That is the question.
This post is a little different than my usual, but it's something I've been thinking about and would love to hear your thoughts on. Lately it seems social media is abuzz with controversial issues. The reelection of President Obama. Gay rights. Gun control. Abortion laws. Health care. Taxes. Women in the military.
Sometimes I want to say, "Can we all just take a big, collective deep breath and remember no matter what, we still live in America?" (Well, most of us-- should out to my Alley Cat Karen, who's an Aussie with a rockin' accent :) ) I get frustrated whenever people get so bound up by political issues that they loose sight of the bigger picture and the freedoms we often take for granted. We want to complain about politics and post silly political graphics on Facebook (speaking of which--who designs these things? Could we please find someone who knows not to put black text against a dark background?)-- but what are we doing to actually affect change in the world in which we live, aside from spewing out more frustration and even hate? Have we so lost sight of the opportunities we have that we are willing to essentially shape our political views into one-dimensional caricatures, refusing to engage in thoughtful conversation with those whose views differ from our own?
For that reason, I generally remain mute on subjects of politics. I'm so weary of all the fighting--which doesn't seem to benefit anyone-- and I don't want to become just another yelling voice.
But lately it seems people are being pitted against each other, forced into corners. The ability to have a respectful, thoughtful conversation with those representing different positions seems to be diminishing. Here are some factors I think are contributing to the problem:
- Social media-- I think it's a bit funny when people post angry political statuses on Facebook, because the audience is composed of "friends," meaning these people 1) already agree with you or 2) have blocked you long ago and are no longer getting your statuses anyway. It's so easy to see social media as an artificial re-inscription of our own methodology. Just because one person likes a status on Facebook does not mean your post isn't hurtful to someone else.
- The polarized nature of the media-- This one goes without saying. News has become a business, a product. News stations create news that sells. Now, I'm not saying they make things up, but whether you're watching FOX or MSNBC, you're expecting a particular kind of news. That's just the nature of modern media. Spins sell.
- The plummeting nature of our education system.-- I see it every day at work. Students are smart. They deserve better. No one is taking the time to teach critical thinking skills. How do we expect the populace to make sound decisions when we're 1) acting superior to them and/or 2) we're so casual about the illiteracy rates, as if it's not our problem. If you want the populace to be better prepared to make decisions, help teach someone to read.
- The nature of social media has drawn people away from face-to-face interactions. It's easy to criticize someone you've never met, whose tears you have never seen, and whose hunger you have never felt. As Christians, especially, I think many of us are loosing our sense of compassion because we've denied the very work of Christ--the day to day struggling alongside those who are hurting.
So what is the proper response? Honestly, I have no idea. If we slink back, saying nothing, often our values will be trampled upon in the dust. On the other hand, no one likes or responds well to someone screaming at them. The best things I know to do are to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance over our every word and action, and to pray for our country and our world. I am convinced that if we spent half the time praying that we do cyber-yelling, we would see a move of God that would shake our generation.
I think this passage is SO applicable to these situations:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
-- I Corinthians 10:23-24
What do you think? How do you handle these kinds of sticky situations, especially whenever someone is antagonistically trying to engage you in a political debate? Do you usually hold your tongue or "jump into the fire," so to speak? What do you think the response of Christians ought to be?