If God were to destroy Sodom today, all He'd have to do is plant a huge EMP and take out the Internet.
Inside of the Internet is where the people live who toe the line between absurdity and an elaborate joke so well that it's often difficult to discern which side of that fence they fall on.
I'll give you an example, since you obviously needed one.
If you don't know a lot about the website Tumblr, it's probably best that you remain in your well-lighted utopia. I was trying to figure out a clever way to describe Tumblr for those who don't know what it is, but decided to just paste a few Urban Dictionary definitions instead.
You get the picture.
Here's how it works. Everyone on Tumblr has a blog--a space where they can post rants or photos or re-post trinkets that other people have said with the intention of agreeing or disagreeing, depending on what the issue at hand is. The posts are generally short and witty, and are usually hashtagged so that people can search for whatever topic they're searching for.
While it used to be a place where people simply shared what was on their mind, in the vein of Livejournal or Myspace statuses, Tumblr has become a place of would-be social justice advocates. In fact, a significant portion of Tumblr's time is now spent accepting people no matter who they are, what they're into, or whatever kind of lifestyle they desire to live.
It prides itself on being a place where you can speak your mind without judgment or ridicule or whatever, so it creates a really interesting (and by interesting I mean desperately sad) culture wherein all of its adherents become increasingly detached from the real world and lost inside of themselves.
Because extremes make for really good, interesting examples, I will illustrate this point with an example that is particularly bizarre. I wonder if there is something off with this widespread-acceptance policy, considering this strange development?
These are screenshots from actual Tumblr posts.
Let me paraphrase this for you: in the land of Tumblr, you are Autistic as long as you feel like you're autistic and self-identify as such.
The ultimate, absurd end of a culture of infinite tolerance and unbridled narcissism is the trivialization of things like Autism--which affects actual people in my actual, real, non-Tumblr life. Some of these people even posted a quiz to determine how "autistic" you are in an effort to self-diagnose it. It churns the stomach, frankly.
So what happens is these people take the thing by which they self-identify and then define themselves by it. And it gets a whole lot more absurd than that. Let's take a look at a few of the Tumblr bios that are floating around out there.
(Let me preface this by saying that the examples I am posting here are not, to the best of my knowledge, parody accounts--though those do, and should, exist. Also, translations of some of the terminology used in these bios are in the captions. I had to look some of them up, too.)
Keep in mind that the content of the blogs I referenced here was almost exclusively related to the types of things by which they identified themselves in their short introductions. They are unafraid to shine a light on any corner-crouching part of their personality and sexual proclivity and behavioral disorder and whatever else because they know that Tumblr is a place for you to be accepted no matter what you believe.
Unless, of course, you are a Christian. Or a person who believes in some degree of morality.
This person I am about to quote is warning another person about speaking out about things that he believes in (particularly religion) because "there are people on here who might not agree with you" and he "might get bashed." Bashed, of course, meaning "said mean things about," not "bashed over the head with a heavy object":
Or here's one from what I'm assuming is one of the tolerant, open-minded people making fun of the "intolerant" or "closed-minded" people or something. I'm losing track:
The last one I'll give (I like things in groups of three, okay?) says that Tolerance is not enough; they need more:
The Problem With Tolerance
Let's first get something straight. Tolerance is not encouragement. To tolerate something is, by definition, to allow it to continue without your interference. In fact, in most cases, tolerance is used to describe your actions towards something that you dislike--something that you are allowing to continue DESPITE your dislike for it.
I tolerate mornings without coffee because I know it will make the next morning even more beautiful.
I tolerate running because I know it helps me stop being unhealthy.
I tolerate The Bachelor because my wife and her family get together on Monday nights to watch it, and I enjoy spending time with them.
This is tolerance. Sure, I'm not super pumped for any of it, but I'm certainly not actively trying to make it stop (though if I were president, The Bachelor would be the first thing to go).
But what has happened to this word is that, like anything that enters the non-real world of Tumblr, it has been hijacked, particularly by leftist media. For example: if I do not believe that biblical marriage can consist of a homosexual union, I am being intolerant.
This is, of course, absurd. I have never barged my way into a homosexual wedding and torched it to the ground, held them at gunpoint and forced them to quit, or voted against homosexual couples getting the same tax breaks and legal recognition that I have because of my wife. I'd even go so far as to say if one of my gay friends wanted to invite me to his wedding, I'd probably go. I've made my position on the issue clear, but I can't imagine that alienating the people themselves would do any good. This is the very definition of tolerant. Toleration has nothing to do with how I feel towards the issue of homosexuality at large (which is a post for another day), it has entirely to do with what I allow to continue uninhibited.
What somebody calling for reform in any of the political hot-button issues (gay marriage, abortion, pedophilia, whatever) is really looking for is not tolerance, as Twitter would have us believe, but exactly what the last Tumblr screengrab I posted above is looking for: acceptance.
The logic goes like this:
I feel a certain way.
I cannot deny that I feel this certain way.
"The way I feel" and "The way I should be" are the same thing.
Therefore, I am how I should be.
Therefore again, you should accept me as I am because I am how I should be.
I'll return to this.
Frequently paired with its cousin "intolerance" is the also-misused word Bigot. Here. I'll copy out a definition for you and source it so that you can see that I'm not just yanking chains.
: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group) [source]
Let's talk about this.
A bigot is somebody who strongly dislikes other people or ideas, particularly by refusing to accept the members of a particular group. It cannot simply be strong dislike, though; it must be unfair dislike, also.
Like, for instance, when people post open, violent threats against somebody who thinks your lifestyle isn't okay.
Or when they think that wishing suicide on toddlers is the warranted response for not liking somebody's political views.
Bigotry, it seems, works in almost the opposite way that most claim that it does. If I say that, based upon my particular religious beliefs, a certain action or behavior is not one that should be undertaken, I am not a bigot; I have simply used a methodology to arrive at a conclusion about how one should live, and it doesn't happen to gel with another person's. If, however, I respond to someone saying such a thing about my lifestyle with a response resembling "You are an ass-clown; go shoot yourself" or "I hope his children run away or kill themselves," I'm probably a bigot: a stubbornly planted, unfairly incensed, and strongly, irrationally angry opponent of the ideology which dares to defy my lifestyle.
Ah, I said it. Lifestyle: the pattern of behavior which defines the way somebody lives. It is the pinnacle of personal liberty: what you do with the bald-eagle-given-freedom we celebrate here in the land of the free. In 21st century America, we worship the almighty lifestyle. I don't think that I have to do very much explaining of that statement right here.
I won't even refute it; it's already been refuted better than I ever could in one of the finest (and funniest) films ever made.
In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco is a young, narcissistic, egocentric, cruel, selfish emperor who runs the kingdom in whatever way will bring him the most pleasure, no matter whom he hurts (Kuzcotopia! Oh yeah). During the opening number--which is his theme song--he is in the middle of dancing when he bumps into an old man who happened to be standing in his way. Kuzco pouts: "He threw off my groove!", a burly, painted bodyguard announces to the poor old man, "I'm sorry... but you've thrown off the emperor's groove," and the old man is promptly tossed out the window.
Pacha stumbles across this man later and the following conversation ensues:
Pacha: What happened?
Old Man: Well, I threw off the Emperor's groove.
Old Man: His groove! The rhythm in which he lives his life. His pattern of behavior. I threw it off. And the Emperor had me thrown out the window.
Pacha: Oh, really? I'm supposed to see him today.
Old Man: Don't throw off his groove!
Pacha: Oh, okay.
Old Man: Bewaaare, the grooove.
Pacha: Hey, are you gonna be all right?
Old Man: Grooove...
Pacha, of course, meets Kuzco (who gets turned into a llama. Don't ask questions; just accept it), endures a series of hijinks, and then there's the fun resolution at the end where Kuzco realizes he's been a bit of an idiot by forcing everybody to accept his lifestyle.
Notice the thread and the surprisingly conservative (small-c, as opposed to Conservative, like the political party) message that The Emperor's New Groove is arguing here. Kuzco begins as a person, lives according to his groove, realizes that his groove sucks, and gets a new groove. Hence, the title.
I'll rephrase it. At the beginning, Kuzco was yelling for everyone to "accept my lifestyle; I was born an emperor, I feel like an emperor, and so you should allow me to do all of the emperor things that I feel like doing!" And at the end, his tune was a little bit different: "I acknowledge that my emperor ways were probably not okay, and I have changed my course instead of insisting that you bend to mine."
I know that it seems like I'm picking especially hard on sexuality in this essay (Even if it is subliminally; I promise that I've tried to keep things as broad as I can; it's simply easier to pick a specific and roll with it in my head), but it is simply the easiest lifestyle choice offered today to examine. It seems as though every fourth conversation is about sexuality--accept this, ban that, legislate him, prohibit her--so it was simply the low-hanging fruit. The dangling carrot. But it's also the easiest to see. The sexuality discussion is not about someone's proclivities--to one degree or another, it's something that we cannot help--it is about someone's behaviors.
And there is nobody more infamous for calling out perceived sexual misconduct than Christians. It's a point that almost always comes up in the LGBT conversation. After all, "God hates fags", right?
Let me try to be a mediator here. In the great sexuality debate, most Christians come across as standing on their high ground, shouting at the homosexual sinner to change his ways or burn in hell forever. Frankly, they often say just that. And what the person being yelled at hears is "I'm better than you; my God loves me better than you; I am a better person than you." They hear what they perceive as hate from somebody whose God is called love.
It is a nigh-irreconcilable difference, is it not? Sure, there are some aberrant theologies attempting to use sly tricks and sleights of hand to make it seem as though Scripture does not even address the issue of homosexuality at all, or rather only addresses some faulty expression of homosexuality or somesuch twist. But even that misses the point.
Here's the point of Christianity: in this example, both the person being shouted at and the person shouting are wrong. So is the one standing on the sideline not shouting. So is the Hindu. So is the Muslim. So is the Sunday Christian. So is the devout disciple of Christ. We're wrong. We're innately, unarguably backwards by nature. Whether you're born straight or gay or pansexual or asexual or a boy or a girl or a white person or a black person or a technophobe or a gospel singer, you are desperately, hopelessly lost and beyond the hope of this world's ability to save you. No matter what groove you were born with, you need a new one, whether that groove you have innately is funky or flat-out boring.
The "God is love" bit means this: even though we're all shades of jacked up, even though our innards are twisted and our minds are backwards, the Creator has not abandoned His creation; rather, He gave of Himself to make us whole again--and we can only be whole again when we shoulder the burden of the cross we were born with and, once we realize we don't even have the strength to lift ourselves onto it, drop it at the feet of the One who could.
Our crosses come in all kinds of shapes. They are bitter, selfish, gay, football-worshiping, food-engorging, stingy, crosses. They all put something ahead of a relationship with the One who gave them shoulders to even lift it in the first place. What the Christian who is shouting should be saying is not, "turn or burn, fag," it's "I was the chief of sinners, the most depraved of my species, a child of wrath engorging myself in the desires of my mind and my body, and it all weighed me down so much that I couldn't even throw it on a piece of wood to kill it. How fortunate for me that my death was died for me, then. If you'd like the burden of your sin, which pales in comparison to mine, to be lifted as well, I'd love to help you figure out how to do that."
I began this talking about self-identity (remember, on the internet, as long as you identify as Autistic, you are. Ugh, sorry for remind you about that), so I'll end it that way, too. It seems that as we have grown to understand the way that we tick, we learn more and more about the ways that we are. I cannot help but dislike watching sports, no matter how many sports I watch. I cannot help but dislike the idea of ketchup squirted, globbed, into my mouth, no matter how much ketchup you pour into it. So naturally, I use these things as part of how I am identified: I'm a dude who doesn't like watching football very much and would prefer to avoid ketchup.
But that's not who I am. Who I am is a desperately sick person who generally sucks most of the time. I'm sometimes short-fused, often selfish, frequently bitter, generally cynical, prone to wander and wallow and sulk, and quick to praise myself when I'm none of these things. And I happen to have found a way out of such a rapid descent into either crushing destruction or destructive haughtiness: and it is only by grace, not at all by anything I can do. No matter what move I make towards the outstretched, bored Hand, it was reaching out to me first. It would be irresponsible to not call a spade a spade of course, but it is pointless if I don't first recognize it in myself. We should be intolerant of sin and sinful behavior--but I have to ensure that before I can describe the sin of somebody else, my own sin must be dealt with. I cannot have it wriggling around on my back and boring its way into my head while I'm trying to give you directions.
Tolerance is a gospel primarily of self-worship, sure, but so is self-righteousness. It is crucial that my believing friends not try to expect unbelievers to behave like believers, but if they are not living in such a way that the absolute unbearable lightness of their burden is not supernatural and overwhelmingly apparent, it's probably not their space to point sinners towards the pit of flames. They should, instead, be so fixedly marching towards the Savior who takes their burdens as though they were His own that all who look at them can't help but follow suit.