I recently found myself scanning through past rooted content. “Hmmm,” I noticed, “nothing in the current events category for two months. Time to do something about that.”
So I started writing. First attempt was on the ongoing unrest in Ferguson. Before I ever finished, I gave up. I already knew that to some I would sound sympathetic to a person who shot cops and sound like a white privileged racist to the rest. No winning that one. All my other attempts went down the same way. Hillary Clinton emails? Either too Republican or too Democrat. Oklahoma State? Free speech or flaming racism again.
It didn’t matter. Whatever I wrote on was going to be too polarized and politicized and there was no longer room for rational argument. Throw in vaccinations, essential oils, music / dress, immigration, home schooling and common core and the picture is nearly complete.
Which is really weird. Because our reading audience is pretty much entirely professing Christians. Ostensibly we all share the same worldview. Of course, there’s lots of room for difference within that broader perspective. Christians don’t all have to think the same—it wouldn’t even be good if we did. But one would still think we hold enough in common to have a discussion (Phil. 1:9). Or at least start one. Why can’t we?
“I am the Bastion of my Viewpoint”
My suspicion is that our responses are so extreme because we’re guarding some cherished concern. “My Dad was a cop so I understand how hard their decisions are,” or “I’ve spent hours researching vaccines and I’m convinced this is the right thing for my kids.”
Even more often it’s connected to how we want to be viewed. We want to appear funny, smart, informed, well-read, insightful and up to date. So we say things and choose opinions and post articles that shape that image (Prov. 13:10).
But that can become nuclear war as soon as someone else disagrees. Now it transforms into “he’s acting like my cop-Dad’s a racist” or “she’s implying that I’m a bad Mom for endangering my children” or “they’re saying I’m stupid for what I posted last week.” Or to be more honest, “how dare they say my view is wrong? Stupid jerks.” And so I must defend my viewpoint at all costs—to the death (of everyone else) if need be.
Don’t Forget—You’re Talking to People
And oddly this does seem to be magnified somehow online. We now rub up against each other’s viewpoints on a daily basis. But I also think the internet gives a weird non-personal anonymity. Who really has any kind of personal connection with all of their Facebook friends anyway? And we act in ways we never would if face to face. I’ve had people rip me up that knew nothing about me, only to be embarrassed when we actually met in person later. Oddly we seem to forget that on the other end of that comment is a living human being. If we did, we would want to be better stewards of our influence.
Steward Your Influence
A few weeks ago I met an Australian atheist outside of a bakery. He made some digs on Americans. I let it go. He made some hard digs on missionaries and preachers. I let it go. Then he said that the idea of God is a lie designed to control people. I pushed back and it turned into a conversation about God and eternity.
But had I jumped on any of the other prods it would have derailed the whole thing (Matt. 12:36). I don’t need to defend Americans; I don’t even need to defend missionaries. There’s a bigger thing going on and it’s called the gospel. I only have so much voice; I only have so much space to argue. If I’m going to choose something to fervently talk about, I’d like it to be the most important thing in my life. I don’t just want to be the pro-immigration / anti-vaccine / can’t stand essential oils / apple stinks… guy. I’d rather define myself by something bigger—something that matters.
And I suspect that by yelling so loudly about nearly everything, we’re obscuring the big thing (Matt. 12:36). I do have personal opinions about most of the above hot issues. But I’d rather leave the doorway open for someone to know what matters to me first and foremost. And in the process I’d rather not leave scorched earth behind from a thousand pet peeves, insults and debates.
At some point next month there’s going to be a big important event and everybody’s going to sort themselves out on their opinions and viewpoints. Then they’re going to set out to convince everyone else to think that way too, which is really pretty pointless because everyone else will be trying to do the same thing. That’ll keep on happening until something new happens and they forget about the first thing, which doesn’t seem so important anyway because a new thing is here.
And meanwhile you have one thing that’s infinitely more important than all of that—always has been and always will be.
See them as humans. Save your voice. Steward your influence. Tell them about Jesus.