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Jesus makes our reality
The United States may well be the crowning achievement for the Enlightenment, but for the era of postmodernity and social construction it seems to me that social media is the crowning achievement.
The debate between modernism and postmodernism still happens. Like in the final season of Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom (not really worth watching, by the way). In this case, ACN, a fictional twenty-four hour news network who has a charismatic, but megalomaniacal, anchor, and a principled president, is being bought out by a eccentric venture capitalist who intends on turning it from a traditional news network, to one that has user-generated content. (Like Reddit.) Sorkin, who is an unfortunate defender of American democracy (couldn’t keep watching the West Wing because of his patriotism) makes it seem that the news networks, especially ACN, has integrity that the Internet doesn’t. This is a theme throughout the show.
Of course, CNN’s “news feed” is not any more contrived than our personal ones. They just have power, money, and degrees, and in the current era of social construction, that's how power is made. But nevertheless, even cable news’ creation of news, content, and opinions isn’t as overt as social media’s, which does not even try to hide behind the guise of “fair and balanced” news. It’s just what you want, when you want it. And if you pay for it? More people will see it. Advertisers dictate content on TV and in the newspapers, and on social media? We are both the creators and advertisers.
How funny is it that we literally are creating our own “news feeds,” our own versions of reality, meanwhile we are producing advertising content and hoping that our friends see it as we pay Mark Zuckerberg to tell them! It kind of all happened in front of us, and now we are monitored and looked after by private corporations no one elected. They control our infrastructure and live in our pockets in the form of smart phones. Do our devices control us and placate us? I think so.
But when they expose something that disturbs the status quo—let’s say the neighbor who filmed Eric Garner getting killed—they aren’t so good placating anymore (that person actually did get indicted). Generally, they contribute to the false reality that we construct our own reality. Meanwhile, we are being sedated by powers that implement the tools for our own social construction. Equality, democracy, free speech; all of these things are myths in a false reality that promises salvation, but end up delivering quite the opposite.
As long as social construction is the rule of the day, I’m not sure Jesus can fit. Protestants have socially constructed who he is for hundreds of years and we’re left with dying churches and dying denominations. Jesus is born to bring an alternative, a new order, not even to fix the old one. For me, that was the most cogent point at our Doing Theology time the other night. What is God teaching us about Ferguson? To be the alternative, to be something new.
The baby Jesus brought that newness to his era. Today, he wanted us to give birth to that newness. I want Christians and the church to be radical people who are bringing and teaching an alternative. Right now, it looks as if Christians are trying to survive and failing at that. But I think the world is looking for an alternative to the domination system. People are looking for something that they don’t just create. They are rebelling, too. The CIA and the Bush Administration are getting exposed for the torture about which they lied. The protesters in Ferguson are channeling it. The St. Louis Rams are too! The police officers? They have turned from protecting the public, to defending themselves and protecting themselves. Peace on earth and good will to humankind? Nothing more than a catch phrase.
But when Jesus was born, he was bringing a revelation and revolution with him. Let’s build the world with Jesus, let’s challenge mainstream reality making, let’s do more than conform. Let’s think about the world around us and follow Jesus into a better reality. Immanuel! God is with us.