From Trending to Trendy: Loving People with More Than Hashtags and Slogans￼
Pop culture is both a mirror and an incubator. It reflects the prevailing ideologies, values, and passions of the world today, while also shaping the culture of tomorrow. The rich and famous in the entertainment industry are no more important than the average person, but they are certainly more visible, and there is immense power in that visibility. While some people dismiss the happenings in culture as merely the words and actions of the out-of-touch Hollywood elite, they often reveal a deeper undercurrent of what is taking place in the world.
#MeToo & Time’s Up
The #MeToo movement was born out of the concussive aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017. While members of the Hollywood elite were recognized as the perpetrators of rampant sexual exploitation in the entertainment industry, it was also those within Hollywood who ignited the movement to fight the abuse. Christians don’t need to align with an entertainer’s voting record or opinions on hot-button issues to stand in solidarity against sexual abuse. The #MeToo movement was not a Hollywood issue; it was a human one.
Much has changed in culture since 2017, and a lot of positive progress has been gained (even if much work remains). Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, the movement has also exposed some shortcomings of viral, cultural crusades.
The Hollywood Reporter recently published an article detailing the rise and fall of the Time’s Up organization. Despite name-recognition and good intentions at the forefront of the initial #MeToo wave, the group is now a “ghost organization”:
“Instead of providing a voice for the voiceless, the organization ended up crumpling amid conflict-of-interest allegations and internal disagreements over its focus.”
“Outside of pins being adorned to very fancy dresses on the red carpet, what came out of that organization?”
“Money and power took over everything, and their mission drifted into seeing how many powerful people they could get at a lunch table.”
What went wrong?
From Trending to Trendy
The problem with trending movements is that they can quickly become trendy movements. Viral hashtags and catchy slogans can be a double-edged sword. They spread quickly but can also usurp the issue itself. They become an easy way for people to stand up and be counted, while requiring little action. In a sense, the hashtags and slogans used to popularize a movement often become a movement unto themselves.
I remember when everyone posted black boxes on their Instagram accounts, but I can’t recall what cause triggered it. Or when people filmed themselves being dunked with ice water. The purpose was to raise awareness for a disease, but most people probably couldn’t identify which one. Instead, the movement became about trying to raise the ante with increasingly viral videos. These movements—and many others—quickly went from people spreading awareness about an important issue to people spreading awareness about what important issues they support. It became about being activists rather than actual activism.
Words & Action
Jesus constantly confronted this sort of behavior: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). When he asked Peter three times if he loved him, Peter became exasperated and insisted that he did. Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” “Shepherd my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep” (John 21).
The demise of the Time’s Up organization is not something to celebrate, nor is it an indication that the people involved didn’t or don’t care about sexual abuse. But it’s a reminder that loving people and seeking justice for them is messier and more complicated than catchy slogans or social media posts. Hashtags and viral trends of solidarity are powerful tools to distill important issues into simple messages, but the issues themselves are rarely simplistic. Hashtags don’t change the world. Hashtags inspire and mobilize people to make a difference in the world around them as God works in and through them.
The love of Christ should compel the church to more than a trendy expression of our faith (2 Corinthians 5:14). It is easy to post a pretty Bible verse graphic on Instagram but more demanding to live in the truth of that scripture in the real world. It feels good to declare, “there’s no judgment here,” but harder to stop making sweeping judgments about people who think, act, or vote differently. In short, the world doesn’t need Christians just to stand up and be counted. It needs Christians to be the active hands and feet of Jesus, loving people and shining light in a dark world.