As the campaign rhetoric intensifies, I hear people saying that they have sworn off Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets to avoid inflammatory posts from “friends” and family members. I don’t blame them–I think social media should be a fun way to connect with people and I try to keep my own social media forums drama-free. Although I’ve shared a few snarky political pieces on my personal Facebook page, I try to remember that not all of my friends share my views. I might trade a few comments with someone with a different opinion, but I try to remain respectful and will walk away (click away?) if things start to get too heated. Just like in a “real” conversation, we’ve shared our views, we know that neither of us is going to change the other’s mind, so it’s time to change topics.
A few months ago I heard a theory that one of the reasons that our society is so polarized today is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who share our views. With Facebook and Twitter we can choose whom we interact with, and we tend to choose people who think like we do. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this–don’t we tell our children to choose their friends carefully?–but we need to guard against developing an “us” versus “them” mentality, regardless of whether the boundary between “us” and “them” is religious, political, dietary or fitness-related.
What does the Bible tell us about this? In a quick search, I found three instances in different chapters of Luke where Jesus was accused of keeping company with “sinners.”
In chapter 7, Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman. That Jesus even let himself be touched by such a sinful woman made the Pharisee doubt who he was:
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
In chapter 15, the Pharisees scorned Jesus for sharing meals with tax collectors:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
In chapter 19, Jesus was criticized for keeping company with Zacchaeus, a wealthy chief tax collector.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Jesus saw beyond the “sins” of these people–and many others–and understood that they all were beloved children of God. He did not let human dividing lines dictate with whom he would spend His time, or with whom He would share the Good News of God’s love.
I was reminded of this issue again when I saw this print ad sponsored by the Virginia Theological Seminary, which is a twist on the Apostle’s Creed (the Episcopalian tenets of faith):
It was a reminder that I needed to see. No matter how convinced I am of my own views, because I am only human, I simply can’t be right all the time. I need to listen to others, respect different opinions, and understood that the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
In real life and through social media, I am connected with people of different religious faiths (or none), different political views (or none), different dietary rules (or none), and different exercise programs (or none). All of these people enrich my life through both our similarities and our differences, and I value them all–you all–as friends. I would not want someone to define me by my views on healthcare reform, my omnivore diet, or my love of running, so I have to guard against drawing my own line between “us” and “them.”
Are your social media-connections one-sided or multi-faceted?