The last two years have been an eye opener in many ways. One such way has been how much of the church has morphed into a virtue signalling entity. A definition of virtue signalling is “the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.”
The Covid pandemic was an opportunity for the church to point people to the good news of Jesus Christ and whilst a few did do this very well, the majority of churches in the UK went along with the cultural narrative and largely missed this opportunity. From closing our doors all too easily, to not singing, to fastidious mask wearing, we unwittingly turned our churches into echo chambers for government health policy.
We complied at every turn.
We went to great lengths to indicate we were doing the ‘right thing’. For example, ensuring hand sanitizer was visible on the Sunday morning live stream or not shaking someone’s hand when welcoming them into membership. It all got a bit silly.
Now that COVID 19 has been replaced (literally overnight) by the conflict in Ukraine, we see the church falling again into the same virtue signalling trap. It seems we have this desire for solidarity with the world that lacks any kind of Biblical basis. An example of this is a message that recently did the rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp which said:
🇺🇦UKRAINE, Tonight at 7 p.m. the church bells will ring.🔔🔔🔔
Switch off the lights in your houses for the time being
Showing Putin that we’d rather sit in the dark 🌚 than buy his gas 💨 and oil.
This is an action that takes place across Europe🇪🇺 and at the same time in London (7 p.m.), Central Europe (8 p.m.), Kyiv (9 p.m.) and Moscow (10 p.m.).
Please forward this message.📧
This type of message sadly displays a level of naivety regarding world events with a substance little more than sentimentality. For churches to involve themselves in this type of thing is to devalue the gospel.
It’s this same sentimentality that propelled people to their doorsteps in early 2020 to ‘clap for carers’ in a bizarre display of virtue signalling that was meaningless.
Remember how quickly we moved from clapping to sacking.
The point is, the more the church falls into the virtue signalling trap, the less like the real church we look. Jesus modeled and the Bible clearly states that we are to be counter cultural, to live as aliens and strangers in this world, as we hold out this amazing hope in Jesus that the world needs to hear.
The truth is, our message is not the worlds message. We are tasked with pointing people to the cross and to eternity. So why has much of the church tried so hard to look like the world?
The solution, I believe, is to first of all pause and weigh up what we are told by the mainstream media in order to avoid being carried along with the narrative. We only have to look back over these last two years to understand how much we have been manipulated and how the truth has been suppressed. We then need to remind ourselves of our core mission given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28 and not let ourselves become sidetracked. By encouraging one another to view events through a Biblical worldview is what will enable us to consider what God would have us do in a Gospel focused response.
As the church, we have to regain our ability to think critically about what’s happening in the world. We cannot afford to get caught up in the virtue signalling narrative any longer. We have a much more important message to bring and we owe it to those around us to give this message our full attention.