Life is complicated. We are all bombarded daily with literally thousands of messages via a wide variety of media. Some of these messages are sought out - one tunes in to the radio news at the top of the hour or at the appointed television broadcast time or hits up the newspaper online or unfolds an actual paper over breakfast coffee and oatmeal. One can seek out information in books, papers, magazines, television and radio, and through a host of sites on the internet.
And that's just those of us on the receiving end. All of those media, large and small, are being produced and maintained by someone (a single person or a huge corporate someone) with an agenda. All of those someones want to get a particular message out.
Needless to say, anyone is going to have trouble filtering all the stuff that comes along in the course of a single day, much less all the stuff that comes over time. And so in this information age, the sound byte is important. Summing up complicated issues with a sentence or even a phrase (or 140 characters in the case of Twitter) has become the way most of those somebodies get their messages out. In fact, those who are unable to speak in sound bytes or at least very concisely risk not being able to get a message out at all, other than "it's really complicated and you'll have to take lots of time to get my message" which can easily be rebutted by someone else with the suggestion that "he/she has got something to hide and I'll tell you what it is [insert an opposing sound byte here]."
But of course, nothing is a monolith, even if it tries to appear to be. Not Proctor and Gamble, not The Roman Catholic Church, not any government or institution, not any religious group present past or future. Nonetheless, we all tend to act as if other groups than our own, at least, are in fact monolithic (wrong, or doing Bad Stuff). And so the "Christian Right" says that those Christians who are pro-choice or who affirm GLBT folks are not actually Christians at all; progressive Christians contend that those who disagree with them are bigots; Democrats now say Rush Limbaugh speaks for all Republicans; Republicans during the Bush Administration said that anyone who disagreed with Bush policies hates America. In the '60's we young people said that all institutions are evil. I left the Baptist Church over its stance during the Civil Rights era. But of course I only knew what my own local Baptist Church was up to.
Cynics will say that these things are done purposefully as a strategic plan to discredit others, bring down an institution altogether, or because people are generally mean and bad. This may be true - I'm not much of a cynic although I admit to my cynical moments. (Because I am not a monolith, either.)
But it is true, or at least I believe, that we have a real problem getting a handle on so many huge, complicated things - be it groups or institutions or energy or environmentalism or religion. I can hardly figure out my own religious denomination, much less get a handle on "China." I don't have all the details, I don't know how it all works, I don't know who all the players are or what the issues are or exactly what I think about the things I do know about.
And then there is God. God is certainly not a monolith. Sometimes people try to break God down into Old Testament God and New Testament God. But of course not. That's more like Dualism, with one of them being Loving and the other one being Wrathful. And after all the Biblical witness contains multiple viewpoints on God. Many, many books, attesting to different aspects of God and even contradictory aspects of God. In the Old Testament, God is the one who said that eunuchs cannot be part of the Temple and then also said that the Temple is to be a house of prayer for all people (including eunuchs). There are four Gospels, and that was intentional. We can't get at who God is in a sound byte. We can't get at what being Christian is in 140 characters.
I can't even get at what I am in 140 characters. It's hard to admit that we don't understand everything about a given subject, but I think we must try. I think we must remember that we are always required to reassess or re-inform our positions and understandings. Yes, it's a pain, but just when we think we have something figured out, new information comes along and throws us into chaos. Or at least cognitive dissonance. The choice is then to refute the new information (no it's not); just be in denial about it (what new information? I don't see any new information); or adjust and try to make sense of a new picture that is emerging.
After all, this is how we got the New Testament! The Scriptures say this about God; people experienced something new in Jesus, particularly after his resurrection; they began to tell the story so as to make sense of this new, powerful experience. We are not "weak" or "flip floppers" because we are big enough to incorporate inconsistency, new information, new aspects into our own perspectives and beliefs.