam war. What’s going on at the border? Enough fentanyl and meth is being smuggled in to kill each of us ten times over. It’s not just the addicts who are bewitched however, but whole communities now living off of sustainable deniability.
Like, this is a cataclysmic, apocalyptic, downright biblical situation, so naturally the biggest threat to the Christian world is now going to be……a woman preaching and teaching? Sheesh.
Within me I have a desperate desire to blame the media, to blame fake news, to blame the internet, to wail and lament, “what is the world coming too and what is even wrong with you people??” I’m desperately seeking some excuse for the foolishness of man, as if to say, it’s not really their fault, they just haven’t had enough human, face to face interaction.
See, this is just what happens when everyone is plugged into their phones 24/7…..
The problem being I want to blame the internet for the total depravity of man, which is a well documented bit of theology, or if you prefer, a well documented historical fact. When we aren’t outright killing one another, taking slaves and taking territory, we’re betraying one another and stabbing our friends in the back. Even Christians seem to delight in eating their own.
Which brings me back to Beth Moore who is currently being devoured not by liberals, homosexuals, and atheists, but by her own denomination, by her own brothers and sisters in Christ. One cannot help but observe it was also the religious leadership of the day and jeering crowds who condemned Jesus. It wasn’t because they were on their phones all day, or because they were caught up in the excitement of a mob, or because they suffered from mental health problems. It was because people can be bloody evil. Because sin.
There already is an “on line church” and the whole world is looking right at it. That should scare the heck out of us, but that ugliness isn’t a new thing, it’s the same old, same old, playing out on a whole new medium. Well, if the darkness of the world and the darkness of the church can spread itself across the internet, then so can His Bride and His Light.
So whether we like it or not, whether we agree it’s possible or not, we of the Body and on the internet really are the, “on line church.” And like it or not, we share that distinction with more than a few really unpleasant people.