Six months ago, Rikki Kahley of Macon, Georgia, planned a bachelorette party for herself and her friends, booking a September 12 trip to the Bahamas. After Hurricane Dorian devastated the islands, they chose to make their party a mission trip.
They launched a social media campaign, asking people to donate supplies the group could take with them. They hoped to bring ten extra suitcases filled with donations but boarded their flight with thirty-seven. Delta Airlines waived the fees.
In a day before social media, such an initiative would have been much harder to launch. As it was, the girls posted their trip on their Facebook pages, and the rest is history.
Social media makes possible much good, but as we’ll see today, it also contributes to the moral confusion of our day.
Musician declares he is a “sapiosexual”
Mark Ronson won the Oscar for Best Original Song this year. He is known for collaborations with artists from Amy Winehouse and Adele to Miley Cyrus.
Now he is making headlines by declaring that he is a “sapiosexual.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as “sexually attracted to highly intelligent people” no matter their gender identity or appearance.
Sexuality is more complex, confusing, and divisive than ever before in history.
One website lists ten different sexual orientations in its glossary. A resource developed by the BBC tells young school kids that there are over one hundred recognizable gender identities. Tumblr has a list of 112 different genders.
A seminary chapel service prays to plants
Such confusion and dissension over sexuality reflect the broader conflicts in our culture over the nature and significance of truth.
You may have heard about Union Theological Seminary’s recent chapel service in which students were led to confess “the harm we’ve done to plants” directly to the plants. The seminary defended their worship service as a “beautiful ritual.”
After an abortionist passed away in Illinois, his family discovered 2,246 remains of aborted fetuses inside his home. Writing for the National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis notes: “If [the abortionist’s] family had uncovered thousands or hundreds or even dozens of body parts from human adults, we’d witness wall-to-wall news coverage of the most notorious serial killer in history—and rightly so. Instead, because they are small and we are not, we will close our eyes.”
Meanwhile, the California State Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation requiring university clinics to offer abortion pills to students in 2023. A similar bill in Massachusetts requires public universities to provide abortion medication.
How social media is changing the way we interpret reality
What is behind such moral and cultural confusion?
Writing for The Guardian, sociologist William Davies describes “a collision between two conflicting ideals of truth: one that depends on trusted intermediaries (journalists and experts) and another that promises the illusion of direct access to reality itself.”
The former was the world in which I grew up. Walter Cronkite could end the CBS Evening News with his familiar “and that’s the way it is,” and we believed him. We trusted news reporters to report the news. Everyone has biases, of course, but objectivity was the goal for which news media strived.
The latter is fueled by the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, social media posts, and the resulting belief that we can interact with the world without the intervention or risk of “fake news.”
We’ve been taught for decades that truth is what we believe it to be. Now we have the technology by which to capture, record, and understand the world through our personal prism. We interpret the reality we cannot experience personally by that which we can.
The good news is that we can use a Facebook post to turn a bachelorette party into a mission trip. The bad news is that we have no objective standards for sexual orientation, gender, objects of prayer, or any moral issue we face.
“The Lord has become my stronghold”
Reality has a way of reminding us that we are not in charge of reality. When something good or bad shocks people, have you noticed that they often exclaim, “Oh, my God!”?
They’re more right than they know.
The psalmist describes wicked people who “kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive'” (Psalm 94:6–7).
But despite their confidence in their own version of reality, God does see the wicked and arrogant (v. 9). He does judge the nations (v. 10). And, the psalmist testifies, “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up” (v. 18).
As a result, forsaking self-reliance and submitting to the reality of divine omniscience and omnipotence, the psalmist declares: “The Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (v. 22).
Who or what is your “rock” of refuge today?