On that Wednesday we saw the video. Our hearts were moved. Our profile pictures were changed. Within 36 hours, the whole world had decided.
Joseph Kony would be brought to justice.
But by Thursday evening questions were rising. What was the true story of the organization behind the video? Was this newfound awareness of Uganda helping or hurting? Suddenly the movement wasn’t about catching Kony, it was about sharing links questioning the validity of the movement. If not the validity, than the motivations. Then came the rebuttals to the exposés. The arguments. The points and the counter points. By the time a full week had passed, the common conspiracy on the internet was that it was all an excuse to invade Africa for oil.
Then #Kony2012 was reduced to meme fodder, an opportunity for us to bat jokes around the internet and accuse one another of being bandwagoners. At the tail end of this whirlwind circus train of information and counter-information came a bizarre caboose of mental breakdowns and drunken public nudity.
But by now, everything is back to normal. All but the most determined (or lazy) interneters have changed their profile pictures back to the usual ducklips-in-a-mirror. The whole debacle is now not much more than a case study for social media analysts to discuss and dissect.
And we, the public, learned some valuable lessons. We learned that nothing is as simple as it first appears. We learned that viral outrage never leads to quick resolution of complex issues. We learned that heart-rending tragedies are often manipulated for political purposes. We learned that public opinion will bend and sway many times in the course of one debacle. We learned to Google before we re-tweet. We learned that changing our profile pictures accomplishes exactly nothing.
Then we heard the story of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.
As it turns out, we had learned zero from our collective experience of the #Kony2012 hurricane.
Because again, it all happened so fast.
Through the power of social media, we heard a story that the mainstream media had been keeping from us. An friendly, innocent teenager was murdered in cold blood by a rich, mean white man whilst sipping tea, munching Skittles, and chatting with his girlfriend on the phone. Simply because he was black. Simply because he was wearing a hoodie. Of course we were outraged. Who wouldn’t be? It was a heartless race crime, a modern-day lynching.
Once again, profile pictures were changed. Hoodie Marches were organized. Everyone stood shoulder to shoulder calling for justice.
Then, another story emerged. This time, we heard that a friendly, caring Hispanic man who was just trying to stop the latest in a string of neighboorhood thefts was attacked by a large, angry, black teen and managed to defend himself while being beaten on the ground. The other story was a political manipulation, this was the truth. The 911 call would prove it. So, for a few days, those news stories circled the internet. Then it just descended into madness. Endless analyzation of grainy surveillance footage. Accusations of racism all around. Calls for vigilante justice. More solidaritous wearing of hoodies. Manipulated 911 recordings. Exposés. Counter-exposes. Pictures of a different Trayvon all-together. At one point, an elderly couple had to move to a hotel because their home had incorrectly been identified as the home of George Zimmerman, and their address was circulating throughout Twitter.
Now all we know is that nobody has given us a straight story.
It’s always been this way.
It all happened so fast for Jesus, too. On Sunday, he was the most viral sensation on the street. Word spread quickly that a leader had risen who would free us from the oppression of the Romans. An impromtu parade erupted. Branches were stripped off trees to form makeshift flags. In the frenzy, people threw their clothes on the road. Everyone changed their profile picture to Jesus on a donkey. But by Friday, public opinion had shifted again. Somebody Tweeted that Jesus was probably just invading Jerusalem for oil. A story ran on the cable networks attempting to prove that he was not the Son of God. The priests started bragging that they hated Jesus before it was cool. Somebody posted a picture on Facebook of Jesus doing miracles… by the power of Satan. (It was photoshopped.) Less than a week later, the same mob that had been calling for the coronation of Jesus was calling for his crucifixion.
Maybe it’s time for us to learn a lesson here.
Yes, justice is important. Let it roll down like rivers. Yes, the truth is important. It will set us free. But awareness is not the same as justice. Countering half-truths with half-truths does not reveal real truth. Accusing someone else of inaction is not the same as taking action. The Bible tells us that everyone must be quick to hear, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Why? Because human anger does not lead to the righteousness of God.
We’re all guilty of this. I know I am. I posted links, about both Kony2012 and the Hoodie Debacle. My opinion swung as I read article after article. I was part of the mob. But in the end, all this anger and argument has not produced the righteousness of God.
Let’s keeping talking about Kony. Let’s remember Trayvon, and investigate George Zimmerman. But let’s be quick to listen, and slow to speak. Let’s learn something from the crucifixion of Joseph Kony, from the crucifixion of George Zimmerman. Let’s learn from the crucifixion of Jesus.
Let’s stop walk away from the mob, before they start chanting “crucify him”.