Corporate Pride and Virtue Signalling

Bandwagon (n): jump on the bandwagonclimb on the bandwagon or get on the bandwagon to join or give support to a party or movement that seems to be assured of success

Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

Pride has been all over social media lately. One thing I’ve noticed this year which is different from previous years is that there is a lot more corporate sponsorship. Just to pick one example, even Tesco have got in on the act via Twitter (see this tweet and the previous couple for an example of what I mean). But it’s not just Tesco – it seems just about every business is clamouring to jump on the Pride bandwagon.

But why? It’s not hard to guess. Pride has momentum at the moment – it’s “cool”, and companies like to be seen in that light. Supporting Pride shows that you’re forward-thinking and progressive, they think.

Does anyone really believe that the companies who invest in Pride genuinely believe in LGBT rights? Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think they’re necessarily anti-LGBT rights. But what they’re interested in is making more money. They’re interested in their own brand.  How many of the big companies which support Pride are campaigning for LGBT rights in countries where ‘Pride’ may be illegal and even get you killed? How many of these companies were campaigning in this country before popular opinion changed a few years ago?

Someone replied to one of those Tesco tweets above, saying: “You did not make the @stonewalluk top 100 employers, your @OutatTesco feed is pitiful & now your obvious Skittles backhander shows you in your true light.” In a similar vein, a year or two back the TfL Twitter feed put up a picture of a ‘Pride’ banner at the new Tottenham Court Road tube station. Someone replied and said, “How about spending money on better disabled access instead?” It seems like these companies like to make a big noise about supporting Pride but when it comes to actually doing something about it… less so. (It’s interesting that the new corporate nature of Pride is criticised by the likes of Peter Tatchell).

This is what I think is wrong with so much of social media and, in general, the modern world: it’s about the appearance of righteousness, rather than actually being righteous. In the quote from the Bible I started with, Jesus warned us against that kind of hypocrisy. It’s a temptation to all of us – a kind of fake righteousness to make ourselves look good. This has become known as virtue signalling – a term which has its critics, but I think has its core in reality.

Many of us now live our lives on social media – we publicise just about everything we do – Instagramming our holidays, posting our thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, etc. The temptation is huge to want people to like you, to want people to think you’re a good person. Corporations are simply joining – they want you to shop there, so they’ll jump on what they perceive is a popular bandwagon to increase their brand.

The solution to this is to remember that true virtue comes from God, and that at the end of the day the only thing that matters is his opinion. Jesus gave us a sobering warning:

‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Luke 12:4-5

God is the one who judges our virtue, and he is the only one we should be concerned about. Not parading how virtuous we are before other people – either individually or corporately – but looking to God for the forgiveness of our sins and strength to lead a new life in him.

And this is the warning to those who are waving rainbow flags on social media: one day it won’t matter how many people think you’re brilliant. It won’t matter how many followers you have, or how many people you’ve managed to impress. It won’t matter if everything thinks you’re a super-cool-progressive-forward-thinking person. All that will matter, as you stand before the Almighty Lord and Just Judge of all, is what he thinks of you.

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:31

We are all going to survive beyond the grave – and face the judgement seat of God. Where will you stand on that day? With Pride? Or with God?

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