Despairing for the Church: Part 4, Hidden Lives

There's a famous quote about the impact of "hidden lives" upon history from George Eliot:

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
More than anything, hidden lives are what gives me hope when I despair about the church. 

Specifically, the stories about church that hit your news and social media feeds are the stories of high profile disasters. For obvious reasons. Those negative stories get a lot of traffic, exactly what the monetized algorithms of social media need to make money manipulating our attention. 

Beyond capturing our attention, this filtering of the news also creates a cognitive bias called "selection bias," where we lose track of the true baseline of reality and begin to assume what we see on the news is the statistical norm. By only highlighting disasters we come to think all of life is a disaster. This is what is behind that common refrain, "Twitter is not real life." Being too online can distort your perceptions, including your perceptions of church.

What never trends on Twitter are the hidden lives that you find everywhere in local churches. Visit any church and ask about who the quiet, faithful saints are within that community. People of heroic kindness, generosity, service, and fidelity. You will be flooded and overwhelmed by the stories you will hear. And none of this will ever be seen on social media. No one will ever make a podcast about any of this.

And this, I keep reminding myself, is what church is. Church isn't found in what I'm seeing on social media. Church is found in the hidden lives the world will never see.

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