Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Social Overwhelming

The hallmark of autism, no matter what other manifestations it comes with, is its component of social overwhelming. And this, too, is the hallmark of our spiritual autism, which has never been more prominent than at the present time.

We are living in an overwhelmingly social world. Social media has convinced us of the glamorous lives of all of our friends, all the time they spend playing with their dogs, cooking fantastic meals, exercising, giving back to their communities, having random magical encounters in grocery stores, and the like. Social media puts us on hyperalert because the one thing it doesn't show us is down time. The one thing it doesn't show us is rest. The one thing it doesn't show us is who people are when they're not trying to be anything. So we've come to the conclusion that everyone is something, everyone is someone, except, perhaps, for us, because we alone see all the things that never make it to Facebook in our lives and, well, they make us boring. Or broken. Or worse.

Not only this, but social media has given us the idea that essentially everyone we know has spent a lot of time thinking about how they think about the world. Everybody has an opinion on everything. Not just any opinion, a powerful, unchangeable, aggressive opinion. Throw out a few key buzzwords on the latest hot topics, and you'll quickly find that almost everyone you know has something to contribute to the discussion. Thirty years ago, this would have been unfathomable. Thirty years ago, ask a friend what they think about sanctuary cities over coffee or stop by their house and ask them their opinion on health care, and they would have been likely to say, "Hmmm...I never really thought about it." 

Not so today. Ask any number of questions today, and all of a sudden, everyone feels like they are supposed to have an answer. Not just any answer, but the "right" answer. And the "right" answers are socially constructed. Just ask wikipedia. 

So we're living in this world where we can no longer say, "I don't know." We can't say, "I haven't thought about it." Because the answers are all right there; our social connections are more than willing to tell us what to think.

And what this does is to take faith from the realm of the intimate, from the heart of the believer, and to plaster it on display in the social realm. There is no longer a place for developing a personal faith, an intimate love of Jesus that springs from your own heart and experience of Him. No, all the Christians you know are already boldly living out loud. They are adding their voice to the social framework (often with such incredible backlash that you rightfully wonder why anybody would still choose to be a Christian at all), and not only this, but in doing so, even these Christians are telling you what to think. 

There is faith and there is no faith, and it all seems so clear-cut. But here, most of us are somewhere in the middle, unable to agree with the social proclamation of what are often prosperity-gospel Christians, but unwilling to throw faith aside entirely, and yet, the tension is real. The world of social media demands us to be social about every little thing, including our big things, including our faith, which is either this caricature or it is nothing at all. There is no room for nuance, no room for question. You either are or you aren't. 

And most of us, overwhelmed by the social demand placed upon us, declare, "Forget it." It's not a new agnosticism; it's autism. It's our looking at what the world demands of us as a social context and saying, "I can't do this. Even if I wanted to, I can't do this." 

So most of us do nothing at all. And to the watching world, we look empty. We look defeated. We look disabled. We look deformed. Maybe even, at times, we feel these things ourselves. But again, what I say is that this is so much not the case. In the depths of every autistic soul lies untold beauty, and herein lies the key to recapturing our faith. 

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