Our generation is technologically connected in ways our parents never imagined. Social media allows us to hear what’s happening around the world in a matter of seconds. We watch videos of cops shooting black men only moments after it’s happened. We read about the tragic lives of people we will never meet. We see, hear, and feel the pain and suffering of a world crying out in agony on a tiny phone in our hand. Before I even get out of bed in the morning, I will be exposed to depression, suicide, anxiety, warfare, corrupt politicians, hypocritical religious leaders, vapid consumerism, pessimism, death, and agony. So much agony.
Social technologies have enabled an immediacy to our agony. We are experiencing each other’s agony as our lives become increasingly intertwined, and it is becoming harder and harder to remain ignorant of each other’s pain. Is there an escape? Is there an app that can protect us from feeling pain, empathy, or compassion? Are alcohol or drugs reasonable anesthetics? What about my own agony? How could anyone possibly bear the burden of global agony while withstanding their own?
There are no easy answers. I know many of you have long since given up on established religion, Christianity, and Jesus, but humor me. Jesus still means something to me.
Jesus is the story of a divine being who had the ability to withstand global agony—an entire interconnected network of suffering—only to make us whole through the atonement. It is the story of universal reconciliation. I imagine the small slice of agony I feel when technologically or otherwise connected to other humans is a microcosm of what Jesus experienced in Gethsemane—suffering on such an epic and unprecedented scale that it required a god to bear it.
I don’t think Millennials’ problem is that we are not connected to living human beings. It is that we are so intimately connected to so many human beings that the experiential agony of it all is overwhelming. I know for me personally, I can handle one friend’s agony, maybe two, three, or four, but what about 25, 50, or 100? What about the agony of a person I’ve never met? A trans woman beaten and killed? A journalist dismembered for his words? Another suicide of a celebrity? Another loved one taken by cancer? Or the collective pain of the entire queer community? How much agony can any one of us handle and still functionally get out of bed for another day of excruciating agony? I would not blame you for uttering, “Oh, let this cup pass from me.”
For me, I find comfort in all of you. We are not alone. We are in this together. Jesus asked his disciples to join in the Body of Christ—each of us as a necessary member. When one member suffers, we all suffer with it. I’m not going to abandon you in our time of need, or tell you your agony isn’t real or worth addressing. I won’t run to escapism, or tell you tales of how things will work out after we die. I do not believe the atonement is limited to a supernatural Jesus. I’m not interested in promises of a metaphysical paradise. These tales do not comfort or inspire me.
Instead, I will weep with you and rejoice with you to the extent of my human abilities. I’m not supernatural, I’m not a god, but if we try, I believe we can tap into something divine—even godly. As the story goes it took a god to save the world from its agony. We do not become gods by inventing apps or even suffering together. We must reconcile together. Suffering for the sake of suffering will get us nowhere. Technology for the sake of technology will get us nowhere. We must take the necessary steps in transforming our suffering and technology into motivation for atoning together.
I’m here. I’ll suffer with you, but even more importantly I’ll atone with you, because that’s what I was taught and I think it’s a good idea. Love just might be the only way out of this agony, and I still believe in love—an universal, epic, brave, radical love which requires our collective participation. It’s not easy. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but I believe in it. I know love and it’s godly.
Love someone today the way that Jesus loved us. Who knows, it might just be the way to heal the world.
Sincerely, a queer Mormon sister