( My homemade mask. Pretty, but really hard to breathe through!)
“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” (Proverbs 29:11)
This past week has been an eye-opener for me concerning the state of our society.
This has nothing to do with the ubiquitous protests, the lootings, arson, physical assaults, threats, take-over of cities, etc.
It has to do with the responses on social media by Christians.
I am a baby boomer, born in the fifties to nominal Christian parents, youngest of five siblings, sporadic attender of church as a child, a product of secular education.
But, in spite of my parents’ secular way of life, they clung to a Judeo-Christian mindset. This meant: do not lie or steal, admit when you’ve done something wrong (then expect punishment and later, reconciliation), treat others with courtesy, don’t swear, be kind to others, give to charity, and, especially, be humble. That last one was practically bludgeoned into us from an early age.
We were trained to speak respectfully. If one needed to disagree with another, do it with respect and stick to the issue. Never attack the person, only the issue.
We also said to each other when we disagreed: “It’s a free country. I can say what I choose to say as long… as Mom and Dad say it’s not mean.”
But, it is no longer a Judeo-Christian America. I have learned that by participating on social media. In fact, the very ones whom I would expect to demonstrate the grace and gentleness of this ancient ethic are doing just the opposite.
I expect and am not surprised by viciousness from secular posts. But now, this kind of meanness is coming from Christians.
Last week I responded to a Facebook post by asking a two-word question. It was a speculation about the motivation of certain people engaged in dangerous health practices.
Another person, in response to my question, posted very unkind words directed at me. She had completely misinterpreted my words and launched an attack on my character. Apparently, I’m a murderer!
I wrote back and explained my intent and also kindly suggested that in the future it would be helpful if she could ask me before assuming my malevolent intentions. She did later apologize.
This is only one example of many recent attacks I’ve received in response to simply and gently expressing my opinion. Free speech is now dead. The First Amendment no longer applies. Friends, I know that we are deeply divided about the covid-19 pandemic, politics, our president, our future, our interpretation of scripture.
But when did our opinions jettison kindness and respect? And when did you or I decide that a person of another opinion does not have the right to express that? Isn’t it the height of selfishness to stop someone else from speaking?
As a Christian, I’m shocked and ashamed of the behavior of some Christians on social media. I fear that the coarsening of our culture through media: movies, TV, popular music, the behavior of celebrities, has infected us. The word of God says: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world; but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Rom. 12:2)
Attacking another for their expressed opinion is nothing short of tyranny. and fascism. It says, in effect, you will be punished for holding that opinion.
Gone are the days of civil debate. Many people apparently have discarded this kind of structured argument where debaters have the opportunity to present their opinion, buttressed by facts, and then there is a time of rebuttal.
I grieve over the incivility that now grips every aspect of our society.
I grieve that we have lost the concept of reconciliation, of mutual respect, of forgiveness.
I grieve that Christians have lost their love one for another.
The word of God speaks of the “fruits” of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22)
The word of God also says, “love covers a multitude of sins…” (1st Pet. 4:8)
The word of God instructs Christians to love each other “like brothers and sisters… be tenderhearted and keep a humble attitude.” (1 Pet. 3:8)
What is happening?
Who will ever find Jesus appealing if His disciples behave in such disregard of His word and carry on just like the world does with harsh, unloving, unkind, course attacks on each other? What ever happened to “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”?
I can handle disagreement in person and on social media. But let’s do it with gentleness and respect.
And finally, here is a scary verse from 1st John: “If someone says, I love God, but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar.” (1st John 4:20)
I can’t do much to change this behavior except to pray for Christians to recognize their guilt (if they indulge in it) and to remind us all by posting God’s word about speaking truth in love.
I intend to do just that. Starting now.