It’s Time for Christians to Stop Virtue Signaling on Race

vir·tue sig·nal·ing — noun

  1. the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue. — Oxford English Dictionary

Social media brownie points are all the rage in educated Conservative circles.

We’ve all seen it before. It starts with a public event: the tragic death of a young African American, a racially-motivated protest, or more recently, NFL players kneeling in protest of our National Anthem. All of a sudden, social media erupts. Preachy hashtags will start trending. Your normally-apolitical Christian friends will emerge from the woodwork to start sprinkling tweets with terms like #ThisIsNotUs, #TakeAKnee, or #NotMyPresident.

The Dallas Cowboys participate in the NFL’s #TakeAKnee protest.

Facebook statuses, Tweets, stealth “liking”, and lengthy diatribes will fill your social media experience like never before. For young evangelicals on social media, there’s nothing hotter than taking an “edgy” stance to call out your church, your family, or your country. Everyone’s newest hot take on our cultural woes will start to sound the same. Societal sins like abortion and abandonment will all of a sudden take a back seat to the newest social media rage.

And that’s the problem. My generation’s activism rarely leaves social media.

As reported by Axios, the social media response to the NFL’s recent National Anthem protest is absolutely mind boggling. The hashtag #TakeAKnee alone eclipsed 2.7 million mentions over football weekend. As Christians, we’re called to look at culture with a discerning eye. We’re also called to stand against evil, and call it out whenever we see it.

Our scriptures are rife with examples of saints taking a stand against evils — Noah, Nathan the Prophet, and Moses just for starters (and that’s not even counting the work and ministry of Jesus Christ). None of the Biblical heroes took a stand against evil on social media because it was chic. And they most certainly weren’t driven by social media groupthink, cheap retweets, and trending cultural issues. They were motivated by faith. As Hebrews 11 beautifully puts it:

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Racial justice is important, but for many Christians, activism never goes beyond a chance to get preachy on an issue that your parents just do not seem to get. It’s easy to call out racism on social media, and in 2017’s America, it will even make you look cool. Only problem: You’re not actually making a difference.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined a phenomena that indicates social media consumption is more polarized than ever before. Consumers are self-segregating. We would rather listen and talk to people that agree with our politics, than venture into ideas or fields that might challenge our beliefs. In other words, we have created one gigantic echo chamber.

The sad part of this? Christians are much more willing to criticize their fellow brothers and sisters, than, as 2 Corinthians puts it, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Don’t like your politicians? Go knock some doors for other candidates. Worried about racial inequality? Go out of your way to seek involvement in an unfamiliar community. Tired of cultural disparity in your church? Join a ministry team.

Are you actually going out of your way to befriend people that aren’t like you? Are you widening your circle of friends and talking to people that are different? Are you listening to spiritual leaders and pastors that come from a different cultural background?

In life, you can judge the most impactful people by the legacy of their actions. Put down your smartphone, get off your couch, and make a difference.