Friday, July 8, 2016

Soldiers in the Social Media Wars or Disciples of Christ?

If you spend much time on social media or reading articles, watching television, or listening to the radio, then you know that you are defined by those who disagree with you. It's all or nothing.

Support Trump? You're a bigoted, uneducated, moron.
Support Hillary? You're somebody who is either a snobby, elitist know-it-all who wants to aid and abet terrorists or you are somebody who doesn't work for a living and wants to live off of other people's hard work.

Support gun rights? You are heartless and uncaring about children being gunned down in schools.
In favor of gun control? You are just another example of what oppressive governments do in order to control their people.

In favor of Brexit? You're acting out of fear and out of dislike of immigrants.
Against Brexit? You're cowardly and lack patriotism.

Speak highly of the police? Then you don't think black lives are important.
Concerned about black persons being shot? You don't think police lives matter.

Against gay marriage? You hate gay people.
For gay marriage? You're an ideologue committed to the overthrow of Western Civilization.

It's not only happening in the world of politics, but it is also happening in the life of the Church. 

Like Pope Francis' style? You must be a heretic.
Like Pope Benedict's style? You must hate sinners.

Like the Latin Mass? You must hate Vatican II.
Like Praise and Worship Music? You must lack substance.

Are there people in the world who do commit horrifically evil acts? Of course there are. But, couldn't we all agree, that for the most part, the people with whom we are friends on social media are probably not in the same league as Hitler or Osama Bin Laden?  Couldn't we agree that, while we have certain liturgical sensibilities, persons who disagree with us are not actively trying to destroy the Church? 

Social media and the media in general seems to be the battlefield of the new civil and ecclesial wars.  Obviously sometimes social media is just good fun and banter. But, sometimes, instead of being friendly debate or even serious and thoughtful debate, it turns into a war; a war that is not designed to persuade others ,but designed to provoke, antagonize, and anger others.  (By the way, I'm not pontificating here. I'm guilty too). 

This morning, I was reading the Gospel of Mark where we are told that Jesus was rejected in his hometown.  It's probably fair to conclude that if Jesus wanted to win the debate with his detractors, he could have done so handily.  Instead, he did something that kind of shocks our social media sensibilities.  He just left. He was rejected and left.  Immediately after this, He sends out the Twelve, two by two, instructing them that if any place rejects them, they should just shake the dust of that town from their feet and leave.  Disciples follow the Master. 

Do we need to cry out when there is injustice? Yes. Do we need to vigorously defend the weak and the vulnerable? Yes. Do we need to defend the Catholic Faith? Yes. Should we make our voices heard as citizens who have the right to express ourselves on all manner of issues? Yes. But, we must learn to do it with hearts filled with the peace of the Gospel, a peace that enables us to speak the truth in love and then, if rejected, to walk away. Our hearts must burn with the fire of his love and not with the fire of anger.  

When it comes specifically to proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel, there is a lot at stake. Those who love the Gospel and the Catholic Faith do so because they know that it contains what is man's ultimate happiness. When we see it threatened, opposed, misrepresented, or maligned, we are tempted to throw another battalion into the battle. But, Jesus left Nazareth. They rejected him and he left. Jesus allows himself to be rejected. He allows himself to be crucified. The martyrs--the great company of witnesses to Jesus--followed the Lord and allowed themselves to be rejected.  The Church teaches us that it is through the blood of martyrs that the seed of Faith is watered. 

Today, throughout the world, many Christians are, in fact, being martyred. They are being killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe those of us who share their Faith but not their circumstances could nonetheless unite ourselves to them. Perhaps we could be willing to preach the Gospel, be rejected, and then leave. Not leave Nazareth, but leave the heated social media arguments. Maybe, this method might water the seeds of faith more than our heated debates and clever name-calling. 

It feels like everybody is looking for a fight these days. Everybody is looking to demonize those who disagree with them. Everybody is trying to divide people into one camp or another. In a world marked by so much hatred, division, pride, anger, and cynicism, we have the Gospel of love, communion, humility, joy, and hope! The world is ripe right now for hearing the Gospel! There are so many beautiful examples of how Christ is working in our lives. Sharing the Gospel through social media is a tremendous idea, but, our methods--whether we are speaking about the Gospel itself or our opinions on any topic--ought to transform social media rather than succumb to social media's darkest and most vicious side.

There is so much anger, violence, and hatred in the world right now. Our social media posts shouldn't contribute to that. We should preach the joy of the Gospel and witness to it. And, if rejected, we ought to do what disciples do--get up and follow Jesus wherever he leads us next. 

1 comment:

  1. If everyone followed Jesus, and respected other peoples opinions, and had common respect for each other, this world would be a much better place to live!
    I could not agree with you more Fr. Barnes.