Valuing persuasion and power over truth and the good

The virtual and social media worlds and our church’s ministry–Part V of a series

By Rev. Rick King

Much of this week, the mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York, Tops supermarket have dominated the news, along with the war in Ukraine and the primaries in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho.

All of these are about POWER: the quest for it, keeping it, hurting others with it.
And in one way or another, religion—specifically Christianity—has been marshalled in defense of this quest for power.

Social media were founded as a way for people to connect in cyberspace, building on and deepening relationships that exist in real-life, flesh and blood experience. But it wasn’t long before people found a way to monetize it, use it to gain power over others, and build “relationships” with people they never met in the flesh.

And because suddenly it seemed that people had these relationships without the face-to-face, person-to-person context so essential to understanding and achieving the good of humanity, persuasion became less a matter of credibility, authenticity, and a relationship of trust, and more about bombarding the masses on social media with images, arguments, and even untruths uttered so many times that people began to believe them.

If I sound like a person soured on social media and ready to bail, I’m not there yet, Elon Musk’s bit to purchase Twitter notwithstanding. Instead, I’m amazed at how quickly the religious justifications for violence have shown up, out in the open, and nobody seems to be batting an eye.

Christians everywhere should be alarmed at how our faith is being twisted to serve a white supremacist, anti-LGBTQ and authoritarian political agenda.

That’s kind of surprising for a religion founded on the basis of Jesus, who emptied himself of divine power and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and obediently humbled himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11).

What if we took seriously this self-emptying of power as the grounding image for Christianity? How would that affect our behavior, whether on or offline?

What are your thoughts? Is religion about power, or its opposite? And what do you see as the everyday reality?