Scott Sauls on Internet Outrage, Public Shaming, and the Modern-Day Pharisee Phenomenon

Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the author of several books including his latest, Irresistible Faith. He also writes weekly at scottsauls.com.


New York Times writer Tim Kreider coined the term, “Outrage Porn,” to describe what he sees as our culture’s insatiable search for things to be offended by and then use shaming to silence the offence.

Based on hundreds of comments and letters to the editor, Kreider says that many contemporary people feed off of feeling 1) right and 2) wronged. “Outrage Porn” resembles actual pornography in that it aims for a cheap, temporary thrill at the expense of another human being, but without any personal accountability or commitment to that human being.

It often escalates into the public shaming of groups and persons. Labeling, caricature and exclusion occur as offended parties rally together against a common enemy.

There are many forms of online shaming: The angry blog, the critical tweet, the vicious comment on Facebook. Whatever the method—people try to hurt people. Sometimes the shaming escalates into a mob, a faux-community that latches on to the negative verdict and piles on. Under the pretense of righteous indignation, the mob licks its chops as it goes about demonizing, diminishing and destroying its target.

THE POWER OF SHAMING

Andy Stanley once said in a sermon that it would take just five poorly chosen words, spoken in the wrong setting, to destroy him personally and professionally. This nightmare came true for Justine Sacco, a PR consultant who posted an offensive tweet—just 12 words to her 170 followers—while boarding a flight to South Africa.

When her plane landed, Sacco discovered that her tweet had gone viral. In a few short hours she had become the headline, the inhumane bigot and common enemy to tens of thousands of people. On the basis of those 12 words, she lost her career and the life she once knew.

Looking back on the incident, Sacco reflected“I had a great career, and I loved my job, and it was taken away from me, and there was a lot of glory in that. Everybody else was happy about that.”

Imagine for a moment. Your entire life, all you had ever done or worked for, reduced to a single, 10-second lapse in character and judgment. And those who brought you down? They never met or heard of you before today, and will never again think of you after today. To those who brought you down, your name was never sacred. Rather, it was a product—Outrage Porn—to be consumed and evangelized as the latest cheap thrill.

Your character assassins will never have to look you in the eye. Nor will they be held accountable for turning you into a nothing, or for their blatant disregard for your whole, image-bearing person.

THE BIBLE AND SHAMING

Outrage Porn is not new. The holier-than-thou New Testament Pharisees “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and looked down on others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). It’s there in Simon the Pharisee as he shames the woman anointing Jesus with perfume and washing his feet with her tears and hair. She is “a sinner.” Not a person, but a thing. Not a woman, but an animal. Not the image of God, but sub-human trash (Luke 7:36-50).

It’s also there in those who brand the woman caught in adultery with a Scarlet Letter. The mob encircles her, ready to pile on and destroy. Had Jesus not intervened, they would have destroyed her just like the Internet mob destroyed Justine Sacco for her single act, the act that she apologized for through tears. But apologies don’t make good stories, do they? They aren’t as tweetable.

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Source: Church Leaders