Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
Sign up to receive blog posts via email and receive a free eBook!

The Danger of Likes (or why I joined Snapchat)

snapchat

I joined Snapchat. There, I said it. I admit it. If you want proof, find me here.

I joined Snapchat because I was sick of hearing people joining and loving it. I knew all the bad press, all the misuses of the app, but I decided to give it a shot. And I have to say, I kind of love it.

Why, you ask?

Because there’s no likes.

Still don’t get what I’m saying?

Ok, I’ll explain.

Snapchat is an awful user experience.

  • It’s nearly impossible to add friends unless they’re in your phone contacts.
  • You can’t use it on a computer, only through a phone application.
  • The first screen you see when you open the app is your camera. There’s no explanation for what to do after that.
  • There’s no way to provide public feedback for something a friend has posted. No likes, no shares, no retweets, no comments. Only private messages (Snaps), and posts to your Story (those stay posted for your friends to view for 24 hours).

And that last one, there’s the rub. Snapchat is a social network that has almost zero marketability. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—users push their content and their products all the time. It’s overrun with content videos and opinion pieces. None of that stuff works on Snapchat. No links. Just stories using pictures and videos.

The Danger of the Public Forum

There’s a danger to using a public forum that allows public feedback on everything posted. You begin to share your life in a way that will be appreciated by as many as possible. Just look at this profile of a 13 year-old, she deletes every picture that doesn’t get enough likes. No joke.

Throughout the four gospel accounts, Jesus performs various signs and wonders, many ending with Jesus telling those He touches and heals not to tell anyone. And there’s the time when He tells His disciples not to tell anyone that they think Jesus is the Messiah (Mark 8).

People have come up with various explanations for this, but I think one reason for this is that Jesus didn’t want to become a celebrity. That, in fact, humans were not meant to receive unending praise, our egos can’t handle all of it.

Maybe this is why Jesus taught his followers to go into their rooms to pray. And maybe this is why he said “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others” (Matthew 6:1, NLT). Not only, he says, will you lose your heavenly reward, but it’s likely you’ll become a slave to the admiration of others.

Shaping Your Life for Likes

Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying that being on Snapchat is a Jesus-approved thing, or that the people who use other social networks are less godly (God knows, I’m on all of them). I’m simply sharing my own struggle with watching some of my favorite social networks become great places for platforms and marketing and content and commercials. Once you can get enough likes, social networks make better business platforms than relational connectors.

When we’re telling the stories of our lives on networks that universally utilize public feedback forums, we begin to shape our lives for likes, and this is damaging to our souls. We create a false reality for the sake of improved reach and likeability, instead of the messy reality, where we need God’s help each and every day.

In a sense, a life adjusted for likes becomes a gospel-less life where we can be good enough, and everyone else will like that. I want social networks to be social, but I worry I shape my life too much for the sake of everyone else appreciating it and I don’t like that.

  • Share on Tumblr

The Holy Spirit as Manifested Love

thevoiceofthemountain

In his book The Face of the Deep, Paul Pastor makes a striking comparison between Isaiah’s unclean lips and the touching of the Spirit upon the mouths of those at Pentecost in Acts 2.

I’ve only ever known emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost to divide Christians. At a Pentecost Sunday church gathering many years ago I remember a pastor explaining to the congregation he was going to wait in silence until the Spirit showed Himself through a sign. I nearly walked out, but I thought that would probably be as ridiculous as whatever the pastor was doing.

What Paul Pastor invites his readers to do is to consider how this event of the Spirit poured out at Pentecost fits within the larger Bible story. He begins with a focus on Isaiah 6:

“Isaiah’s fear and healing did not come to his eyes nor to his hands, feet, mind, or even his heart. The prophet was terrified in the presence of the Holy One because his mouth was dirty, backward, unclean.

And his cleansing came when his lips were touched by the fire of God.” (pg. 213)

Then comes this connection between the Tower of Babel’s scattering of the people through language, the unclean lips of Isaiah, and the fire of the Spirit seen at Pentecost:

“Pure speech in the Spirit is love, given whatever voice is best suited to the situation, to the hearers…

Pentecost seen this way, becomes more than just a happy arrival. It is part of a huge human story that stretches from a half-built tower on the plain of Shinar to you and me, the chosen of God yet scattered across the world…

The Spirit teaches us to speak as he did, to speak with love, pure and true as fire.” (pp. 216-217)

I commend Pastor’s work in The Face of the Deep to you. I see it has a needed corrective to understand the expansive work of love from God’s Spirit beyond the typical debates that rage.

May your unclean lips be set ablaze.

Image: Martin French (follow link to view/purchase artwork from Pastor’s book)

  • Share on Tumblr

Why I Will Not Be Voting for a President This Year

nevertrump

Barring the unlikely 3rd party candidate I’d like to see come forward, I will not be voting for a President in this year’s United States Presidential election.

The reasons why are a bit convoluted, so let me share my own context.

I’m a pastor at an evangelical church where the majority of the congregation is conservative minded folks. I come from a conservative family. I’ve only ever known the logical decision in voting to be for a Republican.

I am an unaffiliated voter in the state of Oregon, but on nearly every voting opportunity I have, I vote Republican. I am pro-life, fiscally conservative, and for small government, and while I do not agree with Republicans on a number of issues, their platform most aligns with my own.

My reasons for not voting for Hillary Clinton (those of you who are feeling the Bern can settle down, his nomination seems unlikely, at best) are simple:

  • She served in the cabinet of the most socially liberal President the U.S. has ever had.
  • She has zero value for the life of the unborn.
  • She will continue the crusade against religious liberty that is very much in style today.
  • Oh and she’s under investigation by the FBI.

This leaves essentially one other candidate to vote for, Donald Trump. I have family members who will vote Trump. I have many church friends who will vote Trump. Based on the context of my life, I am expected to hold the party line by voting for Trump.

But I will not vote for Trump. Here’s why:

Donald Trump is not a Leader, He’s a Dictator

Trump wants to “open up” libel laws so he can easily sue news organizations who speak unkindly about him. These laws have been upheld in court by justices from various perspectives. This desire of Trump’s shows that he does not know how to deal with people who disagree with him. He’d rather fire those against him, instead of being a true leader who works to build consensus and camaraderie.

In speaking kindly about Vladimir Putin and the Chinese government’s handling of Tiananmen Square, Trump shows he has no desire to lead, he simply wants to dictate with power and strength.

Donald Trump is a “Christian” for Political Purposes

Following his victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary Trump exclaimed, “I love the evangelicals.” He has spoken of being a Christian yet wasn’t sure he needed forgiveness, saying, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.”

If Trump went to my church I would tell him that the narrow road leading to life is found only through the recognition of a need for God and the forgiveness he offers. Any person who believes they do not need forgiveness has chosen their own road, not God’s.

Donald Trump Will Hinder Religious Liberty

People expect a Republican Presidential candidate to loosen governmental oversight, therefore increasing religious liberty and the rights that go with it, but with Trump this would not be the case.

One of the largest campaign platforms Trump has run on is banning Muslims from coming into the United States. No question there’s a general fear of Muslims in the US due to extremists, so Trump is stoking these fears and then using it as a way to generate support. If you are against the religious liberty of a religion other than your own, then you are against religious liberty.

Donald Trump is a Hillary Clinton Supporter

Back in 2007, as Clinton pushed toward the Democratic nomination that Obama ultimately won, Trump had a difficult time choosing whether to support fellow New Yorker Rudy Guiliani or Hillary, saying, “They’re both terrific people, and I hope they both get the nomination.”

This illustrates a bigger issue, the fact that Trump has consistently changed his stance on people and issues. Like being blown by the wind, Trump seems to discern what position and person helps him in the moment, but when the wind changes direction so does he. Donald Trump is a liar who continually shifts for the sake of his own benefit.

Oh, and there’s other reasons too…

I have yet to mention that Donald Trump owns a strip club, or the various degrading comments he’s made toward women, or the white supremacists he’s welcomed support from, or the ‘I could shoot someone and not lose support’ comment, or the casinos he’s used to garner his wealth, or the negative comments about a war hero because “I like people who weren’t captured”—no, I haven’t mentioned any of that despite their relevance to the subject.

I believe there’s a better way forward for our country. Yes, it seems that better way is at least four years away now, but the best way to assure we move in that direction is by staying silent on voting day. Your silence in November will speak loudly for generations to come, that we must do better than this.

One ending side note to all this:

“But not voting Trump is a vote for Hillary! We can’t let her in office!” This is the line that Trump supporters have used over and over. Newt Gingrich used the same line in The Washington Times recently, then Bobby Jindal did the same thing in the Wall Street Journal.

A vote on a ballot is a vote for someone, an endorsement for the Presidential office, and a moral act, and Donald Trump is not fit for that office.

At the same time, Matthew Lee Anderson reminds us there are bigger things at stake than an election: “the witness of the Gospel exceeds the tyrannical urgency of political action in a democratic society: it expands the horizon of our hope beyond the election in November, and beyond its consequences over the next four and four hundred years.”

  • Share on Tumblr

I’m Busy

busy street pedestrians

“I’m busy.” This is the answer I get most often from people when I ask them “how are you?” It’s quickly replacing “fine” or “good” as the go-to answer for most people. It’s their way of saying they don’t have time to talk to you.

Technology has made large parts of life significantly more efficient, but instead of allowing ourselves to have more margin, we just fill in the cracks with more stuff. This is no knock on technology, it’s a knock on us for lacking the discipline to know when enough is too much.

More than just being busy, busy is a drug that inflates the ego so each individual sees themselves as significantly more important than necessary. Consider this from Carl Honoré: “When people moan, ‘Oh, I’m so busy, I’m run off my feet, my life is a blur, I haven’t got time for anything,’ what they often mean is, ‘Look at me: I am hugely important, exciting and energetic.'”

It’s no secret that in a social network society, we’re all trying to get more attention, and busyness is one way we feed the addiction. It’s as if we’re saying to each other, “Look at me! I’m busy.” The people who aren’t pushed beyond their limit are seen as lazy in the eyes of the busy, not nearly as important.

It’s as if we’ve never heeded the necessary words of Isaiah:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15)

My Charge to You

Here is my charge to you, a baby-step for the busy, the tired, the weary, the I-have-too-much-going-on-to-read-this-post:

Don’t ever tell anyone you’re busy when they ask how you are doing, or what you’ve been up to.

You don’t even have to change a single daily or weekly habit, just don’t tell others you’re busy.

Why? I think we’re more addicted to the idea of being busy than we are actually busy. After all, millions of people watch hours of tv every night. If you’re among them, you aren’t busy at all.

So let’s kick the addiction to busy by no longer embracing the idea, and certainly not telling others that we’re busy. Yes, it’s a baby-step, but it’s a needed step.

  • Share on Tumblr

The Echo Chamber

echo chamber

Our society as a whole is extremely accepting, yet not accommodating. You can be anyone you want and it will be accepted, but if you aren’t accommodating enough then the judgment of others will befall you.

With this understanding driving individuals forward, society as a collective group of individuals has adapted to only surround themselves with those who share their perspective on a wide variety of things. No more confrontations. No more accommodation struggles. Unconsciously we gravitate to those who are like us.

The result of all this: the echo chamber—the place where everyone around you validates your choices, opinions, and perspective.

This reality is on full display in the lead-up to the Presidential election. The two party system has never been more divided in my lifetime than now. And there’s no sign of this getting any better in the next 4 years. The only way to gain traction in an echo chamber environment is to move as far away from your competition as possible. Any sign of compromise with nuanced perspective is immediately denounced as heresy.

This comes into play especially on social media. One study of 10 million American users on Facebook showed that people’s friends are skewed toward their ideological preferences. On Twitter a study showed that 2/3 of people followed by the average Twitter user in the United States share the user’s political perspective.

The lack of external perspective can have extremely damaging effects. Just ask Microsoft. They recently created a Twitter account that was built to form its status updates by learning from a bunch of 18 to 24-year-old social media users. The result? This automated account became racist and bigoted, which is hardly a knock on Microsft, and more a knock on our echo chamber society that slowly moves toward the lowest common denominator.

Christ followers are called to a totally different mindset when it comes to interacting with those unlike themselves. As my friend Scott says, we are most like Jesus when we love those least like us. Rather than surrounding yourself with people who look like you, act like you, and believe like you, it would be Jesus-like to find those different, overlooked, and unvalued, giving them space in your life.

Within the church, people are irritants and transformers, but you can’t have one without the other.

The echo chamber tells a false story, and it never leads to transformation.

*You can listen to my talk on this same subject here*

  • Share on Tumblr

The New Prosperity Gospel of Dreams

ocean view fiji

Ran across this insightful thought last week:

Not a day goes by when I do not see another Christian writer pushing these ideas. It’s looking out the same window of prosperity, just using different drapes (language) around the same window.

As my generation moves to a position of leadership within society, teachings are being adjusted to meet a group of people who place more value in experiences than money and influence instead of position. This shift in focus within the prosperity sect of Christian theology is desiring to fill that need.

I have much I could share as this has been a personal struggle of my own. By far the greatest encouragement and challenge to me in regards to dreams, wishes, destiny, and potential, has been reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In particular, this section on dreams, community, and the Christian life is spot on. I hope you find this instructive.

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.

He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself…

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even when there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our  fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

  • Share on Tumblr
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © 2014 by Tyler Braun. Designed and coded by Paul Bae...