Going viral

May 4th, 2016

My church is in the same Tennessee county as Global Vision Bible Church, led by Pastor Greg Locke, whom you might know from his viral video on Target’s transgender bathroom policy. In his very popular Facebook videos, Pastor Locke has also accused the public school system of indoctrinating students into Islam, lambasted Governor Haslam for his veto of a bill that would have made the Bible the state book, and torn into the presidential candidates. From his interviews on Fox News, he proclaims that he loves the Lord and denigrates “political correctness” in favor of “telling it like it is” and “common sense.” USA Today has even published his conversion story about how he has channeled his anger towards his father and stepfather in new ways since accepting Jesus Christ.

Now, I’m all for healthy expressions of anger and seeing righteous anger as holy and necessary. Scripture tells us on multiple occasions of God’s anger and disappointment, and I always remind people who ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” that flipping over tables in righteous anger is a possibility. But I am concerned when Christian leaders like Greg Locke are known more for their anger than for their love and are more popular for their political rants than for preaching the good news in Christ.

More often than not, the Greg Lockes, the Franklin Grahams, the John Hagees of the world are the public face of Christianity with their bombast, their countrywide tours and their insistence that the Bible gives very clear, simple answers to complex, modern issues. Rather than offering a respite from the network television talking heads and political shouting matches, they contribute to them. In our current media climate, he (and it is almost always a “he”) who yells the loudest and with the most bravado gets the attention. Many are drawn to the spectacle, to the clickbait and to the reassurances that their fear of the other, whether the other is LGBT people or Muslims or atheists, is well-founded. And many look upon these spectacles and want nothing to do with Christianity or the Church.

And then there are the rest of us — the pastors and priests of churches who go about doing the work of the gospel without all of the fuss. I suppose that political rants by pastors are sexy, but pastors blessing the dying, soothing the suffering, preaching the grace, love and reconciliation of the Gospel of Christ are not. I don’t know of a single pastor who went viral, who was interviewed by cable news, for doing the hard work of faithfully and lovingly serving his or her congregation.

For that matter, where are the viral videos from Christian pastors full of anger about the increasing inequality in our country or Tennessee’s inability to expand healthcare to “the least of these” about whom Jesus had so much to say? Where are the videos criticizing drone strikes that kill innocent civilians or the endless wars our country fights, costing us taxpayer dollars and the lives and limbs of our fellow citizens? In our current climate of rage, it is easier to call for a boycott of Target for their bathroom policies than to praise Walmart for raising their minimum wage, a decision that has much more impact on families in their day-to-day lives.

As we approach the end of the Easter season and our celebration of Pentecost, we might consider God’s gift of the Holy Spirit on that day as the first time the gospel went viral. Peter interprets this occurrence through the prophet Joel, that in the last days, God will pour out God’s Spirit on all people — young and old, male and female, slave and free — and all will prophesy. The Spirit unites beyond what appears to divide so that all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Our calling as Christians is still that Pentecost calling — not to exacerbate division, but to live into the unity for which Jesus prayed, “that we all may be one.” Our country and our world would be better off if we focused on going viral with that message.

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