I’ve had a new and interesting experience over the last several months. It’s called Facebook. I realize that many of you have used Facebook for years, but I tend to be somewhat of a Neanderthal when it comes to technology.
My reluctance to utilize digital tools such as Facebook is not new. I didn’t text until about six years ago, but now I text a lot every day. I’m a slow learner, but I eventually learn.
My use of Facebook started off with just looking at a few things that people posted. I don’t recall when I first posted something, but it was quite a while after I started on Facebook.
Until recently most of my interactions on Facebook, were on messenger. But recently I began to respond openly to issues brought up in posts.
Let me tell you, I was not prepared for the vile nature of the responses from people who disagree with you. They not only make it clear that you’re not too bright for disagreeing with them, but they feel obligated to bring several superlatives into the conversation that wouldn’t be acceptable in local newspapers.
Sadly, much of the vile oriented outrage I come across is targeted toward President Trump. Not that it’s all based on facts, but much on unproven allegations and conspiracy theories fabricated and or passed along through our mainstream media.
When you encourage them to do some research on the issue before they jump on the bandwagon, you are told to keep your less than desirable and clearly brain-dead opinion to yourself. (Those aren’t actually the kinds of words they use, but you get the picture.) I am told that the media wouldn’t report it if it wasn’t true, so what’s my problem?
The attitude I encounter far too often that is difficult to wade through is that those who like former President Obama feel they have had to endure nightmarish denigrations of Obama for eight years, and now the rest of us just have to get used to it regarding President Trump. Forget that some of the criticisms Obama received were justified, and forget that the rude, over-the-top criticisms were by a very vocal, ignorant minority. Since some things were said in poor taste toward Obama, now President Trump and anyone who even appears to be a possible Trump supporter, must endure obscene attacks as a form of deserved retribution.
I began to question whether I even wanted to continue in such an environment, and as I considered and prayed about it, I began to realize that if all who did not want to encounter vile attitudes left Facebook, then it would become even worse than it is.
What is Facebook? It is a virtual environment in which you can talk with people about various issues, while seeing some funny posts at the same time. You generally don’t give up on people just because they get foul about some issue from time to time. What kind of friend would you be if you bailed when a friend got ugly?
Jesus tells us that we are to say only those things that build up and edifies others. We can’t do that if our voice is absent from the conversation. What should we do? Will it make a difference?
I began to be very careful about my replies on Facebook, seeking to ask questions as to the necessity of speaking in vile, defamatory ways. I asked if we instead should seek to do what we can to make a difference. Acknowledging that horrible and unacceptable things have been said and done over the last eight years, I then began to ask if we need to be held captive by those things. Do we not have the ability to rise above those things to make a difference, to strive to work toward improving our nation?
At first I saw little movement, but then I began to see a couple of things: 1.) Much of the rhetoric began to tone down. 2.) Some began to speak a little more optimistically. 3.) A few agreed that not everything that was being said was true, and that they needed to consider how to be a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem.
I suspect that with each new issue I may encounter the same vile outbursts. But I also suspect that if I ask Christ to grant me grace, wisdom and patience, that the caustic tone of the conversation may begin to soften. I certainly do not expect to get everyone to agree with me (sometimes even I don’t agree with me), but I do believe that a more gentle and thoughtful conversation should lead to a better understanding, and certainly a greater respect.
Approximately 200 million Americans use Facebook. Imagine if millions of Christians on Facebook worked hard at toning down the inflammatory rhetoric, and began to add to the dialogue things of encouragement and respect, even in the face of disagreements. How much would that change the tone of the environment?
Everyone is created in the image of God; including the one who holds the office of the President. Let us treat them and each other with the respect that God calls us to.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.