Apologies that there was no blog entry last week, due to ‘flu.
This week, let’s talk about one of my bugbears. The unstoppable rise of tweeness. The tidal wave of saccharin we are constantly bombarded with on social media and, heaven help us, in Church and somewhere in most forms of Christian writing, all of which is, frankly, enough to give us spiritual diabetes.
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NIV)
Twee lends itself beautifully to the meme, or the short status, as well as to song lyrics, prayers and poems. It is especially prevalent in blogs. It is a deliciously sweet icing on life, that whilst often containing some truth, is dangerously shallow. If we are not careful, we can get suckered into the idea that this is where God lives.
We can smile and say, “Remember it’s darkest before the dawn,” to someone who is in a shadowy, difficult place, and it sounds good, it sounds true, even like it might be a Bible verse (it’s not as far as I know), we think it must be a comfort to them. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting to comfort someone who is struggling, that compassion needs to rise from a place that sees their pain and wants to hold space around it, to be a loving witness to it, rather than simply wanting to say a quick something that sounds like a solution, but is more about soothing our own discomfort at their pain, than actually helping.
So many of us (I’m sure I am guilty of this too) have spoken, posted, tweeted in this unthinking way, that merely absolves us, and makes the person we are talking to feel even more beleaguered. Why? Because it’s too trite, it’s not enough, it only loads guilt onto a person who cannot even believe there is a dawn, let alone has the strength to wait for it. Telling someone that what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger, whilst they are feeling like they would rather it did kill them, is not helpful.
Twee is akin to the half-baked theologies that dismiss suffering, that condemn the long-term sick and that have not the least idea of what it might mean to follow Christ fully, or with the understanding that not everything is going to be wonderful. At its best, it is apparently wholesome drivel, at its worst, the emotional equivalent of hit and run. It is cousin to that most dreadful of Christian vices, meaning well.
Meaning well does not think about consequences, or indeed about anything enduring. When I recall difficulties I have encountered myself in the Body of Christ, most of the really hurtful things have been said or done by people who no doubt, meant well. They spoke out of bad teaching, often, or from motives that appeared selfless but were anything but; because meaning well is all about getting oneself off the hook, looking like we did the right thing, and rarely about being constructive, or truly compassionate.
And twee is one of meaning well’s worst weapons. It dives straight in, wounds deeply and is gone before you can turn around. Or it cheerfully states a half truth in glib gormlessness which glances off the truth with a resounding clunk. This is the weakest of spiritual milk. And we need weaning off it. Solid food is waiting, but is anyone really preparing an appetite for what’s on offer?
Tweeness is like spiritual sherbert, it fizzes briefly on the tongue, but is really insubstantial. If we are going to be people of substance, of depth, of wisdom and above all of love, then this blasé stuff needs to go. Now, again, don’t get me wrong. There is a place for quoting wonderful Bible verses that encourage and lift up. Social media is made for the short and sweet, and memes work beautifully there. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with them. But it must be followed up with something else. There must be the resonance of deeper, tried and tested faith and biblical understanding, of character, behind and underneath the surface. My hope is that at Lakelight we shall be a little wary of the quick fix and the one liner, and be ready to set a more complete meal before the hungry.
Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Meme from the internet
You may be pleased to know that this is the last in our series of first foundations, where we have cleared away some of the rubble, talking about what we are NOT about, before we begin anew, articulating what we WILL be attempting to build.