“You just have to find a way to take all your passion and energy and say the things you need to say, without being so political.”
This is what a friend said recently as we spoke about the state of things. She is so right. But that’s easier said than done. It seems impossible to have a conversation anymore without someone making thousands of assumptions about what you are saying before you’ve ever actually said a thing – and I am prone to doing the same.
I live each day so frustrated and anxious and I know most people are feeling the same. No matter who you voted for – frustration and angst seems to be the last thing we all have in common.
We need to figure out how to push through this bubble.
Social media is not the problem – I really believe that. We are the problem. Our inexperience with handling this level of connection is the problem. But social media is just yet one more physical manifestation of the reality that God has been trying to help us see for a very long time. The division that is magnified via social media has been growing for decades, but like the proverbial frog who sits in the slowly heating pot of water – we didn’t notice how hot things were getting until now – when things start boiling over.
In the book of John, chapter 17, John recounts how Jesus prayed to God to make us one. To help us see our connectivity. There are many times in scripture where Jesus talked about how we impact one another and how what we do is about more than just us. Social media is an ugly mirror into the dark reality of that truth.
But let’s be honest, social media is not a cause….it is a mirror. It is only allowing us to see what our actions have always been capable of doing. It is showing we are all really and truly connected and our thoughts, words, and actions have much broader implications than we realize. Social media is teaching us an ancient lesson in a new way: We belong to one another – and that is an awesome responsibility that we’ve not taken seriously for far too long.
True to form, we are starting out by making a tremendous mess of this new tool. It’s what we do. It’s how things work. But we will get better at leveraging this new way of seeing. Already there are things that happen in pockets of the connectivity that work for good….those can grow. But I would implore you, young and old, not to bemoan social media but to see it as a physical manifestation of a spiritual truth. We are one. What is in our heart and minds, what escapes our lips, it changes the world for good or ill. It has always been that way – and it is undeniable now. Social media will do great things when we do great things.
So all that is well and good but how do we move from angst to peace. How do we move from bludgeoning one another over the virtual head on a daily basis to acknowledging our interconnectivity?
Now that we’ve created this mess of ‘us and them’ how do we help one another out of the hole? Or, at the very least, how do we stop digging? Or as my friend put it – how can I ‘stop being so political’ without just turning it all off? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. So I’ll run through my list of concerns and what conclusions I’ve come to – or what I’m stumbling toward at least.
(Caveat: I haven’t figured it all out and I’ll probably still get fed up and regretfully like/share/post something I should not – so this is not meant to be a post for you to bludgeon me with one day. Thank you in advance:)
1. It’s a luxury to ignore the daily politics when so many cannot – therefore it is my duty to subject myself to the media storm of talking heads:
I have a passion for the working poor, immigrants (documented and un-documented), those who struggle in poverty, our education system, refugees, minority populations who are subjected to verbal and physical attacks, our elder and disabled population who are losing funding for so many services, the mentally ill, substance abuse, people who have been hurt by the church, women who have had abortions or who may have in the future – their families and babies, our struggling healthcare system, our military, police, and emergency workers who face such hostile environments, young adults struggling to make it in an expensive economy – the list is unending for what can break my heart on a daily basis.
The truth is that I’m paralyzing my ability to make any difference by feeding myself a steady diet of outrage. Perhaps it is a luxury to be able to turn it off, but it is also a necessity if I’m going to use my privileged position in this world to make a bit of difference.
I think the balance for me is to find grassroot organizations, or form grassroot organizations, that are going to be active in local and national elections and participate in their efforts. I receive daily alerts of actions and phone calls I can make to my representatives on matters I care about. I am certain I will know of the big things that happen, therefore I will avoid the political talking heads more every day. More avoidance…every day. More real action…every day. Less outrage, more action.
2. I want to unify and find common ground but I feel like I can’t say certain words without everyone in the room shutting down, locking the door of their bunker, and taking up arms to defend their position.
For example these are the topics I would like people to sit down and discuss: Gun Control, LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, refugees, education reform, poverty and social welfare, mental health, abortion, racism, prison reform, justice system reform overall, community policing initiatives.
I mean I would REALLY like to sit down with a diverse group of people and really get to some root understanding of how people think about these issues. Not people who think like I do, but specifically people who think differently. I would love to find a group of people who wanted to come together with the goal of understanding each other – that’s it. End of story. No influencing, no persuading, no fighting – just help me understand how you see these issues – and please let me see that you are trying to understand how I see them.
I got nothing on this one other than a deep desire to do it and a very low expectation that it will happen.
So, this is worth spending some time on, because I actually think this is our only hope.
Speaking of hope…
3. Our church recently laid out our beliefs and the fourth one was:
A deep sense of hope that every situation can be changed for the better.
As we talked through this as a leadership team later I just broke down, because I do believe this but I also don’t believe this…
I think that Jesus was the hope of the world. What he expected of people – how he expected us to act toward one another and treat one another – that was the hope of the world. And then He passed the baton to His church and WE are now the hope of the world. The church is supposed to be the hope of the world – the whole entire world – by loving and taking care of people. And if the church is willing to lay down on the job – if the church decides to lock the doors and just take care of the ‘insiders’ than there is no hope. So I waffle between this core belief in the ongoing hope of Jesus and the surface level despair of what feels like a locked up church.
The good news here is that Jesus never expected there to be a billions and billions of people walking the narrow road of loving people like He did. He knew that He would always just have a little yeast. And I think that there are a lot of people that the ‘church’ doesn’t even think are Christians who are out there doing the work that Jesus laid out. So when I stop and think about it, I never really lose hope, but I sure do get disappointed if I’m not careful.
The other good news is that there are a lot of people who are hungry for what Jesus offers. Looking back at points 1 and 2 – we can leverage our connectivity to bring people together and help them see past the rhetoric to our common humanity. When we do that there is mystical stuff that happens – God is still a God of miracles and if the connectivity of social media has amped up the negativity, the exponential impact it can have on positive work will be blinding.
And for my friends who don’t buy in to the Jesus stuff – we need you to. The God I believe in is so much bigger than labels. If you are ready to love and make things better – everyone is in. That’s been super clear from the beginning – everyone is in. If you are for good, you are for good.
What now? Well, I’m not sure. My to do’s are to cut down on the media, find some grass roots local stuff, and keep trying to be hope. My dream would be for our local churches to stop talking about what we believe or don’t believe so much and start meeting together to work on the real problems of our community. Let’s put down doctrine and pick up hurting people. Let’s lay down who’s in and who’s out and start binding wounds. Let’s not start with how you interpret this scripture or that scripture – let’s start with – how can we, as the hope of the world, start making a difference in southwest Missouri. And let’s do this together – not church by church – but as a community for our community. We are one.
Before we had scripture to fight over we had someone like us, who taught us how to live with one another, so let’s go back to the beginning and start there.