Facebook’s business strategy is simple: “engage or enrage.” Either response hooks users. Retaliating against rage with rage does not serve the cause of Christ. Jesus did not advocate love and forgiveness because they are winning strategies.
A Facebook ad shows the benefits of their Groups. It’s flashy, colorful, and diverse. It highlights interest groups for skateboarders, knitters, builders, and black female entrepreneurs. The ad motto, “More Together,” emphasizes the company’s strength to join people in clusters around common interests. The ads don’t mention the dark side of the process.
Why it Matters.
Sixty-four percent of people who join extremist groups joined because they received a prompt from Facebook. Apparently, violence does more together, too.
Facebook’s core business is advertising. The longer you stay on its site, the more ads it puts in front of you. If you own a dog and join a group for spaniel owners, you stay longer. Or, if you cannot believe headlines about a political villain, you follow continuous links to more stories confirming your opinion. Either way, you swallowed the advertising bait. You are hooked.
Facebook does not care whether you are engaged or enraged as long as you extend your screen time on their site.
Who’s to Blame?
Don’t demonize Facebook. The company exploits a preexisting tendency in humans. People select others like themselves – and reject anyone different. Racism, class warfare, confirmation bias, and fear of strangers find their roots in this tendency.
Our bent toward partiality is ingrained in us to the point that faith can be expressed either way.
Here are two New Testament passages showing religion used to enrage:
- Jerusalem leaders stirred the crowd against Jesus (Mark 15:1-15).
- Artemis worshippers reacting to Paul (Acts 19:23ff).
The history of faith in America since 1900 is rife with examples. During the civil rights era, adversaries of segregation enraged their followers. Intra-denominational rifts specialize in shouting and demonizing. Mark Driscoll, once pastor of Mars Hill Church, personifies anger. Some Christians shout at people entering abortion clinics. Others minister to unwed mothers.
Jesus confronted adversaries but cannot be described as raging. More often than not, Jesus engaged people:
What to Do?
Healthy churches do not avoid conflict. Instead, they deal with it at appropriate times in appropriate ways. They don’t let conflict get out of control. Neither do they allow conflict to define their mission or how members relate to each other. Biblical principles guide them, not current practices of politics. Even when they disagree with other believers, they engage in resolving differences instead of raging against each other.
Here are some things you can do to avoid falling into the enragement trap.
- Listen to yourself. Notice how easily we descend into the rabbit hole of enragement. We start with passion about a situation, claim righteous indignation, and then quote a Minor Prophet. Next thing, we are fighting rage with rage.
- Pay attention to the outcomes of rage and love. Who has been healed by hate? When was the last time an enraged speaker converted you to another viewpoint? Is rage effective for change, or is its only strength to reinforce preexisting opinions?
- Live the character of Christ on the internet. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…”. When was the last time you turned the other cheek on Twitter.
- Remember: doing the right thing the wrong way is no different than doing the wrong thing.
Jesus did not advocate love and forgiveness because they are winning strategies. He practiced them because they are consistent with the character of God. Retaliating against rage with rage does not serve the cause of Christ.
For Deeper Reading
We don’t endorse his language or lifestyle, but Professor Galloway is a thought leader on the dangers of Social Media. His comments on enragement are challenging.
Christianity Today’s multi-part series on Pastor Mark Driscoll is captivating and well worth the time investment to listen.
One of the more engaging ad campaigns in recent memory engages people turned off to Christianity.