I love Twitter. I love the interaction, the openness and the flatness of it all. But it does have its downsides. And Christian leaders on Twitter, my goodness, drive me up the wall.
There are a number of factors at play. Partly there’s an echo chamber effect where people retweet and pass on things uncritically around a circle of friends, hardly interacting with those who have a different opinion. And 140 characters isn’t much space to develop an intelligent thought. But for Christians there’s an added danger: they’re trying to be inspiring. And everything else, like truth, be damned, in this hunt for twee repeatability.
Let’s take one recent example amongst many, many others.
Jaeson Ma tweets:
Small bands of young people committed together to bring about change has always been the key to revolution & making history*
And all the organic church and house church people see the words “change” and “revolution” amongst someone they’re following and hit “retweet”.
Now at it happened, the moment I saw one of these retweets, I was actually reading this blog post which says:
One and the same thing occurred to us, that churches are aging. Of course, this is not a new discovery to many of you. Sociologists, missiologists and other scholars noticed this phenomenon years ago. I thought it is interesting that many aging church goers or better to say believers think or assume that mission is for young, lively folk like us. I dare to say that neither churches encourage elderly people to be active in church life… Thus, the younger generation should remind them about ‘no age limit’ in God’s mission and get them up from their comfy seats to share and encourage the young! Does older generation think that they have no gifts, skills and not vigorous enough for mission? Or missionary organisations have set up age limits? I do not think so! We are all exited to see young people going to mission… We need all generations to be active for the kingdom of God!
My eyes flicked back to the tweet. “Young people”? What? Yay for unintended ageism. I think Rita, not Jason, has the heart of God on this one.
But while Jason’s tweet might be ageist but inspiring, is it even accurate? (Or doesn’t that matter?)
Let’s think about revolution and history makers. I think about Gandhi, who led the Indian independence campaign at the age of 72. I think about Nelson Mandela, who became president at the age of 76. The leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini was 77. Turning to the Bible, I think about Abraham, Moses, Joshua. (Taking my own advice, I think it’s fair to point out that both the Clapham Sect and the French Revolutionaries were in their late twenties and early thirties.)
Critical thought, people. It may not be twee, it may not be inspiring, but it isn’t difficult. Remember my favourite pithy saying: “Just because something is a pithy saying doesn’t make it true”.