I recently watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, and I can't stop thinking about it. If you haven't watched it, you should. It's both enlightening and frightening at the same time.
The Social Dilemma explores the problems that have occurred in society with the largely unregulated and unfettered tech industry, media outlets, etc.
One of the claims that the documentary makes is that people aren't really choosing the content they are consuming online or through the so-called news media. Their content is being chosen for them by algorithms designed to keep them connected based on what they want to see/hear.
What is the motivation behind all of this? It's not political, actually. It's simply all about monetization. The more we stay tuned in, logged on, scrolling... the more money we make for news outlets, social media giants, etc.
And what better way to keep us engaged than by keeping us fearful and outraged? What better way to keep the money rolling in than to figure out what keeps us engaged the most, and then keep feeding it to us?
I'm beginning to believe that at the heart of all of this is a perceived need that seems to be fueling almost all of the conflict in our country: the need for security.
Security means different things to different people, but for most people, it has to do with the preservation of their worldview, maintenance of their own needs, fulfillment of their own desires, and protection from anything and anyone who might threaten all of the above.
Philosopher Alan Watt once wrote:
A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and purple as a beet.
Depending on which news outlets, media channels, social media groups you frequent, you will find alternate realities, radically different views of what is true, and a whole bunch of people growing tauter and tauter by the moment as they desperately seek security.
As I was writing this, I remembered a line from Matthew 24 where Jesus predicts the very hard path for his followers in an uncertain world. He paints a picture of a time when the center feels like it's not going to hold, and then says this:
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but [the one] who stands firm to the end will be saved.
When you read those words, it seems as though Jesus is speaking directly into our current moment of crisis. It certainly does feel as though "the love of most" has grown cold.
If you have been waiting for the moment when I pivot to some good news... I only have this to offer: The last line of Jesus' saying, "...but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."
And what does it mean to "stand firm?" It means to hold on to faith. It means to eschew the betrayal and hatred of our fellow citizens. It means to stop listening to false prophets who only want what they want. It means to hold on to love above all.
It means to walk away from the breath-holding contest and exhale at last.
In other words, the good news in all this depends on us. It depends on you and me finally waking up and deciding that the most trusted source of our security is the One who asks us to surrender it and follow Him.
May you discover the courage and the strength to stand firm. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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