Christmas might be the perfect time to start a Facebook fight. Hear me out….
It’s been a few days now since the whole internet lost its mind. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably asking yourself if it’s even worth it. I’ve had a few friends say, “You know what? I’m getting off of Facebook for a while. If you want to talk to me, you can talk to me in person.” I’ve had an interesting vantage point to watch all this Duck Dynasty (I hesitate to even write those words, because people are so through talking about it) brouhaha go down, because A BLOG POST I WROTE about it went viral. It basically said “This isn’t about free speech,” “This isn’t religious persecution,” and “Let’s be nice to each other while we disagree, because if you’re mean while representing Jesus, people will think that’s what Jesus is about. And it’s not.” And then I sat back and watched as a bunch of Christians called each other idiots and morons and fools….
I guess what I wrote connected with a lot of people. I think part of the reason was because it wasn’t attempting to say, “Phil is a bad guy” or “Phil is a good guy,” but because it was trying to provide some perspective. So a lot of people shared it. A lot. And, as just about everyone who shared something about Duck Dynasty found out, within minutes there were often 20 comments declaring who was right and who was wrong. People got angry. And triggered beneath all of that anger and controversy was an important conversation about Homosexuality and Political Correctness and Jesus and Judgment that isn’t going to get sorted right this moment. I believe it won’t be long…. just not quite yet–Especially not when everyone is yelling at each other. The lesson that many people took from all this yelling and uncomfortableness (other than a general sense of Christians be trippin’) is that it’s just not even worth it to say anything. Nobody changes anyone else’s mind. Everyone is crazy! Why even bother speaking up? Next time I’m just going to stay out of it!!!
Sometimes I think that the internet is like a passive aggressive relative at Christmas dinner. We all know that one person–especially around the holidays–who allows everyone else at the table to remain comfortable, as long as we agree to play by his or her rules. It’s that dysfunctional silence after a racist uncle says something he’s aware was wildly offensive, but, with his eyes, dares someone to point it out. It’s the knowledge that if you respond to that in-law’s rant with something like, “Actually, I believe ObamaCare is going to help a whole lot of people, and I think that’s a pretty cool thing,” it is going to be met by such furious and righteous anger that she is going to make things miserable for EVERYONE. It’s quietly enduring a father’s homophobic joke in order to keep the peace. Everyone at the table has been conditioned to know that it’s best to just not say anything at all.
People use these same tactics on the internet as well. If you decide to question social norms or debate the status quo or (God forbid) challenge people’s worldview, people will respond by trying to make things as uncomfortable as possible. What they’re doing is attempting to teach the people around them–with their anger and their insults and their CAPS LOCK–that if you rock the boat, I’m going make sure the fit hits the shan. And it’s even worse online than it is at the Christmas table, because not having to look someone in their eyes allows people to be even meaner than usual. There are people out there (quite a few, actually) who will go through the trouble of setting up a new eMail address just so they can anonymously go onto the comments section of a blog like mine and call a stranger a “faggot.” And we see these sorts of reactions, it starts to look like the problem is just too big. It’s no use. If I speak up and attempt to speak some sanity into all that craziness–If I try to speak some love into all that hate, nothing will change. It’s just not worth it. And the world starts to feel more and more hopeless. And cynicism sets in….
But Christmas is no time for cynicism. Christmas is a time for hope. The Christmas story is a story of speaking love into hatred. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family sitting around a table where everyone has learned that you don’t rock the boat, but having a Father who loved us enough to speak one true Word into that dysfunction, knowing full well what the consequence would be. Christmas is the story of a God who looked at a dysfunctional world and said, “It’s worth it.” It’s the story of a light in the darkness, like a bright star in the night sky. It’s a story of encouragement, and it’s a story of hope for the hopeless.
Over the past few days, I have literally had hundreds of people (whom I’ve never met) tell me about how unchristian and hypocritical and stupid I am (and those were just the comments on my blog. I can’t even imagine all of the stuff that was said on the Facebook comments). I watched as people took an attempt at a call for tolerance and a rational, kind conversation, and turned it into a place for people to take a belligerent dump all over strangers who happen to believe something different than they do. But the most discouraging part about this whole ordeal for me has been the people who tried to stand up for their gay friends and neighbors, and after the dust settled, looked at their decision to speak up and said, “It wasn’t worth it. Next time I’m going to stay out of it.”
NO!!! That is not the lesson to learn from this! Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that every time someone writes something ignorant or hateful on Facebook, we have to respond to it. We have to choose our battles and be wise, and sometimes wisdom tells us to just keep our mouth shut. If our silence comes from a place of wisdom, that’s one thing, but if it comes from a place of hopelessness–If it comes from a place of cynicism–that is not okay. Not at Christmas. Not ever. We can’t stay quiet just because a bunch of jackasses try to make things as uncomfortable as possible and start calling people names and trying to hurt feelings. These people are internet terrorists, setting off bombs of hate in public places, trying to make us all afraid to say anything of any real importance, and conditioning us all to STAY OUT OF IT.
And “staying out of it” is a very sane response to all this craziness. The sane ones understand that they’re probably not going to change crazy’s mind. But here’s the thing: If the only people who are sharing links, who are posting comments, who are saying what they believe…. If the only people who are speaking up about the important stuff are the crazy ones, then to a giant portion of the people looking on, it’s going to seem like the whole world is crazy and mean and worthless. And it’s not! It’s a world that God looks at and says, “It’s worth it!” And we, the ones who call ourselves followers of Jesus, have a responsibility to speak life into a world full of death. To speak love into hatred. To speak truth into lies. To speak sanity into craziness. And to speak light into darkness. We have a responsibility to not let the only voice that the world hears be the voice of the guy yelling the word “faggot.” We’re probably not going to change that guy’s mind, just like we’re probably not going to change the mind of that old, passive-aggressive aunt at the Christmas table…. But there are kids watching, and we have a responsibility to let them know that this is not how things work.
The last time I saw my father alive was at my family’s Christmas party. His anger and dysfunction and addiction hung in the air like a lead blanket. He could control a whole room full of people with the threat of how uncomfortable he was able (and willing) to make it for them. I know all about the silent approval of dysfunction. When my dad exploded on the room with a litany of offenses that day, we all looked on in stunned silence. When his finger suddenly pointed at my sweet wife, the only response available to me was anger. Looking back now, I realize he was only able to make things as uncomfortable as we were willing to let him. And I was only as offendable as I allowed myself to be. A loving reaction–a strong reaction–A Jesus reaction would have been compassion and understanding and an offering of help. Instead, my reaction was the words, “We’re leaving.” And those words still haunt me….
At the end of the movie “Seven,” Morgan Freeman’s character says the words, “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” So here’s the last thing I’ll say: If you are unable to respond to ignorance and hatred in a loving way, then please (and I’m talking to myself here too), do us all a favor and keep your stupid mouth shut. But if you are in a place where you are able and have the opportunity to speak life and love and truth and sanity and light into an otherwise dysfunctional world, don’t you DARE stay silent because you think “it’s not worth it.” Not at Christmas. Not ever. It IS worth it.
Thank-you for this. As a gay Christian struggling with that situation, I was one who stayed silent, because it just wasn’t worth poking the sleeping lion. Again, thank-you for injecting some sanity.
Wow, that means a whole lot to me, Greg. One of the things I do for my day job is a Bullying Prevention Program. And anyone who does bullying prevention can tell you that that the way to change a bullying culture is NOT to just focus on the relatively few kids who are doing the bullying–The way to change things is by addressing the bystander. It’s who most of us are: People who stand around and watch. People who are afraid to say anything.
May we all have the courage to stand up for someone who feels powerless to do anything to make it stop themselves, and may we be brave enough to be the voice for someone whose voice has been silenced. At Christmastime, and all the time!
True that. Lines ARE being drawn. Just not the one’s people think.
Chills. Just beautiful. This is a beautiful piece of writing with such an important and worthy message. I’m one of the ones who shared your post because I agreed. It also made me a new follower of yours. I’ll also be sharing this one. Merry Christmas.
Fancy bumping into you! We obviously have the same taste in awesome blog posts. 🙂 I love when I see a friend out in the blogosphere!
Haha! Hi! Yes we obviously do and I love it when that happens! Hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas!
Thank you so much!! Merry Christmas to you too.
It really does.
Wow! This is amazing. I believe I said every one of those things in my head after some bigoted friends made hateful posts on some articles I shared. One of them “defriended” me, but it was for the best. I always stayed calm outwardly, and I knew I had to say what others wouldn’t, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t still hurt and baffled at their words and offensive posts they shared. Thank you for encouraging people to continue to spread the love, even in the face of so much negativity. If we become silent, the only message out there will be the wrong one. I truly appreciate you.
Thanks–I appreciate you too, Susan.
Moved to tears, both by your words and by the possibility that your attempt to bring light, love, and sanity into this sometimes dark, hateful, crazy world might have caused you any heartache. Stay kind and strong, and know that you are making a difference.
Right back atcha, sister….
For what it is worth, I came to the post you’re speaking of through a Facebook share by a friend, and all of the comments underneath her share were positive, with a sense of, “Heck yeah. Why aren’t more people saying things like this?” Including my own. So you can feel good that there is hope in at least one little corner of the internet. While it looked like you certainly had some disappointing comments, the fact that so many shared the post means you have put into words what they were thinking. Most aren’t likely to share something they disagree with. So we have the 10K+ who shared it and my little corner of the internet at least looking to find ways to use love as a way to deal with situations like this. I say that’s a good start.
This piece was equally as thoughtful. Nice job.
Thanks for the encouragement!
Thank you for being a light in the darkness. I’ve just started reading your blog ( I know, where’ve I been…under a rock?) and so agree with what you said in this latest post. Many blessings to you always.
I ran across your website yesterday and read three of your blogs. I enjoyed what you said. Have a great Christmas. Keeping lighting the candle in the darkness.
You do the same!
Merry Christmas. I love your blog and your message.
Thank you for this, it’s my answer to my prayer, and reminds me once again God hears. ❤
I love your blog and message. My brother came out 23 years ago. He’s been in a loving relationship 22 years and they got married in Washington, DC last summer. Two days before our family Christmas dinner our sister decided to support Phil Robertson on Facebook. It split our family wide open. Because I love both my brother and his husband I spoke up loudly. The pain this has caused is like a physical pain. Jesus taught love. There was no love in what she did. I cannot stand racism and bigotry wrapped up in Christianity. Please keep blogging, your words are a comfort.
You are brave, and I look up to you for this post. I don’t think it could have been said any better. In my opinion, it was a Very Chritian thing to do. I don’t know how many comments you get like this, but I hope you see the change and inspiration you give to others. However much the numbers outweigh for the hateful comments, I hope that ones such as this can lift u up and pull you though, give you a light in the darkest night, give you hope.
I’m a new reader of your blog, and I’m kind of speechless after reading this because it speaks so much to where I’m at right now, having consciously decided that trying to speak truth into the craziness is not worth it. I’ve taken to hiding offensive posts from my feed on FB or blocking reposts from certain sites to keep my head from exploding. I have the impression that a number of my Christian friends have blocked me anyway for disagreeing with the constant stream of predictable Christian outrage over this or that. I totally agree with everything you say, but at this point, I’m asking God where he wants me to put my energies, as I find fighting the good fight on social media to be extremely taxing. I’m considering your words though, and maybe God is pointing me back in that direction. I appreciate your blog, and Merry Christmas! (oops, Happy Holidays???)
Just started following your blog after a friend shared your “Duck Dynasty” piece. I think you now have a larger following and are reaching such a wider audience. How cool is that! I just want to say that when it comes to people being mean and calling names that it can only hurt you if you let it. I know that I am a child of God and there is nothing anyone can say to change that. There is no name calling that can touch me. I have that inner peace that allows me to feel sad for those angry people. How much energy it takes to be so angry all the time. I hope for everyone to be able to know the peace of Gods love in their lives.
Beautiful post! We do need to realize that those comments are made by a very vocal MINORITY. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
Thank you! I read your original Duck Dynasty post. As a Christian, I was disgusted at the so called Christian love we were showing our brothers and sisters on that day. What you said completely captured the situation in your original post and this one…so again…thank you.
Excellent! Just had diversity training where they said silence to racism, bullying, etc. is confirmation. You are right though, do not respond in hatred. Loved your blog on the Pope!
I have stayed out of the whole Duck Dynasty mess for a number of reasons: 1.) I thought – of course an old redneck is a homophobe & racist – I know lots of older (mostly southern) people that are and at their age, they aren’t likely going to change. 2.) I’m tired of being pissed off. 3.)The hypocrisy sometimes makes me physically ill, i.e. the people now shouting for “freedom of speech” didn’t feel that way about the Dixie Chicks or anyone else that says anything that they don’t like. 4.) I grow weary of trying to have a rational conversation with irrational people – they WANT to be angry about something or at someone.
That being said – when people were trying to defend him by saying, “Well, being homosexual is a sin.”, I want to strangle myself – in my humble opinion, a SIN is when something you do intentionally causes pain to someone else and it’s even more of a sin if you get some sick enjoyment out of hurting them. I’m also tired of people equating being a Christian with being moral – I am not a Christian and I work really hard to lead a moral & ethical life. As a matter of fact, I don’t really believe in “sin” per se – I believe in working to love other people and trying to lead an ethical life and not judging other people because their life doesn’t look like yours.
Whatdayaknow – I didn’t stay out of it after all! 🙂
I agree with you that this world is worth fighting for! It is worth loving!
Dude, you rock. period.
Thank you, thank you, thank! I am so glad I found you!
Me too! Nice to meet you, Rose….
Have you written any books? I think my Sunday School class would love to read them if you have.
Right on buddy! In my line of work, (as a social worker), Im always feeling like Im fighting the fight. Yes I dont always agree with a lot of people and their value systems but if they start spewing offensives, then yes I am going to speak up. You are so very right, (even though may times I want to just tell people to STFU) , I just do that in my head and then politely say that while they are entitled to their opinions, I have to not agree. Anyway, keep up the awesome posts, I am definitely feeling like its christmas everytime I open my email and get a new post from you!
That’s a good message. Takes a lot of strength to be patient and kind when you’re challenged to be angry. i mostly fail, have to admit – but you remind me that I should try harder.
another great post. I never considered the fear that goes the daily decision: to reply or to keep my mouth shut. Coming from someone who hate to rock the boat and who grew up in a house where confrontation was synonymous with sin, I often keep my mouth shut. But ya know, I’m a mild tempered gal who could maybe shed a little love & hope in a conversation fueling on hate and judgement. Sometimes it’s easier to keep quiet and let the bozos yack away, but Jesus shut those lousy conversations down all the time.
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