Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Martin Luther King Jr.
What do Starbucks red cups and the Paris attacks have in common? Not much. The similarity in social media response last week, however, makes me wonder if we have lost our ability to distinguish something from nothing.
The first event, #MerryChristmasStarbucks, was nothing about nothing. In case you were spared the 1:18 that it takes to watch the video and are unaware of the prolonged responses let me explain (no that will take too long, let me sum up). Joshua Feuernstein claims that since Starbucks has chosen to take snowflakes off their Christmas cups they are taking Christ out of Christmas. In response he suggests that we should “start a movement” and trick Starbucks into writing Merry Christmas on the cups by telling them Merry Christmas is your name (See what he did there? So clever! Never mind the fact that he opens the video by proclaiming “political correctness has made us so open-minded that our brains have literally fallen out of our heads” which is using the word “literally” in exactly the opposite of its definition) There are so many things wrong with this “movement” not the least of which is that it is so “Un-Christian”. If Christian, literally “little Christ”, means representing Jesus, tricking someone into saying Merry Christmas doesn’t seem to help the cause (Not a lot of “tricking” going on in the New Testament).
The second event, the social media response to the Terrorist attacks in Paris, was nothing about something. I watched with the rest of the world in startled sadness as the images and information of the horrific day unfolded. I had a few discussions with friends and family. I re-tweeted a #prayforparis picture. And I watched as people all over social media “responded”. Within these reactions I got the distinct feeling that it was completely inappropriate to respond to Paris and Starbucks in the same way. I feel like we all (me included) need to remember what is something and what is nothing. Here’s the beginning of an outline.
Changing your profile picture is always nothing.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m just suggesting we don’t confuse it for actually doing something. It is not doing anything.
Talking is usually nothing.
Dialogue and debate have their place and effective negotiation can be critical to making progress. But most of the time talking is really nothing. I have noticed in the past several years that my ratio of talking to doing is skewed in the wrong direction. Too much talking and not enough doing. I am constantly aware of how little changes if all I do is talk (or listen and take notes). Every time I deliver a message, which is nearly every week, I feel like I should repeat the disclaimer – nothing has actually changed just because you liked my talk! Talking is usually nothing.
Money is usually something.
If there’s one principle Jesus taught that doesn’t require a lot of explanation in the 21st Century it is probably “where your treasure is there your heart is also”. It seems rather obvious that my resources reveal my priorities much more than my words (even if I’m uncomfortable with what they reveal). I suggest money is only “usually” something because of the ability to use our excess resources to disguise disengagement. “Throwing money at it” is a phrase that usually indicates this lack of engagement or understanding or willingness to address real complex issues. But I would suggest there’s just as much error on the other side of the coin. My friends who run missions ministries explain often the most useful thing we can do is send a check, and pray. Which brings me to the last item on my list.
Prayer is always something.
Max Lucado is quoted as saying “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.” I am only learning slowly what this means. I have an ongoing conversation with God throughout each day but if I really understood what was going on when I was on my knees I would be there far more than I actually am. I’m apparently a slow learner and God is apparently a patient instructor.
What would you add to the list?