Evangelicals and Like-onography
by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
July 3, 2012 -
If the creators and purveyors of Facebook ever decided to establish a Christian church, it would almost certainly not be evangelical. However, whatever obviousness such a claim possesses rests not on reasons one might suspect. The reason is this. Facebook’s ethos is decidedly sacramental; evangelicalism, despite its professed conviction in the power of the Word, is not.
On Sunday, Facebook released the latest installment in its iconography: a same-sex marriage icon. Now, same-sex couples, who are the beneficiaries (?) of state legislation ratifying same-sex unions, may publicly profess their “relationship status” in social-networking space using either the two-groom or two-bride cake-topper icon.
Having the sacramental assumptions that it does, Facebook’s leadership grasps the significance of this move. This is why proponents of the gay marriage agenda are almost delirious with joy. “Facebook offers another platform where people can see same-sex couples are just as committed and loving as any couple,” said one spokesman. He continued, “People can see photos of families and come to realize we deserve the same opportunities to love and take care of each other.” He concluded that although the new Facebook cake-topper offerings “are just a small icon, young adults can see that they too can hopefully have that opportunity to love and be happy in their future.”
The celebratory nature of comments about something that many evangelicals would view as being as trivial as flair discloses the divide. Facebook’s leaders understand the intrinsic power of signs. Signs and symbols – indeed, Facebook icons – signify the realities to which they point. It is precisely for this reason that signs and symbols – indeed, the very words we speak, write, and read – have the power to shape our apprehension of the reality in which our souls live and move and have their being.
Evangelicals have, by and large, lost sight of the intrinsic power of signs. To see that this is so, simply ask any evangelical whether Facebook’s same-sex marriage icon is a significant matter. Most aren’t likely to think so – even if they don’t “like” it.
The irony here is tragic. Evangelicals are constituted by their commitment to Biblicism. We are people of the Word. Yet, we do not embrace the Word’s power as the very thing that it is: word, sign, symbol, signifier . . . icon.
Facebook’s same-sex icon should scandalize evangelicals as one of the highest forms of sacrilege. It perverts truth by the very essence of the One Who is Truth, namely, the Word. It attempts to signify of what is not that it is, calling darkness light. It is a lie from the father of lies.
Sadly, many evangelicals would likely be more scandalized by the rhetoric of the previous claim than by the Facebook same-sex icon. But if, for such evangelicals, signs or symbols are here a matter of indifference, it is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which they would ever matter at all. Perhaps there would be a slight gasp among evangelicals if Facebook ever released an icon whose content expressed, “Satan and God are one.” Then again, if signs have no intrinsic significance, what difference would it make?