“What I’ve found is that God is at work in Silicon Valley in the lives of many people,” said Vincent “Skip” Vaccarello, the author of “Finding God in Silicon Valley”. “There really is a very committed group of people who have the desire to help others in their faith, who are committed to charity, who want to make the world a better place.”
The article talks about navigating the tech world, and especially an environment like Silicon Valley as a Christian. In this part of the physical and digital world, Christians are very much in the minority, and rightful associations of the faith’s organized religious institutions against Silicon Valley’s pluralistic and progressive values. The identification of evangelical churches with Trump has made it more difficult for liberals in the Bay Area to like Christianity. The stance of the Christian Reformed Church that denotes homosexual acts as sin also alienates many of the Bay Area, particularly since it’s a part of the area that has championed gay rights the most.
These fundamental disagreements and conflicts of mainstream Christianity and the progressive values of Silicon Valley require difficult and emotional conversations. Ask some in Silicon Valley who will tell you the church has much to answer for. But being a Christian and meaningfully navigating the tech world in a Christ-like manner are not incompatible.
The truth is that some Christians, like myself, could do with a fair bit more of humility and self-awareness. I say that before I say that the tech world and realm of social media could do with more Christian values because Christians, like myself, need to look inward and work on ourselves before we can sufficely identify issues with other people. Any Christian that lambasts someone else for their sin, such as a homosexual act, sex before marriage, and excessive drunkenness, needs to look inward at his/her own sin. In Matthew 7:4, Jesus famously says to us: “how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” As such I’m the worst sinner I know, and I need to look at my own sin before I criticize someone else, Christian or not Christian, for their sin.
As a Christian, you also believe that God is at work in someone else’s life. I simply accept that, in many instances, there’s nothing I can do to convince someone fervently anti-religious, with horrible personal experiences with churches or any other organized religious institutions. I hope, like many Christians I know, to simply show Christ through how I act and how I serve. When someone asks me why I volunteer on the Crisis Text Line, why I go out of my way to help people, and why I teach, I try to say that “well, Christ loved me so much he died for me, so this is what I try to do for others.”
It’s also important to note that there are both liberals and conservatives that follow Christ and believe. The cultural stereotype of a Christian is a right-wing group of judgmental evangelicals, strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay. I consider myself evangelical, but I also support a strong welfare state, universal health care, and I’m a teacher in an inner-city environment. I also have many LGBTQ close friends who I have much back and forth banter with, sometimes about sexuality, sometimes not. The key is, as a Christian, to see every person as a child of God, not their politics, not their profession, and not their personal identity. Sure, those things matter, but they are more so parts of a person that don’t define them because they’re multifaceted people juggling intersectional identities. After all, Christianity is about love and relationships, not rule-following.
“When I have discussions with people, I don’t get into politics. To me, it’s not about politics,” Kevin Roose said. “If someone’s gay, they’re gay, and that’s their lifestyle. I would talk more about the person of Christ.”
I have a unique and intentional perspective on faith because of my origins. I converted to Christianity when I was 20, having strong misgivings about the church and faith in my younger years. I struggled with why there was hell, why good people suffered, and why so many churches preached against homosexuality. I knew I was a flawed and sinful person, and Romans 5:8 tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And I wouldn’t have had it any other way because my conversion was God’s plan and organic, not unnatural and forced like it can be for people that grow up with the church their entire lives.
But as for navigating the tech world as a Christian is a lot of good, but a lot of difficult, too. My average “screen time” per day is 6 and a half hours on my iPhone, indicative of the fact that I do, at times, put my phone above God, and idolize it. As a teacher in an inner-city neighborhood, I see the same effect of phone addictions and idolization on steroids. I once used the line “guys, I know Instagram is appealing, but page 70 of Oedipus Rex is far more appealing.” It didn’t work, and I proceeded the next minute with a raucous classroom and my kids ridiculing me for a terrible sales pitch.
Navigating the tech world and the harsh, unfettered cruelties of social media isn’t harder or better for a Christian or non-Christian: it’s just different. I find just as abrasive right-wing Christians who aren’t tolerant of homosexuality or women’s rights the liberals who self-righteously lambast and shame Trump supporters and conservatives for how their beliefs are morally unacceptable, as if being liberal equates the moral high ground and sanctification. Mind you this is coming from someone with borderline socialist views, who believes that capitalist society needs to create a much stronger social safety net to be truly Christian.
And then comes public shaming when it comes to the tech world and social media. The loudest and most pervasive voices tend to be the most ruthless. The Twitter shame storm ruining Justine Sacco’s life for a misguided tweet and the shame storm against Producer Jill Messick for being a “Weinstein enabler” that led her to kill herself. We live in a complex world where our humans are flawed and our villains are compelling, and the tech world and social media reducing and dehumanizing people to caricatures and symbols denies that reality, from the alt-right and evangelical legalism to Antifa and the excesses of the Left.
I have seen the same people who exalt themselves on social media to be paragons of purity, joining in on the latest storm of public shaming, to refuse to even look a homeless person in the eye on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, or call a blighted part of inner-city Baltimore “terrible” and a “bad neighborhood” that they’d never want to live in.
And that’s not to say that I’m any better. When you’re a Christian, you have to look inwards and see your own sin and ways that you fall short. Because compared to you, as a follower of Christ, everyone is a good person, because you have done so much wrong to others that you’re in no place to judge. Self-proclaimed Christians, like myself at times, are as guilty of self-righteousness as non-Christians.
“A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to Hell than a prostitute,” C.S. Lewis once said.
So I say this to Christians navigating the tech world: if you navigate social media and tech looking at flawed people as projects to fix, you’re following the wrong God. If you see a world where everything will be perfect, holy, and Eden-esque in this life, you’re following the wrong God. If you think that you can shame someone on social media before you look at your own profound flaws, you’re following the wrong God.
Navigating the tech world as a Christian has challenged my faith, but it has made it stronger. I am no better than you, and I have had the same impulses to call someone out for being racist, homophobic, misogynistic, intolerant, or misguided. But being a Christian means giving the gift of grace, and that’s not to say that I just refrain away from judgment and push it off for a later time, but I pray and look inwards at myself. I realize how horrible of a person I myself am, how I am in no place to judge, how I am just as racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and intolerant in my own life.
And because Christ forgave and died for me even when I was still a terrible and flawed person, that means it is my obligation to look inwards and view someone as who they are: a human being. It means that I am in no position to judge.
Navigating the tech world as a Christian means, above all, giving the gift of grace. Lord knows that social media can do with a little more grace.