Meme Culture and the Habit of Hate

It’s become so easy in our society to spread hate.

Wow, Christina, that’s a pretty broad statement. Care to explain?

The rise of the meme has been a interesting phenomenon. Over the past few years, I’ve watched the meme trend growing on social media, but in particular this past year, it has become something that has caused me deep concern. Memes are pictures or short videos that have words overlaid across them that are usually short, quippy, and intended to cause a spontaneous emotional response. Some are really funny and completely harmless. But many employ the use of sarcasm in order to make a point, like political posts or posts about social concerns.

But the ones that bother me the most are the “Christian” memes.  Memes that are intended to in some way shame, judge, or correct others regarding things like church attendance or Bible reading in a public and passive aggressive way.

Just yesterday in a children’s ministry forum, a meme was posted of four children in church using electronic devices that basically implied if we let kids use electronic devices in church, they will never follow God and we can’t expect them too. That sentiment was expressed in a much more sarcastic and pointed tone, but that was the gist of the message.

And all I could think was, “Really?  Someone felt it necessary to publicly shame these four children and their parents by posting this picture with this sentiment as a meme on social media, proclaiming that they would likely never follow Christ because they used an Ipad in church?  It seems to me if they chose to never follow Christ, it would be because their picture was used on social media to perpetuate a message of judgement and disgrace by a “Christian” brother or sister!”

My actual response to the meme read like this:

Just today someone in this group posted that they had a chance to lead a young man to Christ. That young man had come to church for three years, sat in the pew with his mother (not kids church) and played games. This Sunday after three years, he came to the children’s pastor with his mom in tears and asked how he could begin a relationship with a Jesus.

My problems with memes like this one is that, while quippy and hard hitting, intended to evoke a response of righteous indignation, they leave out so much of what church actually is.

What if these same kids had people in church committed to walking with them through life. What if each Sunday they were greeted by name. What if their parents recognized their kids probably wouldn’t get the same thing out of the sermon as them but still wanted their kids to experience gathering with the whole faith community. What if this picture shows just a moment and not a story.

God is bigger than Mario and Pokémon. Even if we don’t agree with this behavior , our disagreement won’t bring the love and light of Christ to these young hearts. That’s up to us..the church..the community.

mobile-phone-1917737_1920The definition of the word hate is “intense or passionate dislike.”  Meme culture has made it easy for us to express our intense passionate dislike in a short quippy statements with a funny face in the background. It’s so easy to spread hate. In fact, if we post it and people who agree with us like it, they share it too. The term we use for memes that get posted a lot is “viral.”  Viral refers to a virus, like a cold. Easy to share, easy to spread.

Memes can be little capsules of hate that we can spread easily like a virus.  And Christians are doing it!  Lots and lots and lots of “Christian” memes are out there that, at their base, use shame, sarcasm, and judgment to make a point and many times political memes, shared by Christians, do the exact same thing.

We need to shake ourselves out of the stupor of the habit of hate. Of course, we may feel something is wrong and needs to be addressed, but I promise you, there are much better ways to share our hearts than a cutting statement over a picture to be passed around circles that already agree with us.

We cannot expect the next generation to live into faith in Jesus if our approach is to use shame and sarcasm as motivation.

Jesus came to offer a new way, a way that is founded not in hate, but in love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, 35). 

I’ve never seen a life changed by a judgmental, sarcastic meme. I’ve seen many lives changed through the love of Jesus Christ shared through relationship and conversation and the act of laying oneself down for a friend.

If we create a habit of choosing to build relationships with people, even if we disagree with them on some political persuasions or religious behaviors; if we resist the desire to “pull a punch” and hit them with our oh-so-clever one-liner; if we lay down our right to a “thumbs up” from those who already agree with us and seek instead a conversation with those who don’t…if we are willing to break with the habit of hate and pursue the way of love… then maybe, just maybe, our voice will be heard in a way that actually brings about lasting change and transformation in people’s lives, especially those of the next generation.

I get it. Memes can be quite funny and they can get the point across in ways that we just wish we could. They are easy to share. They are easy to “like.” But we aren’t called to easy. We are called to seek peace and pursue it. We are called to love like Jesus.

One day, our children will google us. Let’s make sure they find Love there. 


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About this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

*The advertisements at the bottom of this page are chosen by WordPress, not by ReFocus Ministry, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of the author. 

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