Wednesday, July 30, 2014

THE CAPITAL LETTER LIFE - Justification by BuzzFeed

This is the third post in a series called "Functional Justification"
See also "Beards, Bacon & Badass - Justification by Manliness"
There you are… hand resting on your mouse, eyes staring blankly at the screen as your forefinger turns the little wheel that makes your Facebook feed scroll down. A seemingly endless supply of links, selfies, memes and pictures of cats flash past your eyes at a rate that makes it virtually impossible to actually process any of the information on the screen. Then all of a sudden something grabs your attention! Something causes you to turn that little wheel in the opposite direction and zoom back to the link that caught your eye… and there it is… all in capital letters… the words “…WHAT HAPPENED NEXT BROUGHT ME TO TEARS!!!”

And so you click on the link and watch the soppy video of a child’s wish coming true… a father’s passionate yet humorous speech to his future son-in-law… a dog who was loyal to its master… or the ridiculously talented little girl singing some love song with lyrics that are way beyond her years of comprehension. And you don’t even care that the site is packed full of advertising… that you have to click through a thirty-seven image long slide show… or that you know these sites are merely designed to get you clicking a lot so that their statistics increase ensuring a more lucrative advertising deal. You are uncontrollably drawn to the capital letter caption and before you know it you are hitting the “share” button to pass on the riveting experience to all of your friends.

The dramatic increase in the prevalence of these link-sharing sites has been something to behold over the last couple of years on social media. “BuzzFeed” is just probably the most recognisable version, but there are now countless creatively named sites that basically do nothing more than scour the internet for videos, pictures and articles that are on the verge of going viral and then they exploit the content they didn’t create in order to generate advertising revenue. There are even specifically Christianised link-sharing sites which target Christian audiences who are ready and willing to have their faith inspired by a 3 minute video.

Perhaps the reason we are so fascinated with the content on these sites is because we are just completely bored with the monotony of our lives and the videos and slideshows provide us with a distraction from the daily grind... but I reckon there is at least some part of us that is drawn to click on the capital letter link because deep down inside we are captivated by that which seems to lift humanity to a higher plane of existence.  We are amazed by the clips of people who seem to reach one level higher than the rest of us and the moments that seem to transcend our mundane existence.

Now on one level this is good because it highlights that in the frailty of our humanity we sense that we were designed for so much more than monotony... we were made for eternity!  But the problem that easily flows from our obsession is that the growing prevalence of people appearing in the videos convinces us that the only life worth living is the capital letter life... the upworthy life... the life that transcends.  And so we use our social media profiles as our own version of BuzzFeed... scouring every moment of our lives looking for spectacular events to justify our online existence.

It is almost as if we need to be able to think of our life as spectacular or we might be destined to dwell amongst the mundane masses.  So we desperately hope that our moments of epic win are somehow captured in a format that can be uploaded and we carefully craft stories that certify our greatness.  We even use our children as pawns in our quest for capital letter status; sacrificing them to the gods of social media, longing for their drawings, sayings and talents to be voted as upworthy by the throngs of people waiting with bated breath for our next Facebook status.  The problem is of course that the bar keeps going up and the world always requires our awesomeness to escalate, so we get dragged back down into the ordinary life just as quickly as we voted ourselves up.

The beauty of justification by faith in Jesus Christ is that we are set free from the pursuit of being upworthy.  Titus 3:5 says, "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy..." meaning that God's acceptance of us does not require us to be spectacular.  Therefore we don't have to prove ourselves by attaining to the capital letter life because our justification rests not on how upworthy we are but on the infinitely upworthy life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So don't stress if your weightloss transformation didn't turn out as you had hoped and your before and after shots are not dramatic enough to post... don't worry if your no make-up selfie really needs some make-up to make it postable... don't fret if your attempt at making a viral video only resulted in 23 hits 7 of which were you... and don't fear if your children are not musical, artistic or sporting prodigies, rendering their performances 'normal'... the reality is that the upworthiness of your life means nothing in God's Kingdom.  In Christ you are set free from the capital letter life because you get to share the benefits of His infinitely perfect life...

Seeking to justify yourself through the appearance of awesomeness will crush you under the weight of your incapacity to captivate your online audience and bleed you dry as you chase your own tail looking to manufacture upworthy moments.  Only is Jesus is the true and lasting justification... not based on your worth but His!

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