Politically Charged Topics and Christian Online Conduct

socialmedia

I’ve been hesitant to write anything about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I’m an Indiana resident, so it goes without saying that I’ve heard and read one or two things about it, and I do have an opinion about it. But that’s not the point of this post. My opinions are unimportant. What’s important is this: anytime something like this occurs, where a large portion of the Christian population becomes invested in a politically charged debate, conduct becomes the point.

Whenever politics and religion mix, things get ugly, and many things I’ve been seeing from my brothers and sisters in Christ on social media only proves it. I’ve been appalled by some of the things I’ve seen shared and reposted in defense of the bill — so appalled I’ve caught myself shaking in anger that a brother or sister in Christ, who would never speak that way in person, would think it’s a good idea to share the stuff filling my timeline.

James 3:9 – 12 says this about the contents of our speech:

We praise our Lord and Father with [the tongue], and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.

Colossians 4:6 says that our words should always be gracious, as if seasoned with salt, and Jesus asks, in Matthew 5:13, what purpose salt serves if it should lose its flavor. When we behave differently from the world, in both speech and conduct, then we are as salt that seasons the lives of those around us and makes God’s word easier to digest. When we act like the world, and when we use mean-spirited and ungracious words to prove a point, we lose our flavor and become pointless in God’s work.

This is especially important when we start sharing and reposting things to social media. As soon as I share an article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email, or wherever else, I’m making the words of that article my own. If the author uses bad language, I’m taking ownership of those words. If the author is using mean-spirited words, I’m now using mean-spirited words. If the author is acting like a bully, I’m acting like a bully by sharing. I say I’m praising God while belittling others with what I share. I might as well be trying to get sweet and bitter water from the same spring.

I could write much more at this point about the flaws and dangers of our continuing habit of looking to politicians to do our Christian work for us, but I won’t. Perhaps another time. For now, all I want my brothers and sisters to take away is this: we can choose to agree or disagree on a number of secular topics — Indiana’s new religious freedom act being one of many. We don’t have to be ungracious about it. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Be mindful about what you post online. Be mindful about the links you share. Be wary of link-bait titles. Would Jesus actually use words like those? Does the post have a Christ-like tone? Does it line up with the kinds of things found in Philippians 4:8? You may agree with the overall point, but we undermine God and the nature of His message when we share things that are harsh and belittling or that cruelly attack those with whom we disagree. (And I’m sorry, but the defense of “calling it like it is” is no defense at all.)

Be mindful about what you post, especially when polarizing issues arise. Don’t post out of anger or frustration. Don’t post to “score points” against the other side. Stop posting things you have to qualify due to harsh tone or harsher language. Avoid using social media as a mask of anonymity through which you can shelve Christian conduct. Exercise kindness and graciousness online. I beg you — I implore you — think before you link.

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