Since the founding of this beloved country several centuries ago, civil unrest and revolution have shaped the landscape of human rights among the people who walk its grounds. Sometimes, changes have been made for equality that bring about peace and solidarity to our nation. Others, in the form of idealized and extreme beliefs, have brought nothing but turmoil and violence to our nation’s people.
I challenge you to think about where the emergence of social media exists on this spectrum. How does this play into the spread of love vs. hate? How does this open platform for each and every one of us to speak whatever is on our hearts and minds at any given time effect the narrative of a nation made up of all walks of life?
Should the “golden rule of communication” apply to this platform of expression (if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all)? Or should we be able to express the deepest and sometimes darkest parts of our hearts? Where is the line drawn? And what part are we playing in all of this expression?
Speak now, or forever hold your peace (on politics)
Blame it on my traditional, southern upbringing, but there was a time when it was best to keep your political opinions to yourself. It was not “dinner table conversation.” However, now, with the saturation of social media into every moment of our lives with access through smartphones, we are plush with opinions—and all kinds of opinions for that matter—ones that are similar, the same, or the exact opposite of what we feel.
It’s almost as if we are overwhelmed with viewpoints and can never really know what to think, because instead of hearing a complete thought, we are bombarded by an ever-changing, ever-evolving narrative of the world around us, with growing hostility toward any opposing viewpoint. There is no room for open discussion or debate—the proverbial “gray area”—it’s now black or white, wrong or right, your opinion or mine. We can’t discuss and help shape the opinions of others without attacking them.
Recently, I posted an opinion about a matter gripping our nation right now, the dissolution of Planned Parenthood. Though I won’t speak to my feelings on this matter in this forum, I can tell you that it sparked much discontent among opposing viewership that held the opposite beliefs. So much so, that even though I felt and still feel like my opinion on the organization was justified from my belief standpoint that there was so much intensity in the form of anger from the opposition that I was only increasing the discord on the subject.
People who I barely know or didn’t know at all were taking arms against what I had said and basically attacking every point I was trying to make. On the same token (and I take full responsibility), I had posted a fact that was indeed incorrect and therefore my entire message, though the rest of it sound, had lost its validity because of this one discrepancy. So often we comment on things which we are not experts in out of passion, wanting to stand up for what we believe in, and have only some of the facts straight, losing our credibility for our side of the argument.
Where do we draw the line when social media, politics and faith intersect?
This overwhelming platform to engage in our first amendment right of freedom of speech has catapulted us into a culture that feels that any time we see something or someone that opposes our views that we have a right to speak our mind, and sometimes even harass the opposer of our views, without thought of the consequences to ourselves, or our agenda, however moral or just it may be. This is not what the Lord compels us, as Christians, to do.
I will be the first to admit that it is extremely difficult, as a passionate woman, to not get involved in conversations about politics online. I feel so strongly about issues like abortion, immigration, and firearm rights, and want to jump in and fight for my beliefs constantly! But I have had a change of heart and have had to pray to God every day to give me the willpower to not chime in, or repost a particular piece of writing or media that I find compelling toward my side of the argument. Here’s why…
So much of what we see in social media is seen or heard out of its original context and the messages are so often muddled that the original intent or purpose can be completely distorted and used to further the agenda of the person either reposting or publishing it without the complete message.
For example, think back to elementary school when we first learned about gossip. Anyone remember the game Telephone? For those of you who might not have had this experience, let me elaborate.
You start off with a sentence or two about an event or person. This message is whispered from student to student around the room. The originator of the message has written the exact words down on a piece of paper and handed them to the teacher. By the time the message is whispered into the ear of the last student, most times it has maybe 4-5 words of the original message; while even sometimes, a class prankster has changed the message completely, and the ending message has nothing to do with what the sentences actually read at the beginning.
This happens with social media posts over and over again, now that we are able to share and reshare and repost just about anything we can get our hands on. Can you see how this can be a huge problem? This is not what the Lord compels us, as Christians, to do.
Don’t perpetuate the problem
Since my most recent experience with posting something political—even though many of my fellow Facebook friends agreed with my stance—God has opened my eyes to the fact that I was simply perpetuating the problem. It seems as if Facebook has turned into a political breeding ground for muddled messages and moments taken out of context, and since I was not 100% informed on every single instance, I was doing exactly what I was accusing others of doing. That, my friends, is the definition of hypocrisy.
I wondered for some time how I would finish this piece. How could I bring it all to a close and speak to my fellow woman in a way that would not slight her nor give her a feeling of hopelessness in a vast world of media permeation and stifle her passions? This past Sunday morning God showed me the answer through the words of our pastor as we study the book of Acts. Here are my recommendations on how to be the solution, and not further this problem:
My first recommendation to my fellow sisters is this: no matter how passionately you feel about politics, I challenge you to leave it off of Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media platform. There will be things you see and hear that will fire you up! Don’t give in. This tool (Facebook), that used to be for connecting us to long lost friends and sharing pictures of our lives with family far away, is now the devil’s stomping ground. If you think for one second that he isn’t living and thriving amongst your newsfeed, just take another look.
Secondly, I recommend that if you see something that just boils your blood to no end, unfollow that person on Facebook. There is now a great way to just block all of the ungodly media that is presented on this platform, without unfriending anyone—in case you are worried about losing this friend.
Remember to step away often
I’m reminded of a phrase one of my Sunday school teachers at church said when I was growing up, “In with the good, out with the good; in with the bad, out with the bad.” To me, this means that the more we allow ourselves to be exposed to the sadness, the anger, and the immoral actions of our nation as the devil grows and lives within it and permeates our media platforms, the more that we will inevitably be a part of it. Jackson Browne wrote a lyric in his song, “Doctor My Eyes,” that I believe sums this up perfectly:
“I have done all that I could to see the evil and the good, without hiding; you must help me if you can. Doctor my eyes, tell me what is wrong, was I unwise to leave them open for so long?”
If we continue to allow ourselves to be saturated with this evil and immorality, will we lose sight of the way of the Lord? Will we ever be able to look at this world as a visitor, with Kingdom eyes, and not with eyes of someone who is only destined for this place? Will the things that should shock and appall us as Christians seem not so bad, or acceptable, because it is shared amongst a majority?
Remember: God promises us that this is our temporary home, and that compels us, as His followers, to look at this world and all that is going on not as our brothers and sisters who are non-believers do, but as messengers for God. “In with the good, out with the good; in with the bad, out with the bad.”
Be a messenger for God
Lastly, I not only recommend but I challenge you to be messengers of God, instead of the messengers of men. As God’s children, we have a bit of information that non-believers don’t. My pastor said it so clearly to me this Sunday that I felt like jumping up and screaming, “Yes! Yes!” That truth is that we already know how this is going to end. God will win this thing.
If you think of Sodom and Gomorrah, the rule of King Herod in the book of Acts, the great civilization of ancient Egypt, or a slavery-ridden America, sure, they thrived for a time; but God always comes out as the victor and defends the downtrodden and the oppressed.
It is not unprecedented that the Devil is able to build up armies for a time, in the form of power, of popularity, or those who are masked as do-gooders whose agendas are really morally corrupt. We are facing this now in our world on a daily basis—men and women blinded by what is considered care, respect, or inclusion, while all along they lack moral gravity and conviction.
If you are going to make a post on social media, I challenge you to make it one that spreads the message of the Lord, and how His love and His power is the ultimate saving grace. Share that no matter how hopeless the world around us might seem, we do not have to feel hopeless because we know that He has gone to prepare a place for us in the presence of God and angels, where there is no more sickness, no more death, no more oppression, because of the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.
Take solace in the fact that we are not destined for this world, one permeated by anger and hatred and what that discord can breed amongst our friends and family members, because we have something in our heart that breeds hope and love and kindness. We are the winners, and Christ’s blood won that victory for us.
Though we might face persecution in this world for being a part of that Light, we are fighting for the only cause that should matter to us—spreading the hope of the Word of God to our fellow man and woman, to our children, and to the world at large on social media.