Good To Be Speechless

Michael Metzger

Let’s say you’re a Christian. Jack Dorsey shoots you an email, asking for advice. How can Twitter be improved? What do you say?

Trump’s gone but social media controversies are not. Congress is mostly focused on updating Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It limits social-media companies’ liability for things users say. A year ago Joe Biden said it should be “revoked, immediately.”

Twitter disagrees. So does Facebook, Google, Reddit, Snapchat, Grindr, Pinterest, TikTok, blah, blah, blah. Social-media companies mostly persist in invoking their First Amendment right to bar things they don’t like. But even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called this “a failure.”

He’s right. But what would you say if Dorsey asked you how to fix Twitter? I ask because the Christian faith used to operate in public arenas. Now it’s a “personal relationship with Jesus” (which is partly true) but privatized, operating outside our public culture-shaping arenas.

I don’t blame Christians for this, by the way. They lack the resources to give Dorsey a decent answer. As I wrote last week, our main resources are hired guns, apologists who try to reason people like Dorsey out of positions they never reasoned their way into. Very Enlightenment.

Very ineffective. Before the Enlightenment, it was assumed we think in pictures, not propositions. Frames, not so much facts. These frames form our unconscious imagination, shaping how we see the facts. If Dorsey asked, I’d reframe the problem by drawing a series of simple pictures on a piece of paper – or the back of a napkin.

I know – you’re thinking I can’t draw. Funny, you felt you could in Kindergarten. What happened? I’ll tell you. You passed through the left-brained American educational system. It assumes we think in propositions (outlined in three bullet points). Drawing is for kids.

It’s not, but I’m going to try to convince you. If you can draw a circle (I’m assuming you can), you can reframe how Dorsey imagines social media controversies, for the heart of the issue is Dorsey and his ilk believe social-media users can self-govern their behavior. Yes, but…

America’s founders felt self-governance is possible but it requires religion. This is America’s Great Experiment. It can be depicted as a circle (click the hyperlink if you’re not familar with this circle), so if Dorsey asked, I’d draw a circle and fill in the three non-negotiables (one of which is religion). I’d ask Dorsey: What do you make of this?

Dorsey’s a serious guy. If he took me seriously, he might ask, How does religion sustain self-governed citizens? I’d draw another circle, this one with three domains inside it, side-by-side. Religion enlarges the middle domain, what is called obedience to the unenforceable (where people are appropriately self-governed). I’d ask Dorsey: What do you make of this?

I expect his religion radar would be going off. From what I read, Dorsey’s a religious “none.” Not a problem. I’d draw the Great Experiment circle again, but replace religion with neuroscience (as Charles Murray does). Then I’d ask Dorsey: What do you make of this?

My hunch is Dorsey might find this attractive. But he might have a question: How do findings in neuroscience sustain self-governed people? We‘ve written an eBook on this. It describes how neuroimaging uncovers the infrastructure for flourishing businesses, cities, you name it. A flourishing people are self-governed. What the book doesn’t tell you is that it’s the gospel translated into the language and literature of neuroscience. It gets past Dorsey’s religion radar.

Which brings me to why I wrote this column.

C. S. Lewis said we don’t need “more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.”[1] Latent means concealed. Our eBook is Christianity concealed, not because we’re ashamed of the gospel but because we’re astute. We’re in a post-Christian world. Lewis said we have to get past the watchful dragons.

I’ve seen how drawing circles impacts people. Just before Covid-19, a friend asked if I’d give him and his fiancé some pre-marital counseling. I said sure, even though they don’t appear to know Christ. The first evening we sat around our kitchen table. I drew a series of identical circles on several sheets of paper. They depict how our brains work, God’s nature, the gospel, why we exist, why we have a body, why gender, and – finally – why marriage. My friend and his fiancé were speechless – except for asking one question. Can we keep these drawings? I said sure.

No doubt that if Jack Dorsey contacted you, you’d be speechless at first. That’s good, for a better approach is hand-drawn images and then asking questions. This is the model we plan to begin building into a pilot group of Christians. Over the course of three years, they’ll be resourced to become like the sons of Judah in the Babylonian exile – a creative minority.

Tell you more about that next week.

 

[1] C. S. Lewis, God In the Dock: Essays on Theology & Ethics

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