Monday, August 14, 2017

Condemning, Confessing, Promoting on Social Media

I missed much of what happened over the weekend. I wasn’t on social media for most of the weekend, and since I’ve now come to realize I get the vast majority of my news from it, I wasn’t really aware of what happened. I wasn’t going to address the Charlottesville issue because I don’t address that many political issues on Facebook much anymore.[1]

So let me just say that I condemn racism and using violence to solve ideological issues in this country, regardless of right, alt-right, left, center, progressive, far-left, far-right, whatever your preferred political label is. The Gospel needs to be the answer; the transforming power it contains in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Father who sent him, and the Holy Spirit is what we all need.

Now instead of giving you all of my opinions on what has happened, I’m going to take a bit of a different approach. My wife mentioned to me that she has seen some on social media insisting on something like the following: you must condemn this on social media, and if you don’t, then insert your favored term here (“then you’re a racist,” “then you’re not a Christian,” “then you’re bigoted,” “then you must be alt-right,” etc.).

I think this is problematic, and frankly appears to be a single step above the old Christian chain e-mails, whereupon receiving one a believer was expected to forward it to 25 friends, lest she be condemned as “ashamed of Christ.” While one should not be ashamed of Christ, and one should even utilize their e-mail platform to promote Christ, whether or not she sent the e-mail has no bearing on whether she is fulfilling her duties as a Christian (even though it could—say, if in fact she was ashamed of Christ, and this is why she didn’t send the e-mail).

In a similar way, I am not required to condemn everything loudly, even when it may be worthy of condemnation. I did so above only because, since I am addressing the issue, it’s quite appropriate to do so. Nothing about my previous non-response entails my view on a subject, and anyone who interprets that way is doing so illegitimately. I’m afraid what the combination of social media and competitive, customized journalistic agendas has produced is a world filled with fundamentalists, where not saying, thinking, and doing the same exact set of things as everyone else in the group is condemned in the most extreme terms, where people are virtually incapable of nuanced debate, and where they are constantly looking for conflict. This kind of thinking, without check or restraint, nearly always leads to violence, and leads us to hate others in our hearts, in violation of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5:21-22).

Finally, while some good can be done on social media, let us not kid ourselves: the world’s social ills are not solved on Facebook. Should you use your platform to advance the Gospel and truths related to it (which will doubtlessly include condemning racism)? Of course you should do this occasionally, at least. Let’s engage the world with the hope of the Gospel—one that transcends race and political ideology!

[1] And I get that it’s not merely a political issue. I really do! But it’s become one, and almost immediately after it occurred.

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