The internet is powerful. As of right now, a video posted by the organization, Invisible Children, has reached 39 million views in just three days. The viral video seeks to reveal the horrible crimes of Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord's Resistance Army that abducts children and uses them as soldiers in Africa. As the video went live, so did social media, with thousands expressing outrage towards Kony's crimes. In all the years I have been using social media, I am not sure if I have ever seen as many links posted, pictures shown, posts "liked," and tweets retweeted all pertaining to the same cause as Kony 2012.
What is extremely intriguing is that questions are now arising about the whole movement. The inquiries are not necessarily about whether or not Joseph Kony is a monster (he is) but about Invisible Children itself and its methods of activism. Invisible Children has offered their responses to all criticisms.
Whether Invisible Children is legit or not is not as much of a concern to me as something else—our extreme desire for armchair activism. Our actions may be good but is our heart?
Don't get me wrong. Do I think Joseph Kony is an evil monster who needs to be stopped? Absolutely. What he has been doing to children and Central Africa for years is atrocious.
But I'm not looking at him or Invisible Children; I'm looking at us. America. Followers of Christ.
Why do such causes, like Kony 2012, explode on the internet? It's a complex question and I am not certain of the whole answer yet. But here are a couple things I do know:
HUMANS ARE SINFUL Not just Kony. Not just Stalin or Hitler.
I definitely am.
We have been ever since Adam and Eve ate that darn fruit. We have been trying to cover up our sinfulness and shame with fig leaves ever since.
"I'm green. I wear TOMS. I only buy fair trade everything. No blood diamonds for me, please. I recycle. I attended an online event and invited all my Facebook friends. I am a good person."
Could it be that our generation's obsession with activism is just another attempt to make ourselves think we are better than we really are?
If you want to see your true self, look at how you act at home—not on the internet.
We care about Ugandan children but what about our neighbors? We care about alleviating third world problems but freak out about minor inconveniences to our life and schedule. We stand for compassion overseas but have none for the people who have burned us. We give money to organizations but only to counterbalance our own consumption.
Are we actually as honest, loving, compassionate, patient, generous, informed, encouraging, and selfless as we think we are?
If you focus on someone else's problems long enough, you may begin to forget your own but don't deceive yourself—it doesn't mean they have gone away. Using social activism to escape your own demons is a useless venture.
Retweets and status updates can't save you; we have Jesus to do that for us.
HUMANS ARE SELF-GLORIFYING Now, I can't look into anyone's heart; only God can do that. But I know what the Bible says about the human heart and I know my heart.
We have a disposition to glorify ourselves.
My fear is that much of the activism happening on social media is not just for awareness of the cause but awareness of the person. Of me.
Am I saying if you change your profile picture to a Kony poster, you are posturing for the masses? Of course not. You have to answer that question, not me.
But I know how hard it is to resist the allure of praise. Even in writing this, I have had to stop and ask myself, is this about page views or God?
How many times have we posted something, done something, or said something and wondered about who saw us? If we would get a pat on the back? If they would see us as a good Christian boy or girl?
Here's another question. How many of us have championed a cause because we were afraid to not champion it for fear of being seen as insensitive to injustice? Is not posting anything about Kony actually communicating that I don't care about child soldiers?
Paul wrote that living for the approval of other humans and not God is antithetical to what it means to be a Christian (Galatians 1:10)
DO WE DO NOTHING THEN? By no means am I advocating that to avoid sinning through good deeds we must stop good deeds all together. Seeking to help the poor and destitute is something Jesus commanded us to do.
Keep going. Fight on.
But how are we doing it?
Are we seeking to cover our sin? Or are we seeking to glorify ourselves?
Both roles, instead, are reserved for Jesus Christ, the One who died on a cross to cover our sin with His blood. Therefore, Jesus and only Jesus deserves glory.
Good deeds ought to flow out of our response to the Gospel. Most Christians know Ephesians 2:8 where it says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith," but they forget about verse 10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works."
Any amount of goodwill we offer others should be from an overflow of Christ's goodwill for us. Because He died, we should die to ourselves, our tendency to cover our sin, and our obsession with praise.
So, before you head out to stop Kony, stop yourself first.