Kony who? You may remember that massive campaign last year that went absolutely viral because of a promo video. It was called Kony 2012. It had something to do with some African guy in… where was that? Anyway, there is this African nation where kids are taken from the homes and forced to fight in the army of a militia lead by some guy names Kony. At least, I think that’s the right cause. I only remember it because the video went viral and since EVERYBODY was watching it, well I just HAD to watch it. And, of course, EVERYBODY was getting involved, so I got involved too.
Then there was that whole weird thing about the guy who made the video (Russel something?) running around the street naked and drunk and yelling at people. It was on video. Then I SO didn’t want anything to do with Kony 2012; that went uncool really quickly.
But I was still big-time into the Live Strong foundation. I mean, hey, it’s cancer. And besides, Lance Armstrong beat cancer and that’s pretty cool. And he’s still a great bike racer.
Well, he was, anyway. Then he got busted for doping. Confessed on Oprah and everything. So now I don’t wear the bracelets anymore because, like Kony 2012, that’s one cause I seriously don’t want to be associated with.
Alright, if you haven’t figured it out by now the preceding paragraphs are not actually reflections of my thoughts. Rather I think I’ve captured the essence of how public opinion swayed to and fro based on this or that viral video and this or that disgraced celebrity. Other examples could be multiplied. The question I ponder in all this is simple; are the causes good? I think that’s the most important question, but I wonder how many people ask that question. The driving force behind why many people hop on this bandwagon or that seems to be either popularity (i.e. a viral video), emotional manipulation (touching stories), or celebrities (Lance Armstrong). Not enough people, it seems to me, think past the surface attractions down to the deeper question of the cause itself.
Is Kony evil? Does the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) deserve to be stopped? If the answer is yes then it shouldn’t make one iota of difference if the guy who made the video went streak-ranting through the streets. His actions made his cause unpopular precisely because the thing that made his cause popular was not the cause itself. I dare say most people who signed up for Kony 2012 didn’t actually invest a whole lot of time considering Kony, the LRA or the plight of those poor children. How many of those millions who made the video go viral lost a minute of sleep over it?
Same with the Armstrong foundation. Is fighting cancer a worthwhile goal? I would emphatically say it is; would anybody disagree? I doubt it. So who cares what Lance Armstrong did! What he did was wrong, absolutely, but should we distance ourselves from the fight against cancer simply because one of the most famous warriors against the disease acted disgracefully? He isn’t popular anymore so we ditch the cause?
The fundamental issue here is what question are we asking ourselves? When we see some truth claim, some cause, some social justice issue, how do we process it? Are we wondering how many other people consider this important? Are we wondering if having others see us supporting cause XYZ will give us the right “image? Do we focus on how it makes us feel? Do we wonder which celebrities are associated with the cause?
Or do we ask if the cause is moral? Is the claim true? Is the social justice issue actually unjust? Do we take the time to think carefully about the issue and determine what we understand to be the correct course of action? And if we do that, have we the moral character to stand by that cause, dedicate our energy to it, fight for what’s right and ignore the waves of popularity, emotion, celebrity and image?
As a Christian I have had people give me all kinds of reasons to reject my Faith. What many of them fail to understand is that the reasons are bad reasons. Televangelists sleeping with their secretaries. The crusades, witch hunts and inquisitions. Popularity polls showing a steady decline in Faith in Western nations. Highly educated people ditch religion. Celebrities dis religion. Public opinion disagrees with the moral standards of Christianity.
Guess what, I don’t care! Have Christians made mistakes? Absolutely, and they will continue to do so. Do famous and smart people scoff religion? Sure, some of them do (not all). Is my faith unpopular? Yup, just as it has been for most of its 2,000 years.
Does any of that matter to me? Not in the least!
Most of those who try to dissuade me from standing by my faith forget to ask the one and only question that makes any difference in the world to me, and the only question that should really matter to anybody.
Is it true?
As I outline in Arguing with Friends, the final goal of any discussion should be truth itself, so when others throw dirt at some truth claim just remind yourself that they have fundamentally misunderstood the question. They should not be persuaded by celebrity and popularity, and you should not be dissuaded by their shunning and ridicule. Truth stands or falls on its own, regardless of these fickle, shifting sands.