On Christmas Eve my favorite sports channel shows an endless loop of the best and worst plays of the year. The real entertainment is in the worst plays, as perfection grows boring quickly. Invariably, there are a few bloopers that involve team mascots. I was watching one of these mascots smash comically into something or other, a blue furry creature with horns and a large snout, when it dawned on me that mascots are reminiscent of social media.
An odd turn of thought, perhaps precipitated by one too many eggnogs, yet the similarities were there. Now, I tire of social media quickly, not because of its attempts to forcibly take over the world, but because it is regularly shoving cheap emotional rhetoric disguised as informed opinion (or settled fact) down your throat. In essence, much of it is a caricature of social dogma and popular culture, full of circular thinking and dead ends. But mascots are a little like caricatures come to life, aren’t they? You don’t get a bull, you get a cartoonish bull costume. That was the connection.
As I turned it over in my tart-filled mind (yes, I ate too many tarts as well) I thought of how mascots represent their teams, yet aren’t really part of the team. They don’t practice or attend meetings; they don’t know the offensive strategies or defensive play calls; they don’t have the necessary skills to be on the court at all. They’re kind of a fun distraction, but essentially useless to the annual quest for ephemeral glory. They are Facebook opinions on foreign policy, or the equivalent of Twitter’s analysis of religion. I speak in generalities of course, because there’s a very intelligent person somewhere on social media; but as a whole, I think Facebook has been a plot to expose our blue furry costumes. Actually, that is the secondary goal, as I said earlier they aim to take over the planet, they just needed to know we were impotent enough to let them. By the by, if you subscribe to the axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely, social media’s power to drive trends is rather terrifying; but I have unsurprisingly digressed into a whimsical conspiracy theory.
The point I was driving at is related to the aforementioned eggnog sloshing about my stomach. To me, eggnog is a Christmas drink, and it was Christmas Eve, so I was naturally thinking of Christ. I was thinking of how the word Christian was initially used as an insult (1), and how we resurrect that insult when we become mascots and caricatures; when we become a culture of blue fur, horns, and large snouts, because that is the uniform you must wear to debate religion on Facebook. The problem however is that mascots don’t know the team’s playbook, nor are they in the real game—they don’t have the skills.
Truth be told, all of us are caricatures of Christ when we aren’t living by His indwelling Spirit. We like to talk the talk, wag our oversized furry blue fingers at atheists who wear brown floppy-eared Chomps costumes (because all atheists are Cleveland Browns fans aren’t they? Isn’t that why God forsakes them so?) and generally represent Christ to the world in that unique, hyperbolic, shallow, and childish way social media has taught us is effective.
And then I wondered how quiet social media would become if all Christians made a New Year’s resolution to only speak when Holy Spirit gave them something to say; but I had forgotten that New Year’s resolutions are lies we tell ourselves to inflate our sagging emotions, bellies, and bums.
The eggnog and tarts had begun an escalating brouhaha by this point, and as my stomach soured and colon quivered, I contemplated the point in this web of thoughts. And there is an elusive point to be made. Jesus came to dispel all the caricatures and idols (mascots) we had of God. Though God had revealed Himself through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the parting of the red sea, and the acid tongue of the prophets; though He had done all this, we still had many caricatures. If you doubt it, think of how the most religiously devout were unable to recognize God in the flesh, and shudder. God knew it was only by the conquering of sin and the indwelling of His Spirit that we would truly know Him—from the greatest to the least. It seems an awful waste that we have focused so heavily on cheap grace and the subsequent performance we require of converts (some call it sin management), that we have often forgotten to live, and thereby teach, the everyday reality of Immanuel, God with us. And if you doubt that we have often forgotten this, take a stroll through the Christian fields on Facebook and Twitter, and shudder quietly.
Happy new year, and please excuse me—the eggnog and tarts are trumpeting their return to the world.
Post Script: I would be remiss if I didn’t have at least a brief word about how we are to live by the indwelling life of Christ. I suppose I could write essay upon essay about this, but since this is just a post script to a short rant, they wouldn’t fit here. Instead, let me just make a simple suggestion of how to begin. I have a friend who tells people to start their day by asking God to make Himself known to them, and then he tells them to pay attention throughout the day. Imagine that, his advice is to ask and then watch and listen. I think it rather wise advice as it relies upon God’s ability to make Himself known to us, rather than our ability to, well, do anything. And that is an important lesson for those living by His indwelling life. I have found that if you make a little habit out of asking and watching, He will begin to open your eyes.
(1) The word “Christian” was first used in Antioch, see Acts 11:26. It appears that it began as a derogatory term, though some contend otherwise.
A few links that may help you get started living by the indwelling life of Christ: