Archive for November, 2012

What The “Greyhound Of Language” And I Have In Common


“Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.”           –David Mitchell

Some not-so-fluffy, incredibly ugly reactions to the elections this week have most definitely left me ‘agog’– speechless in the face of the hatred, venom and bitterness that has been spewed all over the social media sites in general, and thankfully to a much lesser extent, on my page in particular. It has been startling, sobering and just… sad.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Even if it were not my job to engage on these sites (and it is– I am paid to contribute to several websites, and I handle the social media for a couple more) I would still be a frequent user because I enjoy the sense of community, the immediacy of the responses and the exchange of  information and ideas that can occur there. Also, I happen to find pictures of cats falling off of things really funny. And where else would I find hideously embarrassing pictures of myself from the 80’s that I didn’t even know existed unless some helpful person posted them on Facebook?!

I have always managed to purposely and gracefully (at least in my mind) sidestep controversy on my little piece of the social media tundra, mostly by simply refusing to participate when someone posts something I find offensive or just plain stupid on my page. I have no problem hitting the Delete button if I want to erase something from view, though I haven’t yet resorted to the faintly playground-squabble-sounding extreme of “de-friending” someone– let’s face it, I couldn’t even pick the vast majority of the “friends” who follow me out of a line-up, anyway!

I do understand that it’s not always a case of somebody deliberately trying to pick a fight, or some random douchecanoe hoping to insult me; as hard as it can be to believe, many times people actually don’t realize they are saying something offensive. But because Russ and I are public about our Christian faith, people often automatically assume that we are in some kind of idealogical lockstep with whatever their personal interpretation of Christianity is– and that can range from the farthest reaches of scary right-wingery to the narrowest fringes of fuzzy-around-the-edges, “kinda Christian-ish” beliefs. The truth, as I’ve often said, is that my Christian friends are sometimes quite surprised at how liberal I am, and my liberal friends are sometimes quite surprised at how Christian I am. Which I’m totally OK with, by the way.

My feeling is that whole “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” thing gives me some leeway in which to use my personal experience with God to define and illuminate how I live life and make decisions. I like to think that I’m generous enough to extend that same leeway to my fellow believers even when we are fundamentally on opposite sides of an issue, and for the most part, I am. The glaring exception is when my fellow believers react to opposing viewpoints with outright meanness — I don’t ‘do’ mean.

What has been most shocking to me, is that immediately following the re-election of President Obama the internet has been blitz-krieged with the most destructive kind of scatter-shot, intensely personal attacks, mostly by Christians aimed at each other. Let me be even more specific: mostly by Christians who supported Romney aimed at Christians who supported Obama. I’m not talking about people expressing disappointment in the results, or honest concern for the direction they perceive the country is going. I’m talking vile name-calling and bitter rain-down-the-wrath-of-God-on-your-whole-family/hope-you-die-and-go-to-hell-with-all-of-the-other-Muslim-lovers stuff.

I have seen photos of flags flying at half-mast and bloody aborted fetuses accompanied by dire predictions of world wars and the furiously impassioned desire to move to another country or secede from the Union. I have read that “America died” and “Satan is in the White House.” I have heard the seated, legally elected President of the United States called absolutely everything but a child of God by people who use the name of Jesus to sanctify their hate. Most upsettingly, some of this has come not just from Facebook and Twitter “friends,” but from people I actually know and (used to) respect. They obviously feel it is not only their God-given right, but their God-ordained mission to assassinate the name, character, reputation and family of Barack Obama.

And, frankly? I call bullshit on that.

You can dress it up any way you want, but if you identify yourself as a Christian, hating, disrespecting and dehumanizing another human being is indefensible. Period. This is not a holy war against a Godless infidel– this is a political election that was won by a man who ALSO identifies himself as a Christian. And if you think that you have the right to deny his claim of faith, I would suggest that you base your damnation on something other than the fact that you fervently disagree with him on issues that are very important to you. You may be right on those issues and he may be dead wrong–or vice versa– but that doesn’t mean either one of you can legitimately claim to KNOW what is in the heart and spirit of the other. And continuing to insist that you know Obama is a follower of the Muslim religion while he consistently affirms that he has accepted Christ as his Savior just makes you look like a willfully ignorant fool.

You don’t have to look as far away as the White House to find a Christian that you don’t think lives up to YOUR standards of the faith because they don’t see eye to eye with you on every issue– you can just look down the pew at some of the Christians you worship with every Sunday. I can guarantee there are people in your church, Bible study, heck, FAMILY that don’t interpret every tenet of your shared faith the exact way you do. And for every spiritual or political issue that seems absolutely non-negotiable/black and white to you based on your interpretation of scripture, your background and your life experience? I can also guarantee you there are those you are in fellowship with that, based on their interpretation of scripture, background and life experience, feel just as strongly that those issues have more sides/nuances to them than you might be willing to accept– but I would propose that neither one of you are in a position to kick the other one out of the family of God.

I personally place full responsibility for the appalling, brother-against-brother divisiveness of this election season firmly at the feet of my fellow Christians. I hold us to a higher standard than the battling pundits that spin their opinions on Fox News and CNN. Extremists from both political parties will always be at each other’s throats in the press, that’s what they do– it’s their schtick, it gets ratings and it builds careers. But there is no excuse for us to mimic that behavior by turning on each other like rabid dogs and then attempt to use the Bible to condone it. Do you have the right to express your opinion? Of course you do, so do I. Do either one of us have the right to viciously attack people who don’t agree with us? I suppose we do. My question is, why would we want to?

I find it hard to believe that those who have posted insulting, inflammatory diatribes on Facebook and Twitter honestly believe they are helping the cause of Christ or enlightening the minds of non-believers with their oh-so-urgent revelations. I think that, like all humans, sometimes they just get really frustrated and pissed off at the way things are going, and they resent everyone they consider ‘idiots who can’t see what’s in front of their own stupid faces,’ and sometimes it just flat-out feels kind of good to vomit that anger all over the place. Fair enough. But when we cloak those feelings in scripture, and insist that we are only being good little soldiers of the cross by attempting to turn this wayward country back to God– well, at the very least we are perhaps being just a teeny bit presumptuous and self-deluded, and at worse, we are spitting in the face of one of the most important articles of our faith: 1st Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (Try substituting “differences of opinion” for “sins.”)

As Christians we need to be able to leave room for the remote possibility that maybe we don’t have all of the information and facts all the time, and that even though we feel positive Jesus would absolutely agree with our most passionate beliefs right down the line, perhaps there is still room for God to be God– and in some rare instances, for our most firmly held opinions to be (dare I say it?) honestly and absolutely… wrong. Hey, it could happen. And even if we’re right? The insulting, obnoxious way some people are expressing the unassailable rightness of their position makes it impossible for anyone to take them seriously. They are singlehandedly embodying the worst stereotypical cliches about Christianity and Christians, and handing non-believers on a silver platter about a hundred more good reasons to not want to be associated with the God we claim to serve. In short, to those who have participated in the kind of behavior I have been describing: YOU’RE NOT HELPING.

If you cannot respectfully disagree without turning the dialogue into a flame war? Then shut up and end the discussion. If you feel like it’s up to you to straighten out America and make sure everyone understands how screwed up this administration is? Then shut up and run for office. And if you are convinced that every horrible thing the extremists have ever told you is true, and this country is going to hell in an Obama-shaped hand basket? Then shut up and hit your knees. In a closet. By yourself. Put down your laptop and pick up your Bible. Intercede, don’t interject. Be part of the solution for a change.

I do not accept the argument that Christians who didn’t vote for Obama cannot ‘in good conscience’ pray for him/wish him well/support him as their leader. I am purposely refraining from resorting to the all-too-familiar tactic of listing all of the Bible verses that would back me up on that one, only because I know I would probably be met by a barrage of verses that could be interpreted as good reasons NOT to do all of the above. And therein lies the problem. If people who profess the same faith are able to use the same sacred text that embodies that faith in such a way that both sides can find passages to back up their seemingly irreconcilably opposing viewpoints– how do we ever think we can change the minds and hearts of those who already DON’T view the Bible the same way we do by clobbering them over the head with it?

So in the absence of  complete and total agreement on every single political/social/spiritual issue, how about we Christians try implementing these appallingly secular concepts as a last resort:

Common courtesy and decency.

Basic kindness.

The Golden Rule.

“If you don’t have something good to say…”

Yes, I know that sounds smarmy, simplistic and sophomoric. Yes, I realize it won’t solve the huge problems this nation is facing. But for the love of God, it’s a start!

We can’t keep on actively contributing to the divisiveness all around us while simultaneously wringing our hands in despair over it. We can’t teach a generation of young people by example that it’s acceptable to viciously tear people apart if we disagree with them, and then be shocked at their sneering lack of respect for authority. And we can’t use the same mouth to bless the people who agree with us and curse the ones who don’t, and expect that to be acceptable to the God we say we believe in. (See how I did that? Snuck that scripture reference in just now?)

So, I’m asking– are YOU willing to tone down the rhetoric, respectfully agree to disagree, treat each other with kindness? Can YOU let go of the need to be right and the drive to convince others you are? Can YOU back off on the nay-saying, doomsday-predicting negativity long enough to speak a word of encouragement to someone who might really need to hear it? Can we somehow manage to find, focus in on and celebrate the common ground we do share?

I think we’re capable of it, if we’ve got the stomach for it.

And if you truly feel that you would be in error as a Christian if you didn’t stand up and attack what you absolutely believe to be wrong? Please know that there are also godly, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians who believe just as strongly and beyond any shadow of a doubt that YOU are the one that’s wrong.

I’m just proposing that we stop trying to beat the hell out of each other in the name of God.

I’m just proposing that if someone has to be in error, maybe we can all agree to err on the side of love.

BlogHer Reviewer