Not that many years ago both churches and social movements dived into figuring out how to make use of social media and digital technologies to extend their reach and grow their numbers. Everyone wanted to go viral and experience the apparent promise and magic of instant “success.” With time, has come reflection. With social movements, scholars now point to how movements like the Arab Spring successfully used what were then new technologies to bring huge numbers of people into the streets, but such movements did not have the infrastructure and capacity needed to sustain change over time.
New and ever evolving technologies should indeed be used, but they need to be used with old technologies—“technologies” as old as the Bible. These technologies have a magic of their own, but the magic is not instant. It requires time and work. It requires bringing people into relationship. It requires developing a tangible interdependence between persons with diverse interests, viewpoints, and backgrounds while they work together toward shared ends.
In studying movements, scholar Hahrie Han notes that it is in this relational, interdependent work that transformation happens. Movement participants grow and develop in remarkable ways. Commitments are deepened. New skills are acquired. Confidence is gained. At the same time, longer lasting movements are formed and collective action is sustained. Han notes that in such ways “the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”
Here is where the wisdom of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 becomes so timeless: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” It is the potential of the body of Christ that gets me excited. It is why I see so much promise in all of the congregations and church members working now to collect Climate Hope postcards. This is a broad, collective effort directed at strengthening EPA protections, so that thousands of lives might be saved from the effects of pollution while we also confront societal inequities and put our nation on track to meet its climate goals. Together, we can be part of a much needed movement that lasts more than a moment.