As many of you know, I am a big advocate of Facebook. I use it daily to connect with friends and family, and many in our church family. In fact, just last night I was able to help a friend from high school with a problem because we’re connected on Facebook. She found my number on Facebook and called me. It has the potential for such positivity in drawing individuals together. But, like anything, it also has the tendency to divide us as well.
Our American culture today is extremely divisive. People seem more vocal about their opinions than ever, and they use Facebook as that platform. To be completely honest, I am guilty of posting my thoughts and opinions on various subjects on Facebook and getting significant pushback from folks who disagree with me.
Opinions and disagreements are fine, as human beings are never going to agree on everything and we need to learn how to converse in a civil manner. However, in the last few months, I have watched a rise in the amount of negativity that is posted on Facebook, mostly by my fellow Christians both within and outside the Episcopal Church.
The blessing and curse of Facebook is it’s virtual nature. We can be empowered to say whatever we want because chances are we won’t see the folks with whom we disagree face-to-face. And if we really don’t like what someone has to say, we can quickly “unfriend” them (which, despite it’s virtual nature, still hurts like hell).
Here are some things that are on my Facebook news feed as I type this:
“Shame on the Republicans who voted for….”
“It’s great to see a police executive with some back bone. It’s rare, I know.”
(In response to an article on same-gender marriage): “So you’re telling me that how David and Solomon practiced marriage and what Jesus spoke of as marriage in Matthew 19 are on the same level? So, the OT and the Gospel are on the same level? Is this what we tell couples who come for marriage prep.? I really don’t know what you guys are thinking. Let’s just dump our tradition for what ever feels good at the moment. . . .is that it?”
“Dear Facebook, I hate your timeline. Please fix it.”
“Pat Robertson thinks the Episcopal Church is apostate.”
“Obama is not an American.”
“Avengers vs. X-Men #4 is the worst comic book ever created.” (That last one is mine.)
Now, you may agree with any of the above quotes (and you may have even been the one who posted it), but we have to be careful with how we communicate the thoughts and opinions that we have. The temptation when we see something we don’t agree with is to fire back a shot. We see an opinion posted that we disagree with and immediately think it’s our duty to correct, inform, enlighten, or decry injustice. Maybe we have that authority, or the gifts to say those things. In reality, we rarely do, and we end up tossing more gasoline on the fire which only ends up hurting and deepening the chasms between us.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to hurt others with our words.
Listen to what the writer of the letter of James has to say. It’s like the guy is living today!
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. (3:5-10)
So when we feel the need to post a negative comment on Facebook, take a step back, pray, and decide how you want that comment to be received. Do you want thoughtful conversation to come from it, or do you really just want to bitch? If you see a negative comment, take a step back, pray, and decide how you will respond. If it’s someone near you, perhaps you can take them out to lunch and share your thoughts that way. Maybe a friendly phone call is needed. If you’re not willing to do that, perhaps you shouldn’t respond at all. If you consider yourself as one with the gift of calling out injustice in the world, know that the gift of prophecy comes with being in relationship with people. Calling people to repentance without a relationship of trust and love rarely works (and ends up getting the prophet killed). Compare the prophet Nathan to the prophet John the Baptizer and see who was more successful.
Facebook isn’t all bad, though, and there are lots of wonderful proclamations and stories that tell of God’s goodness and love. This is the gift of this tool. We can use it to share the goodness of God’s love and wonder in pretty amazing ways. We can connect with people all over the world and relate the awesome works that the Spirit is doing in our lives. Like all tools, we can use Facebook as a weapon, or we can use it as a way to build, create, and love.