I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. I sat down a couple of times to write and came up with a dozen scattered paragraphs that didn’t coincide, so to help me collect my thoughts, I had some conversations with people I trust, and I really appreciate them taking the time to listen to me.
After engaging an atheist friend on Facebook, I began to take more notice (and Facebook kept putting into my newsfeed) the memes and tweets that they were sharing about Christianity. I was a bit put off. It seemed this person has nothing but derision for Christians, mockery and blanket statements. Each time I read their posts, I thought, “Don’t you realize that you are alienating anyone who might want to discuss this with you?”
This gave me pause and I began to consider, “Why do they share these posts anyway?”
I can tell you, it wasn’t to engage in dialogue. It wasn’t to understand the other side. It wasn’t even to be understood. It was simply to validate their position, rally to their side, and reinforce where they stood on the issue of topic.
I’m not blind, I’ve seen this all over. But these past few weeks I’ve taken more notice and seen it so abundantly. To my discouragement, I’ve seen it scattered liberally across most Facebook accounts, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Perhaps we are all so wrapped in our bubble of like-mindedness that we don’t realize how scoffing these posts can be until we see it in an opposing worldview to ours. Perhaps we simply read posts that say so concisely what we stand for and share them without considering how someone on the other side is going to perceive it. Perhaps we are simply so drawn to what makes us feel good, we post what we like without much further thought. But we need to stop.
I’m noticing 2 main problems:
Posting to validate our position
Assuming the intent of the opposing side
First, what’s so wrong about posting to validate your position?
If you take a stand on objective truth, you should not need to constantly validate it.
Scoffing at the other side, drawing the applause of your friends, boosting your conviction in any area — these are not necessary if what you believe stands to scrutiny and genuine conversation. If you can’t discuss and articulate your position in an honest way, truly seeking to understand and be understood, then your position deserves to be challenged and you need to reexamine yourself.
Prove to me that you stand by what you believe by getting off of your high horse and discussing it with me. I want to understand. And I want to know that you understand me. If you are making fun of me, then my (correct) assumption is that you don’t understand where I’m coming from. And until I know that you understand me, I’ll take everything you say with a degree of doubt. Your influence on me is next to nothing.
Secondly, perhaps the saddest mindset that is prevalent on Facebook and other social media platforms: assuming the intent of your opposition.
Several times my family members have commented on my political or religious posts or articles that I’ve shared on Facebook with an opposing point of view. You can guess what happened. My (hopefully well-meaning) friends pounced to defend my point of view, villianizing my family member and assuming that a) their motive is wrong, or that b) they haven’t researched this issue or thought about it. I felt like screaming at my friends to LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!
Can we just do this?
Stop assuming pro-choice persons hate babies.
Stop assuming pro-life person hate women or support rape.
Stop assuming atheists persons are hateful or arrogant.
Stop assuming Christian persons are hypocritical or simply traditional.
Stop assuming persons of the Democratic party are all power-thirsty.
Stop assuming persons of the Republican party hate poor people.
Stop assuming homosexual persons are wallowing in sin and loving it.
Stop assuming persons who oppose homosexuality are judgmental.
Stop assuming homeschooling families are religious prudes.
Stop assuming public schooling families don’t care about their children’s education.
Stop assuming anti-vaccine parents are conspiracy theorists.
Stop assuming pro-vaccine parents are brainwashed conformists.
Stop assuming that white persons are racist.
Stop assuming that black persons are victims.
Stop assuming anything about someone you don’t know.
I understand that there are persons in each category that do fall under that stereotype and do a disservice to everyone else, but have the maturity of mind to know that not everyone who holds a position does so from evil motives or lack of information.
What I’m not saying:
I’m not saying it is wrong to challenge the other side or hold hypocrisy and inconsistent reasoning up to the light. But we need to do so in a way that invites civil discussion, not discourages it, challenging the ideas without demonizing the persons who believe those ideas.
I’m not saying that every side is right or true. I believe in truth, God ordained and governed. But let’s be transparent enough to admit that we don’t understand it all and need each other to challenge us and awaken us to things we would not see otherwise.
What I am saying is that we need to be lovingly open to conversation, willing to articulate our position and educated enough to do so (or willing to admit that we cannot.) We need to stop assuming that opposition is all wrong or uninformed, and we need to challenge ideas, not the people who hold those ideas.
Christians, I’m calling you out. Are you simply unaware? By sharing the tweet making fun of Islam, by posting blanket statements about homosexuality, by shutting down discussion with conviction of hatred, you are shutting out the very people God called us to minister to! Every Christian today was not once a Christian, but was once of the world. Of all people, we should have the most love for those who are blinded, the most patience for sinners, the most hatred of the sin itself. Or did you forget that we are to be known by our love. Don’t compromise your beliefs. Don’t hesitate from sharing the truth. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. But by all means share the truth in love. Remember the forgiveness and compassion of Jesus our Savior to the women at the well. Wife of five different men, and the man she was currently with was not her husband. And yet Jesus extended an invitation of kind discussion with her, leading her to the gospel.
As Christians, we believe that the gospel of salvation is a revelation of God and a work of the Holy Spirit. Until then, spiritually, the world is blinded, but please note that doesn’t mean someone who is not Christian is not educated or a deep-thinker or even un-spiritual. We can fall into thinking that an atheist or skeptic just doesn’t have enough information. How arrogant of us to think in this way. Let us instead love and pray for this world.
As I prepare to post this, I am aware it was written with more passion than most of my posts and it is possible that I have written some inconsistencies of reasoning. I would love nothing more than a civil discussion about a post about a civil discussion. I hope we can all be more aware of the people on the other end of the screen who are reading what we put out.