James Meehan - The Problem with Slacktivism
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Well, today we are talking about slacktivism, the gospel, and the mess that gets made when you try to stick them together. My name is James, I'm a pastor here at Switch, and I'm so thankful for the time that we're gonna get to spend together tonight. I know I'm gonna have a blast, hopefully you will as well, as we look a little bit more into what this slacktivism thing is. For some of you this may be a new word, so let me define it for you. Slacktivism is what you get when you have slacking and activism and you try to fuse them together. The result is slacktivism.
So slacktivism kind of looks like doing the bare minimum to feel like you're a part of something. It's doing the bare minimum to feel like you're making a difference. One of my favorite examples of slacktivism is the online petition. What I'm not saying is that no good has ever come from an online petition. What I am saying though is that there are some ridiculous examples of online petitions that are just out of this world. One of those is this guy was so upset with Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review website, that he legitimately created an online petition to try to get them taken down because he felt like they were unfairly biased against DC movies because Marvel movies kept getting better reviews. Yes.
Any one of us who has seen a Marvel movie and a DC movie, we know the answer that if it's DC versus Marvel, that Thanos in "Infinity War" snaps DC out of existence. Come at me, DC fans. I'm telling you, Captain America is the goat. So, somebody else felt similarly. And what they did was they created an online petition to take down the online petition to take down Rotten Tomatoes. And then it gets even crazier. Because somebody else got so fed up with the ridiculous online petitions that they actually created an online petition to take down the website that creates online petitions. That, my friends, is slacktivism. It's slacking plus activism, slamming it together to feel like you're making a difference.
But what I want to explore with you today is the problem of slacktivism. I wanna ask some questions about, what if settling for slacktivism is causing more harm than we realize? What if slacktivism is holding us back from truly making a difference and feeling this sense of empowerment that comes from making the world a better place? And what if slacktivism specifically when it comes to following Jesus is something that too many of us have settled for? It's this unfortunate idea that we've bought into that is holding us back from seeing the true beauty that is the gospel, the good news that Jesus introduced into the world. What if following Jesus isn't just about going to heaven someday? What if there's more? What if it's bigger? And what if it's better?
So, for me, I used to be a slacktivist. And two, one of my favorite, I'll start there and then I'll tell you the other one, one of my favorite forms of slacktivism that I engaged in was when I was in high school my buddies and I, we would get together at coffee shops and we would have these really passionate, philosophical debates about how we would make the world a better place if we were in charge. And then we would drink our coffee, we would go home, we would put on our headsets, grab our controllers, and we would play "Call of Duty" for hours. We had these great conversations but then we never actually did anything.
And then more recently, I'm embarrassed to admit this, I watched a documentary on Netflix about the benefits of being vegan, not eating any animal products. And after I watched this documentary, for 30 minutes, I considered going vegan. But I didn't. I felt really good about it, though. That is slacktivism. And many of us I think we would admit that there are too many times and areas in our lives where we've settled for slacktivism. For some of us, it could look like liking that post on Instagram of that cause that we believe in. It could be engaging in an online conversation on Reddit. It could be having a passionate conversation with your friends about all the ways you'd make the world a better place.
There's so many different ways that we engage in slacktivism. And what it does is it makes us feel like we're making a difference, we feel like we're making the world a better place. But here's the problem with that: it's just a feeling. And then when a real opportunity to contribute, a real opportunity to make a difference shows up, we say, nah, I'm good, I'm already doing this thing. We pass on it because we settle for slacktivism. And eventually, slacktivism, it leaves us feeling empty. Powerless. Like we can't make a difference. Because we're doing these things that we feel like are making the world a better place, but then we look at the problems that we're trying to make better, the problems aren't getting any smaller.
And then we take a step back and we think, man, I guess I can't really do anything about this. No matter how hard I try, it seems like nothing is getting better. We settle for slacktivism to the point where we end up feeling completely disempowered and disillusioned. To the point where we stop trying altogether.
And I think this idea and this problem of slacktivism is nowhere more dangerous than when it comes to following Jesus. Because Jesus introduced this message and movement to the world 2,000 years ago that has completely changed history. The greatest force for good in history was started by this guy named Jesus, but for so many of us in our journey of following him, we settle for so much less than changing the world. We settle for going to church on the weekend, praying the prayer, making sure we believe the right things so that when we die that we will end up in the good place and not the bad place. For us, we see the full extend of Christianity as all about going to heaven someday.
But what if there's more? What if that's not the full extent of the good news that Jesus introduced to the world? What if following Jesus isn't just about going to heaven someday? What if following Jesus is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth? What we recognize is that your generation, your friends, your classmates, you are the most stressed out, overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, depressed, and suicidal generation in history. And that's a problem. And for so many of us, we don't know what the solution is. And when we try to do something to make it better, the problem doesn't go away. And we end up feeling totally disempowered and disillusioned.
I think what we need to do, I think we need to take a step back. I think we need to see that the message that Jesus introduced to the world 2,000 years ago, the gospel, the good news, is exactly that. It is good news. So, what is the gospel? The gospel, the good news of Jesus, what I would like to do is I'd like to read from the Book of Matthew, who's one of Jesus' followers who's telling about Jesus' cousin, a guy named John the Baptist, who stepped into history to tell people, "Hey, I'm letting you guys know that something new is coming. Something bigger, something better. And it starts with a J and ends with a C. It's Jesus Christ. He's coming and he's got some news for you. And I'm telling you, it is good".
So, in Matthew chapter three, verse two, and we're reading this in the King James version, John says this, he says, "Repent ye. Repent ye". Now, to be clear, yeet is very different. Yeet is new, ye is John the Baptist language. What he's saying is repent. That means turn back. It means you're going in the wrong direction, you need to turn around and go in the right direction. And ye, like I said, it's not yeet. Ye is you. You, turn around. There's a better direction. There is a better way. And then he goes on to say, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The kingdom of heaven is just another way of saying the kingdom of God.
And then if we go further in Luke chapter four and verse 23, we have Jesus saying this. He says, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent". Jesus is telling us that, "Hey, the reason why I was sent was to proclaim the good news". Good news means gospel. Gospel of what, the good news of what? The kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? Well, the best way I heard it defined is this way. That the kingdom of God is God's way of doing things being established on earth as it is in heaven. It's the right way of doing things, the best way of doing things. It's peace, justice, every wrong being made right. It is heaven coming to earth. It is these good things becoming the new norm and pushing aside the problems in our society of racism, greed, lust, pride, addiction.
Those things are being pushed away and something new and better is coming, and that thing is the kingdom of God. Have I got some good news for you is what Jesus is saying here. And I think that when we take a look at this, what we realize is that what Jesus is doing is he's inviting us to be a part of something bigger and better than a slacktivist version of Christianity. Because slacktivism in Christianity looks like, okay, I'm gonna go to church, I'm gonna pray the prayer, so that when I die I can go to heaven someday. But the real good news that Jesus is introducing is, hey, we together, the Church, God's people, we are going to bring heaven to earth.
The kingdom of God is coming and I want you to be a part of this movement of bringing that to reality. There's this part where Jesus' disciples are asking Jesus the question, "Hey, you know God really well. Will you teach us how to pray"? And so Jesus teaches them how to pray. And he says, "Pray like this. Our father who art in heaven". So our God that is in heaven. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". Your kingdom is coming, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray for the kingdom of God to come to earth, for heaven to come to earth.
What I love so much about this prayer though is I think Jesus isn't just teaching his disciples to pray that prayer. I think Jesus is inviting his disciples to be the answer to that prayer. I think Jesus is inviting his disciples to become the kind of people that can bring heaven to earth. And what's so powerful about this is that we, the Church, God's people, anybody who says, "Jesus, I am with you," we are his disciples. So what Jesus is inviting us to do is he's inviting us to pray this prayer for God's kingdom to come and be established on earth as it is in heaven. And he's inviting us to be the answer to that prayer. What if following Jesus isn't just about going to heaven someday? What if following Jesus is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth today?
I think this is a really important question that we need to be able to wrestle with, to find an answer. Because the reality is that what we believe determines how we behave. So if I believe this thing, then the way I'm gonna live is gonna be in alignment with that. If I believe that following Jesus is just about going to heaven someday, if I believe in the slacktivist gospel, then the way I live is gonna be, I'm gonna hold back. I'm gonna stay back here where it's safe. But if I believe that there is more than that, if I believe that following Jesus is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth, then I'm stepping in. I'm gonna live differently. I'm gonna serve differently. I'm gonna love differently.
So tonight you're gonna get to wrestle with that question. What if following Jesus isn't just about going to heaven someday? What if it's about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth? That's why love Switch, that's why love Switch groups, because as human beings we weren't meant to do life alone and we need to have people that we can talk to about these things and wrestle with, but we can't let it stay there. We have to talk about these ideas and then we have to create a plan. Because if it really is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth, we've gotta figure out what does that look like, how do I become that kind of person. And I believe that through the conversations you have tonight, you will find an answer.
For some of you, maybe you're new to Switch. The thing that you're going to do is you're gonna commit to be at Switch every week, why? Because every week when you come to Switch, you're gonna learn how to become that kind of person. You're gonna learn what it really looks like to follow God. What it really looks like to live a life of purpose. For others of you, maybe you're gonna sign up and you're gonna start serving in the church. And what I love about serving in the church is that the more we serve in the church, I believe the more that it prepares us and equips us to serve outside of the church. It's a way that kind of fills us up and prepares us so it doesn't stay here but we can go out there into the world. For some of us, we're gonna figure out how can we get connected in our community, to meeting the needs of people that are hurting, that are hungry, that need someone to care for them.
We're gonna partner with our Switch group and figure out, okay, what are we gonna do? What need can we meet? Others of you, there's this passion inside of you to create, to make art, poetry, music. You just feel this thing inside of you that you've gotta let it out, you're just not quite sure how yet. I believe that is a gift from God. I think that good art can help somebody feel something that they don't have the words to say. It can help people move beyond the current emotion that they're trapped in into a much better and healthier place. So what you're gonna do is you're gonna figure out how you can develop that skill. You're gonna start practicing so you can use that skill to let people see a little bit of heaven on earth. That's what we're gonna talk about tonight. To come up with a plan of what it actually looks like to follow Jesus.
And if it is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth, we're gonna come up with a plan to become that kind of person. And this matters so much. Because like we said earlier, your generation, your friends and your classmates, your generation is the most anxious, isolated, depressed, overwhelmed and suicidal generation in history. That's a problem. But Jesus, he came with good news. He came to tell you that the kingdom of God is being established on earth as it is in heaven. And he is inviting you to be a part of that movement, to be a part of bringing heaven to earth. And what's so cool is that when we embrace that idea, when we embrace that reality, God absolutely will use you to bring heaven to earth.
But not only will God use you to bring heaven to earth. I believe that God will use you to help people break free from hell on earth. Because we all know people in our lives that are so trapped in the things that have happened to them, the shame that they're carrying, the addictions that are holding them back, they are so trapped that to them life literally feels like hell on earth. And they don't even realize that that is not the way things are meant to be. They are desperate for good news. And I believe that God wants to use you to share that good news with them. To help them understand that they can be free from that hell and that they can experience heaven. What if? What if following Jesus isn't just about going to heaven someday? What if following Jesus is about becoming the kind of person that can bring heaven to earth? Will you become that kind of person?