Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Manipulative Memes

Memes are the viruses of the idea world. In the internet age, it is easy to think of several examples of pictures, videos, or even just thoughts that have spread like wildfire through global human consciousness. In their most perfect form, they just happen. They are not manipulated nor are they manipulative. They strike a chord and just happen. Everybody knows about the cuteness of Charlie and a bitten finger, or the moving experience of seeing a deaf person hearing for the very first time. “Of course, we all might wish our own mind could produce that sort of impact. However, memes that are designed tend to have less impact, or eventually wear out their welcome.

Then there are those incredibly annoying, absolutely manipulative attempts to generate a meme. The statement or picture that begs people to share it. Some “Christian” ones are not just annoying, they are offensive. “If you love Jesus, share this picture.” The implication is that if you don’t, you must not love Jesus. Some of these things even have the audacity to take Christ’s words out of context and claim that a failure to share constitutes a denial.

This isn’t just an issue regarding internet time wasting. The concept of a meme describes something truly important to humanity, faith and cultural impact for good or ill. The teachings of Jesus and Biblical Christianity are indeed a meme. It has impacted the world for millennia. In its true application it naturally (or supernaturally) spreads like wildfire through the minds and cultures it encounters.

However, just as a meme can become manipulative if the focus is on the marketing, so can the spread of Jesus’ message of Hope if we try to make it a well-oiled process. One of the most amazing Church Planting Movements in the history of Christianity has been happening over the past decade is Asia. However, even though the principles and ideas driving this movement are Biblical and solid and should be applicable around the world, care should be taken in its implementation. The power of the meme of the Gospel is in its life transformational truth. Care needs to be taken that we call people to a true, biblical concept of discipleship. Not that we simply turn discipleship into a manipulative attempt to cause that discipleship to grow exponentially by guilting or forcing people into sharing.

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