My cursor hovered on the “write a comment” section. I really hate Facebook debates. But the kind of speech I saw was, to me, intolerable. Inexcusable. Inconsistent with the values I hold. I couldn’t keep scrolling, I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see it.
But then the next day, there were five more instances of that nature. And the next week they increased tenfold. Social media became a land mine of twisted morals, ignorant comments and hate speech by people I know. If 2016 was The Worst as so many claimed, 2017 quickly became the year of How Do I Pick My Jaw Off the Floor?
You have to pick your battles, especially on the internet. But where is the line? As an avid partaker in many social media platforms, I’m pretty outspoken about politics and social justice. It seems natural to enter into dialogue and share articles. Yet I can’t possibly write a status about everything going on in the world. When do I keep my mouth shut? Where’s the limit? Sometimes I worry my silence on certain issues comes across as complicity. Or worse, endorsement.
Other friends of mine barely use social media, or rarely post, and they feel the same tension. Posting political article after political article out of nowhere seems strange and unlike them. Yet remaining silent about these core issues is a way of speaking about them, in a sense—not coming out in opposition can be seen as coming out, by default, in support.
What are the Facebook 10 commandments? Thou shalt not invite people to Farmville? Where can I find the Beatitudes for tweeting: Blessed are those who can be profound in 140 character or less, for they shall inherit all the followers?
As social media Christians, we want to ask WWJD. But biblical situations can sometimes feel a bit outdated in our modern, globalized, social media crazed 2017. I can imagine Peter and John going at it in the Facebook comments or James subtweeting about his brother, but I can’t quite conceptualize how Jesus would respond.
When others turned to Jesus for very black-and-white answers, He typically turned nit-picky rules into a discussion of the heart.
“Should this woman be condemned for adultery, Jesus?” “But are you free of sin?”
“If you had to pick of us 12, who would be No. 1?” “The first shall be last, guys.”
Internet etiquette as a person of faith is a nuanced and heavy conversation with case by case differences, but the basics are easy. We are called to push back against anything that rejects the heart of God, while remembering that we are, in fact, not God.
We have to view politics through the lens of our faith while at the same time remembering we are not Christ. We try to speak on behalf of Christ, but we do not speak for Him. If anyone claims a God-ordained candidate or party or platform, be wary of their leadership. They might be confusing their ideals and preferences with God’s.
God did not choose one candidate and He is not in one political party. Our God doesn’t fall within one political ideology or one government system, yet we find Him in the heart of politics. For His heart is for the people. We may disagree on abortion policies, but all Christians should agree on valuing life. We may disagree on taxes, but all Christians should agree resources should be well stewarded. We may disagree on foreign policy, but all Christians should agree peace should be sought out.
This is bigger than Facebook. Each of us has been given various platforms in our lives—at our jobs, in our social circles, within our families. We, as Christians, are called to spread the gospel. We’re for love. We’re for you—whoever you may be. That’s the good news the world is missing right now.
As Christ followers, we are supposed to stand for the heart of God. We’re supposed to work to bring His kingdom come. Sometimes that looks like politely and respectfully commenting back to someone on Facebook. Sometimes that looks like quietly having a conversation with a friend about some inappropriate language they used. Sometimes it looks like speaking up in a large group of people against casual forms of hate speech.
We don’t get to pretend we didn’t see those comments or pretend we didn’t hear that remark. We are called to step out of our comfort zones, deny ourselves daily and enter into the hard—and at times dirty and uncomfortable—work of the gospel.
God is against racism. God is against sexism. God is against nationalism because God is against hate; He is against valuing one demographic over another. God is against xenophobia and homophobia and pretty much any phobia that deals with people for God calls us to love those who are different than us, not fear them. God is against hate speech, racial slurs and derogatory comments because He is a God of love.
As followers of God, we should be, too. Both on and off of Facebook.