Hashtag Christianity

By Shawn Boonstra

It is hard for our current generation to imagine, but in the decades following the birth of the American republic, candidates for high political office used to debate each other for hours.

About the Author

Shawn Boonstra is the Speaker/Director for the Voice of Prophecy. He is the host of the radio program and a popular public speaker.

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One candidate would present a set of ideas for an hour or three, while the audience would listen intently, and then his opponent would present a counterargument for a number of hours as well.  

It speaks well of our predecessors' capacity for sustained and reasoned thought. Before answering, they wanted to be sure that they understood their opponent's position thoroughly. Today, participants in a political debate have one or two minutes to state a position, and their supporters (or opponents) contribute to the "discussion" with 140-word jabs on Twitter. Seldom does anybody present an opponent's statements in context; in fact, it often seems as if there is a deliberate attempt to rip words from their moorings and present them in the most horrific light possible. The reframing of statements or positions is often completely dishonest.  

Our ancestors would have been embarrassed by what passes for public discourse today. Unfortunately, the same holds true for the world of Christianity. The careful discourses of the apostles are boiled down into cutesy memes or five-word slogans for church marquees. (I've often wondered: how often do new people actually come to church because of those?) 

I suppose there's a bright side: Christians are—all complaints that the West is now post-Christian aside—still a vibrant part of popular culture, and they're willing to share their convictions in the same pop-culture arena where other ideas are being presented. My fear is that the world of internet memes and clever hashtags is becoming the sum of many people's experience with our faith, and that we are inadvertently propagating the erroneous notion that Christian thinking is ignorant, vacuous and shallow. 

Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that I love social media. It's fun. But if your faith has become little more than a series of hashtags, I have a challenge for you. Try turning off the internet. Disconnect from social media. Pick up a book—one of those big, thick ones with ten-dollar words. Go back to the 19th century if you have to—or the 16th or the 2nd. Read your Bible for more than 10 minutes. Read an entire book in one sitting, but do it at a leisurely pace. Take a whole day. Take notes. Go for a long walk and think about what you've just read. Read the works of great thinkers who went before us.  

Marinate in the faith—deliberately and carefully.  

You will discover: the breadth of God's interaction with the human race is not easily expressed in 140 characters, and there is more than enough in the religion of Jesus to keep your mind busy and your heart satisfied.