In the wake of last year’s election season, many of us have been asking difficult questions about our nation and ourselves. Can we restore a sense of shared American identity despite our differences? Is it possible for the church to engage in politics without getting stuck in familiar partisan ruts?
Underneath these larger issues are questions about the kind of people we’ve become in the internet age. Thinking back on all the tweets, videos, articles, comments, and memes I consumed as the election drew near, I’ve begun asking myself: “Was it worth it?” Once I had decided on my preferred candidate and done what I could to advocate for my neighbor, did all the time and energy I devoted to reading, watching, and responding online benefit me personally? Did it make me a better citizen of heaven (or Texas)?
Of course, 2020 was a strange year, and it is hard to imagine how we would have coped without the internet. We needed up-to-date information about the spread of the coronavirus, and we needed ways to connect with our church communities during lockdowns. Tragically, it took seeing the murder of George Floyd to jar many of us into acknowledging the realities of injustice in our country. And in an election year, of course it’s important to be an informed voter, from the president down to the county commissioner.
Yet for all the good the internet brings, my guess is that most of us would admit that our media usage hasn’t been altogether healthy over the past few years. Many of us can readily recall Donald Trump’s “Covfefe” tweet, the fly on Mike Pence’s forehead, or the latest celebrity-pastor hot take, even if it’s been forever since we read a novel. A disorder ...1
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