I think it is safe to say that this past year has been pivotal with regard to our awareness of the complexity of politics and morality. Whether we mean to or not, we engage with a vast community in conversations covering an array of topics in unprecedented ways. This week we have unwittingly become privy to a banal tit-for-tat between Megyn Kelly and Jane Fonda. In the same week, on a different feed, we find a three minute video of a weeping little boy who has been bullied at school. Somehow we wonder why bullying is a problem. The 24/7 social discourse often splashes fuel on already raging fires. Acerbic responses passed on in sharp bytes of judgement lay bare a widening cultural divide.
Remarkably, however, there is something this ongoing discussion has revealed: we hold in common, at least in certain scenarios, a sense of right and wrong.
For example, until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Logan Paul, a twenty-two-year-old “social media influencer,” video vlogger and entrepreneurial entertainer of millions of mostly teenage YouTube subscribers, Twitter and Instagram followers. Paul, began vlogging as a young kid, and has been feeding his followers with his maverick style and daring antics. Paul’s name burst onto my screen a few weeks ago after he reportedly posted a video of himself discovering a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara or “suicide forest”. In that instant he stepped over the line, a line he did not know was there, by the way, until his outraged followers condemned his lack of judgement and glib reaction. It was unanimous, he was wrong. And, immediately he removed the video, thankfully, apologized for his actions, and retreated from the public eye to reflect on his actions.
What was it about Logan Paul’s cavalier display of disrespect that got our attention? Perhaps it was the combination of his casual treatment of a deeply disturbing scene or his lack of awareness surrounding the issue of suicide. Personally, I was distraught by the fact that most of the millions of Logan Paul’s faithful followers include kids, vulnerable kids, many of whom fight for the will to live every day in our country. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24 year olds? Statistics reported by the American Association for Suicide Prevention indicate suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. And, on average, 123 people commit suicide every day, which means that for every person who succeeds twenty-five more make an attempt. I am close to families who have experienced the death of a loved one by suicide, and the deep sorrow and pain from such a loss is inexplicable.
I learned just yesterday that Logan Paul returned from his social media hiatus, choosing to use his platform of influence to raise suicide awareness; additionally, he donated $1 million to suicide prevention organizations. And, while I appreciate his attempts to make things right, I hope and pray that his own understanding of suicide and the organizations committed to preventing it will serve to heighten his awareness of the real struggles people out there face. I also hope he has learned something of the value of life-including his own.
Then, earlier today, like many of you, I read the news that Larry Nassar, former U.S. gymnastic team doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing at least 150 young female gymnasts. The abuse he inflicted on these women is wrong, and I applaud the bravery of the young woman involved. I can only imagine the courage it took to break the silence and the cycle. I pray their willingness to speak out will bring a deep sense of healing for all of them, their families and friends. While I am astounded that Nassar's behavior went unchecked for so long and affected so.many.women I pray this disturbing event, in tandem with the message of the #metoo movement, will further heighten awareness of the reality of sexual abuse and provide necessary education and tools to break the cycle. I have known women who have been scarred by sexual abuse and exploitation, and the road to recovery and healing is a long one.
I blog about these issues tonight because I think you and I need to critically consider and courageously engage in our culture and the issues at hand. The common sense of right and wrong emerging in discussions like these, is embedded in us by our Creator. The cry for justice and mercy, the longing for acceptance and dignity is evidence--we are Imago Dei. You and I have the opportunity, in the neighborhood or in the cubicle, on the bus or on Facebook, to validate the significance of every life because we know the Creator of all life.
We have the opportunity to interject truth into the nasty and sometimes nonchalant narrative of the day and tell a better story—a story of sacrifice and healing, of love and forgiveness, acceptance and value and hope. In today’s culture gospel opportunities begin by listening to the stories of the people with whom we work and play, squeezing into their shoes even if we feel the pinch. We can bear the load of emotional and physical pain and abuse, and share the gospel of Jesus—one conversation at a time.
I'm reminding myself as I remind you, we are called to engage in gospel conversations under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is not just one of many religious stories, it is the true story of the whole world, historically bound by the only true God who is like no other.