Have you ever had people look down on you because of something you do, wear, or like? This is the essence of what I’m learning is called “Cringe Culture.” It can be as simple and innocent as a surprised reaction, “Ew! You eat that?!” Sometimes, though, it can be deeply hurtful to someone, especially when the thing being criticized is central to one’s identity: maybe a speech impediment, or an activity from which they have gained a lot of life.
Cringe Culture was the topic (during the “Gaming Summer Mission”) of one of our guest speakers: Bubba Stallcup, the president of a ministry called Love Thy Nerd. He spoke about the heart of people judging what they don’t understand, which can happen with cross-cultural challenges in lots of ways. InterVarsity made an excellent video teaching us how we can overcome these differences by leaning in with curiosity instead of pulling back in fear or judgment.
Bubba went on to discuss just why being the victim of cringe culture bullying (which truly can reach bullying or abusive levels) can be so devastating to those who fall into a “geek” or “nerd” category. Often, these kinds of interests (comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, STEM, anime, etc) draw those with deep creativity and intelligence combined with an atypical social style or lack of natural social graces. They pull into themselves when they feel condemned by the community at large, and sometimes find great relief and even social connection with others who share their interest. Those interests can be their greatest source of life and hope, so when others tear it down or call it “weird,” it forcibly reminds them that they don’t belong.
Jesus left the 99 to find the outcast (Matt 18:12-14). He told us that He is the judge while we are to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Matt 7:1-3, 12): as part of the body, even if we are different (1 Cor 12:21-22). Let’s lean in and learn from those who seem weird!