What grieves me most about our culture is taking a snapshot of one particular part and making it representative of the whole. Social media, news outlets, and even water cooler conversations are filled with such generalities. I could start listing off what those generalities are, but they would be too tiresome and cumbersome to read through.
We have to be willing to engage individuals, not take a snapshot of them from a telescopic lens then write their narrative. It’s not only unfair to that person, but it is also inherently lazy. Are we to such a stage that we refuse to take time to understand individuals as, well, individuals? Are we so ready to identify individuals in light of a group or herd?
Over and over, I find myself repeating a phrase that I actually picked up from the Danny Concannon character on West Wing, when he told his love interest C.J. Cregg, “I just want to talk.” I want to find out the “thing beneath the thing” that motivates people’s thinking and actions. I want to know what people believe and why they believe it.
I don’t want to lob cliches, platitudes, memes, and ugliness over the bow to stir up my enemies or receive likes and affirming comments from my friends –without engaging those on a one-to-one level regarding their ideological trajectories.
I hold to the Scriptures and hold to my Jesus in what some would determine is in a very conservative way when addressing marriage, creation, sin and reconciliation, the exclusivity of Christ and the Trinity, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and that we are rescued by grace through faith in Christ alone.
I also have some political views: some I hold very tightly, some I hold loosely, but I do have my political views that are formed from not only my understanding of Scripture but also from my experiences that bring me where I am today. If I were to outline them today, would one of you take a snapshot of me and place me in a particular camp, knowing all there is to know about why I hold to these particular convictions? Would you be willing to take the time to do so with someone with whom you would disagree?
Marty Duren recently wrote an excellent post called “Back to the Blog” in which he outlines why he is disengaging from social media. I found this one reason compelling:
There was a time, pre-2016’s election cycle, that I hosted near-daily Facebook conversations on a horde of subjects: politics, sciences, news, the Bible. It didn’t matter. Conversations were often long and involved. Often there was sharp disagreement. But, people could engage, be presented with facts and alternative views, and often even—GASP—changed their minds.
That scenario is so rare now it’s a hole-in-one in a hailstorm with geese standing on the green. Both Twitter and Facebook are tribalistic. Disagreement tends toward mockery, derision, and hate. And the truth is, social media depends on amping up people’s emotions to keep them coming back. Things are only getting worse in this election cycle; I do not want to contribute to or succumb to the divisiveness.
There’s that word: tribalistic. You agree with me, you’re in. If you disagree with me, you’re out. We in church world lament the cancel culture in, well, the culture. Yet, do we engage in the same behavior?
Please do not hear something I am not saying: I am not saying you have to agree with everything someone says. What I believe is that, in loving our neighbor, we should not only listen to them, but also speak the truth back to them in love (Ephesians 4:15). We could engage one another’s ideas with disagreement and work to help sharpen each other as followers of Jesus on ideas that are working toward obeying the truths of Scripture.
Let’s be willing to talk to hear everyone’s story so that we may have a hearing for our story… and His story.