A few years ago I read an article by Malcolm Gladwell that started with a story about the American civil rights movement. It was really about how the civil rights movement happened: the connections and relationships that gave it power.
Gladwell’s big point was this: activism done online, on twitter and Facebook, is lazy, built on weak social connections and minimal effort, and it was never going to change the world in the way four young black men sitting down at a white lunch counter had the power to do. It is slacktivism.
And it made me really cross.
Since you’re reading this on threads, I’m going to assume that you’re generally in favour of online community and social media, and that you think it has something to offer. So do I.
So I ran around telling myself and anyone in earshot that Malcolm Gladwell was wrong (it happens, ok). That things change and the digital age gives us a whole bundle of new tools to use. That he didn’t understand the power of the internet to bring people together and make things happen, and he just didn’t want to. And then I put it behind me.
I still think Malcolm Gladwell underestimates the internet. But I also think he might be right about the power of physical activism.
The connectivity of the internet has a power: it can build and sustain communities, it can raise awareness of issues fast, and it can give us access to a whole range of perspectives and ideas we might have missed out on without it. On its own, though, that isn’t going to change the world.
But we might. The internet is a starting place, a tool, and – by now – a part of the way we live our lives. The dreams and ideas we share there also need to be made manifest, physically, in our world. And then…the world will shift and change.
Jesus’ incarnation and his life with his disciples tells us a lot about what it looks like to live together and learn together – with Jesus – before we’re sent out to remake the world in the image of the kingdom of God.
In this space relationships become closer, passions and ideas are shared and developed, and our power to make a difference becomes more focused and potent. Our energy and spirit is concentrated and stoked. Our community becomes rooted.
And thanks to the internet that Gladwell decried, it can remain strongly, tangibly, connected, taking our dreams further, faster, and in more exciting ways than we might have imagined.
This is the dream I have for Mosaic, an event I’m involved in, that takes place on Saturday 21 June in London.
Mosaic is a space where people with different ideas, talents and passions will come together to connect and collaborate with each other – and with God – to dream dreams and start to actively seek out the kingdom of God. It’s a one-day event that will kick-start a movement of people going out into the world to play their part in God’s justice picture. Come and join us.