When I am stumped for a definition of a new term or acronym I often consult the Urban Dictionary on the internet. If the term is current, newsworthy or as we say today “trending” it will found in the Urban Dictionary. Sometimes the entries are NSFW (not safe for work – yes, I looked that up too) but for better or for worse much of contemporary culture is not safe for work or anyplace else for that matter.
With this in mind I decided to look up the word trending:
A: I said “Wikileaks is trending now” when I should have just said it was a popular news story. What’s happening to me?!
B: The internet has ruined your mind. Reading pop culture on the internet is the worst thing you could do to your ability to communicate in plain English short of taking up a career in contract law. Hence “trending.”
What our jaded lexicographer is getting at is the notion that the concept of what is currently popular is driven by our obsession with discovering what other people are looking up on the internet or tweeting. The notion of trending seems to lend credence to the old adage that “misery loves company.” While this frustrates many; if our only culture is pop culture it is still our culture. We as people of faith must attempt to dive as deeply as we can to find the moral and ethical foundation of what is happening around us. Yes I know, I’m advocating diving deeply into the shallow end of the pool. Exercising due caution, we must do so, and not abandon the present moment to only the most base response.
On any given day Chris Brown may be out-trending Kelly Gissendaner 20,000 to 1. We can’t just shrug and walk away. The popular fascination with the name of Chris Brown’s daughter says something about who we are as does the limited concern about the upcoming execution of a woman who while having been the perpetrator of a heinous crime is now a transformed human being. From either side of the topic the other may seem stupid, boring, or insignificant but consider that in some way some people see their own reflection in one topic and not the other.
At Sanctuary United Church of Christ in the weeks ahead we will be starting a program that will be a time when we can gather for “Trending Topics”, our own Last Week Tonight. We will take up a current topic and try to set it in the context of our shared life of faith. We will seek not to necessarily agree on a given topic but to understand the moral and ethical implications of what is in the news and the culture around us. We shall try to see the truly human face in the world around us, the truly human face that reflects the face of God.