…Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6b-8)
There’s been a lot of outrage lately about a study of people’s emotions that was conducted on Facebook. In my opinion, the study was conducted in an unethical manner, but it did affirm something important: emotions are contagious online.
Now, any parent or teacher in the world could probably have figured that out, and I suppose that the speed with which the outrage spread only confirmed the study’s finding. But other studies in America and China reveal another important aspect of this important truth: not all emotions travel the same.
Rage travels fast because it gets us fired up and wanting to take action–so we pass along that angry tidbit on our social networks. At my house, we call this “feeding the beast.”
But the one emotion that outpaces anger is awe–“feelings of wonder and excitement that come from encountering great beauty or knowledge.” “Awe,” says Jonah Berger of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “gets our hearts racing and our blood pumping….This increases our desire for emotional connection and drives us to share.”
Feeding the beast is not a product of our networked world, of course. If it were we wouldn’t read in the Bible about “the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” I think most of us enjoy having a bit of conversational capital that we can spend to buy prestige or power or the downfall of our enemies.
But if the Dark Side is quick and effective, there’s still hope for humanity. Our love of beauty and understanding is a sign of the Spirit moving through us and among us. I laugh to think that I must imagine myself “a new lump” but perhaps that’s just another example of holy hilarity and the foolishness of God. Unleavened I must be.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philipians 4:8)