The following is a guest post from Nathaniel Bennett.
Researchers in the U.K. recently conducted a study that showed people are most attracted to negative content on the internet. You can read about it in the article, Want to be popular on the Internet? Be a Jerk! Using a system called “sentiment analysis” they were able to categorize posts in online forums by the type of emotion they convey. Perhaps not surprisingly, negative posts were overwhelmingly more popular.
It’s long been known that human beings are addicted to conflict. Let’s face it, conflict is entertaining. There has never been a successful movie produced that wasn’t focused on some sort of struggle. Reality shows, novels, TV dramas, Shakespeare, political radio, and even the evening news, are all popular because they appeal to our natural desire for conflict. Negativity breeds conflict and conflict sells.
It’s tempting as Christians to let negativity dominate our faith. It would be easier and certainly more entertaining to indulge in the controversy and drama that surrounds religion these days. There’s a never ending supply of things to get angry about and a vast sea of people who can’t wait to profit off it. Despite the natural attraction however, negativity is simply not where God wants our focus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
It’s interesting just how diametrically opposed that verse is to todays’ culture. We spend far too much time being angry about things that aren’t important. For instance, deep down I know that I will never, ever, under any circumstances “win” an argument on the internet, but somehow that doesn’t stop me from trying. A theological argument with a cynical stranger is probably not the best use of my time and almost certainly not helping God’s kingdom. Eventually negativity and strife will steal the limelight and push aside what’s really important.
If I’m not focusing on what’s pure, good, virtuous, and praise worthy, then I’m certainly not focusing on Jesus.
[Image via: European Parliament – Creative Commons]