Came across an older post I had written in the early part of 2016 when I when I was still at Campbell University. I made no changes to the article, and yet as I read it, I could have written it yesterday...
As I type this, I am sitting in our comfortable red leather chair in our living room (that our cats have become too possessive over I might add) and enjoying my second cup of coffee this morning.
And yes, as a Pastor…I know how cliche what I just typed sounded.
However it is for these small things that I find myself thankful this morning. You see since Friday afternoon Lauren and I had been without power until yesterday evening. The blizzard storm, Jonas, (and when did winter storms start getting names?) covered the RDU area with a mixture of wintery precipitation.
And when I say “mixture” I really mean “ice”.
The 48 hours prior to yesterday’s return of modern convenience was a true eye opener. This of course is not the first time I’ve ever lost power in a storm, but it has been awhile since it occurred. Although many offers from friends and families were extended for a place for us to stay, we decided to hunker down and break out the candles and extra blankets. Not to mention having Fred (a large Golden Retriever) and two cats to share our bed; we were beyond toasty.
So no power means no lights. No hot water (we ran out on the second day). No stove to cook. No way to charge our phones (unless we charged them in the cars…which we did). No Hulu. No Netflix. No internet.
Those last three things I mentioned; it was like living in the 1990’s all over again.
However even with the lack of today’s technology being limited to me, I came to appreciate the circumstance/pleasure that had been obstructed by a self imposed desire of contemporary accessibility (i.e. Hulu, Netflix, Social Media).
Now for those that know me, this may sound a bit farfetched as you know I am a constant reader. Nonetheless, in recent times I have found that I have neglected reading as a form of pleasure. I had begun to recognize it more as a task. Reading for school is the obvious example, and as much as I enjoy studying/learning…I must admit trying to consume enough knowledge/ideas can be taxing at times. But not all of my reading is scholarly. What I discovered in the deafening silence offered by the power outage was that the majority of my reading is now being occupied by the tabloid of my time…social media, and to be more specific: Facebook.
A small disclaimer: I get the benefits of social media. It can be used in lots of positive ways. It brings people together. Everybody has a voice. Etc, etc, etc…
So the question now to be answered is; what is it that personally draws me to social media/Facebook? Why is it that as I lie in bed at night, I scroll through Facebook?
If I’m honest with myself, and for this reflection I really want to be, it’s not for the above mentioned benefits. I’m not doing it to stay connected to high school friends. I’m not using it to check up on current colleagues and peers to share in their pictures of new babies (and trust me there are A LOT of them). I’m not intentionally using it to learn in a traditional sense, although I have learned something in this instance…so maybe that’s a plus. What I’ve come to understand is that I go to Facebook to see one thing.
People end friendships.
People make hurtful statements.
People make harsh claims.
People attack each other.
I could keep going, but I think you get the point.
Sad thing is we could substitute “I” for “People” if we are going for authenticity here.
Yes, everyone has a voice. That voice and its opinion are protected under the First Amendment of these United States. All good and understood.
Yet, do I always need to express my opinion? Is my opinion on certain topics even worth expressing? And when I do feel the need to express, do I need to do in such a way that degrades another’s point of view? When I state my opinion do I state it as fact? Am I looking to dialogue? Do I state it under the presumption that I’m right and you’re wrong?
Western civilization today presents us with a very polarizing worldview. We are given this side, or that side. Yes or no. Black or white. We are taught to oppose “this” and support “that”. Little room is left for discussion or gray areas.
This thinking brought me back to a moment I had in the classroom at Campbell University. As part of a class discussion, we were breaking the class down into subgroups to see what are resources were. We were doing this in order to gain perspective on what we could offer as support to a certain community that we wished to engage. This conversation led to what type of questions should we ask of the community we wanted to enter and be involved with. What should we take into consideration? We used our own small 14 persons class as a case study. What was our income level? What different ethnic groups did we represent? What denomination or faith groups existed? Age groups? Basic yet important questions. To know the needs of a people you must first know the people. As I stared at the board, I noticed one obvious distinction we had somehow missed…
“What about political views” I asked? “Not just Democrat or Republican, but are they/we conservative or liberal”?
Our professor acknowledged that it was an important factor to consider and wrote it on the board. However NO ONE in the class wanted to share what their views were. No one wanted to express their opinion in lieu of being exposed to questioning for thinking a certain way.
Of course this brings up so many questions. That fact that we feel we can express our income, faith, and ethnicity, etc…to a certain level while not feeling threatened says wonders. Yet why can’t we speak about our political stances without the fear that we’ll be ostracized? If my class was an indication of the larger feelings that those of us living currently in the United States have is that we are more attached to our personal political stance than we are to any other identifier.
As someone who claims to follow Jesus…this is a problem.
In the past several months, and what is to be expected in the months ahead, the division of one another over issues stemming from political to economic beliefs will intensify (it’s a election year after all). Instead of working together, offering different perspectives by listening to one another, appreciating our differences and the values they hold, and demonstrating diplomacy we are urged to segregate ourselves into opposing camps. The picture we are given instead is that we must take a stand to ensure that as a people we won’t be taken advantage of, that we won’t allow a group of people to terrorize us, and that we must protect our freedom and way of life by any means necessary…
I flip through Facebook and see the dividing walls being lifted. Arguments between strangers and even family members erupt over these issues. Hurtful comments sent across the internet that can never be wiped clean (even as much as we like to believe they can be deleted later). These conversations become snapshots in time that preserves our lack of understanding and willingness to hear each other out. When we attack someone, what we are really saying is that “we are superior to you” and “your opinion doesn’t matter”.
Sadly I see many of those waving the Christian banner doing exactly this…
Instead of voicing our preferences, opinions, and fears…what if we could become the “light of the world” that Christ spoke about in Matthew’s Gospel (Ch.5:14)?
Instead of mocking, shaming, and vilifying one another we rid ourselves “of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and slander” (1st Peter 2:1)?
Instead of celebrating when those who disagree with you fail, demonstrate a way that does “not rejoice when your enemy falls” or if they stumble (Prov.24:17)?
I could keep going….but I think this next one sums it up nicely.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1st John 4:20-21)
My wish is to see more encouragement in this world. More affirmation. More compassion. More sincerity. More Love. More Jesus. I know it’s hard to walk along side someone who’s different. It’s hard to be taken out of our comfort zones and be exposed to ideas that might rattle our worldviews. It’s hard to show patience with people. It’s hard to love people, but the alternative of hate is something we must not surrender to. Dr. Martin Luther King said it this way in one of his sermons;
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
This is how Christ overcame this world, and he has called us to do the same.
“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Eph. 2:10)