I think the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was a Facebook post I read two weeks ago.
It was a Sunday and I was putting something on the church Facebook page. My eye was drawn to a post that was sharing some commentary about the death of Nancy Reagan. It caught my attention. I didn’t care about the commentary, I just didn’t know that the former first lady had died. (With seven kids, staying up on the news cycle has become a priority somewhere between writing the great American novel and trying out for the NBA. Things I would like to do, but have no time for.) I have no particular affection for Mrs. Reagan, it’s just that her husband was the president of my childhood.
The commentary on her passing was pretty harsh. The writer was not a fan of Mrs. Reagan. And then came the comments. I know it is a mistake to read them, but since some of them were by people I know, I couldn’t help it.
They were brutal.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by what people are willing to say online. But a woman had just died. A woman who actually never held office. Yet, she was called despicable names. Called a racist. A homophobe. And numerous words I choose not to write here because they are beyond offensive. Some of those posting a comment consider themselves Christians. But they simply joined the chorus.
Again, let me make it clear. I am not some kind of fanboy of the Reagans. There were many policy thoughts shared in the commentary about which I know nothing. What I am writing is not about politics. It is not about Nancy Reagan. This is about us. About Christians. About how we talk. About how we talk online. About how we talk about politics.
The apostle Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He doesn’t say be kind, unless you disagree politically. Be gentle unless you think the other person doesn’t share your political philosophy. Be patient except with those who don’t think exactly like you.
I wonder if you took all that Christian’s post or write online about politics, would the word joy describe any of it? We claim to want peace, but our words stir up divisiveness and animosity. In the name of love (loving our country, loving the poor) we spew vitriol and hatred.
What are we doing? I am truly flabbergasted.
The only thing I can think to say in response is simply this:
Stop. Just stop.
The hateful rhetoric with which we often talk politics is blatantly unchristian. Yet we cannot seem to be close to civil when discussing the other party’s candidates, or remotely objective when discussing our party’s. Much of what we claim about the goodness of Christ goes out the window once we start discussing welfare and social security, Obamacare and guns. Our speech shows we care more about an earthly election than the kingdom of God. And we need to stop!
Just because the other person’s politics doesn’t fit your view of social justice doesn’t give you the right to call them a racist. STOP.
No more name calling. STOP.
No more assuming the motives of someone with whom we disagree. STOP.
No more calling people evil because they choose to vote differently. STOP.
Liberals are not libtards. STOP.
Conservatives aren’t fascists. STOP.
And by the way, a rant on Facebook that your twenty friends read isn’t an act of social justice. Just STOP.
In an effort to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, perhaps the best thing for many of us to do is to not comment. To resist the urge to immediately make our case. To learn the art of shutting up. To just STOP! If love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness are not going to be a part of what we say, then we need to exercise some self-control. Just don’t speak.
Recently, I have heard many people ask, “How can someone call themselves a Christian and vote for Trump?” Here is a better question: How can someone talk about others the way we do and still claim we are following Jesus?
There are many concerned with Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. They worry that his words will lead us into a rough place as a nation. Perhaps. But my take is that his words aren’t new. His attitude is something I have read in the comments for years. He is a reflection. Not a reflection of a particular political philosophy. But a reflection of a cultural attitude. Attack. Name call. Show blatant disregard for those with whom you disagree. This isn’t something new. It is how many of us already act. And we need to stop.