People will devote a few moments of their time to consider the most inane and pointless questions. This is the existential reality of social media. This is what I learned from last weekend’s viral epidemic known as “what color is the dress”. In truth, I knew this already. The idea was only reinforced in ways that made our collective fascination with the stupid all too real. To be honest, it has made me angry. Whether a contrived plot by a marketing genius or a bridesmaids gown gone awry, this dress did what most Christian churches have been unable to do for decades; it got people to stop and pay attention to what’s in the background and foreground of the world around them. What are we doing wrong, that people can’t see the contrast between Jesus’ idea of loving our neighbors and how we live so out of touch with that reality? When a badly framed optical illusion can capture the attention of more people in less time than our most well-thought out and well funded publicity campaigns; we’ve missed something. Are we too afraid of the political and social consequences of putting a radical picture of Christ forward; this is who we are and make of it what you will?
What am I suggesting? The method and means in which the mainline Protestant churches are attempting to connect with the wider world are spiritually and theologically bankrupt. We are out of spiritual and theological capital to invest in this enterprise. The shareholders of our corporation, those rank and file members who would front the “funds” to pay for further investment are no longer willing to part with the cash (energy, time, money, effort). In fact, I don’t believe they see any value in the enterprise as it is currently constructed. Throwing good money into theologically bankrupt projects has sewn seeds of mistrust and doubt throughout local congregations in the United Methodist Church. Until we declare bankruptcy, we operate with the illusion of evangelical and missional solvency. Clearly, the money we’re spending and the well meaning programs we introduce don’t resonate in the same way viral videos and internet memes ever will. The façade of contemporary Methodist evangelism doesn’t even want to acknowledge what these seemingly silly trends are getting right and what we might be doing wrong.