Our Roman Roads

Earlier this month, the news broke that Pinterest had banned the pro-life advocacy group Live Action from its page, citing its content as “porn,” and that it “may have immediate or detrimental effects on a Pinners’s health or public safety.” It was a condemnation nothing short of ironic.

In the aftermath, a whistleblower revealed that this was not an accident or some sick joke, but the result of calculated silencing of pro-life and Christian voices on social media platforms by the tech minds who run Silicon Valley. Conservatives and Christians have been highlighting discrimination from apps like Twitter and Facebook for years, but this was the first time that suspicions have been directly confirmed.

All who wish to protect the freedoms that we enjoy should be deeply disturbed by this censorship. However, while we demand that this targeted silencing cease, I think we should take a step back and recognize what it is that we’re fighting against.

I have long thought that social media is akin to the Roman roads. (If you are familiar with the virtue that rules Silicon Valley, or how Mark Zuckerburg’s motto is “move fast and break things”, the parallel with ancient Rome is fairly easily drawn.) The Romans built their roads so they could conquer the world, and keep it connected and under their control. But during the Pax Romana they became the means by which Christianity rapidly spread to every corner of the known world. Within 30 years of Christ’s death, Christian’s were being executed in the Colosseum in Rome for sport.

Now, the disruptors in Silicon Valley have conquered the world with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to name a very few, transforming our lives and connecting us in equally beautiful and terrifying ways.

I interrupt my post for some brief comic relief, since I couldn’t help but think of Monty Python’s Life of Brian when making this analogy.

Amended for the purposes of this post, of course

Moving on.

The apostles and disciples spreading the Gospel traveled these roads under the governance of the hedonistic pagans who built them, pagans who when threatened by their message sought to silence them, censor them, and eventually martyr them. Still, they persisted and the Christian message spread.

Some have made the argument that the way to end this discrimination is to leave social media altogether, noting that users are currency in this world and leaving would send a message. Others argue for legislation to address the discrimination. I can understand the arguments, but in both cases I disagree. As hard as those in Silicon Valley try to silence the truth, just as the ancient Romans tried before them, they simply can’t unless we cease to speak. Even though some of the motives for building those roads (or creating a social network) were less than savory, we as Christians can – and should – continue to use them for good.

Ultimately, social media is a man-made tool, our modern Roman roads. It can be used by the likes of Bishop Barron to reach those who might otherwise never know of Jesus. It can also be used by ISIS to broadcast hideous beheading videos. Its creators can ban users as they see fit, even for highly prejudiced or nefarious reasons. And you and I find out about those bans – you guessed it – on social media.

As we are outraged by the blatant double standard in banning the likes of Live Action, we shouldn’t be surprised. History has a funny way of repeating itself. Instead, continue to spread the Gospel message. Talk openly about what it means to be pro-life. Proclaim the truth of God’s design for marriage and the family unapologetically, and always in love. If you are silenced, threatened, or banned – so be it. Perhaps God is closing a door so you can love those He has put closest to you in a more real and tangible way.

A road closure simply means there will be a detour. Let’s not be so proud as to think that a few entrepreneurs in California could have any real power over the message of the love and truth of God. The Romans didn’t succeed two thousand years ago. Neither will they.