So many have said that the United States of America has never been more divided than in the election of 2016.
My brother Scott likes to point out, we were even more divided during the Civil War.
Even still, I don’t remember a time in my lifetime where division seemed so obvious and bitter. People have been more outspoken on social media about their political preferences and more willing to disassociate with others who voted differently than ever before.
Even before the 2016 election, partisanship has grown significantly in the United States. In 1949 it was quite common for a member of Congress to vote across party lines. Now that rarely happens at all.
The problem will unlikely get any better as social media platforms like Facebook create an echo chamber by filling users’ feeds with more and more articles similar to what they have already liked or shared. As Facebook users defriend or mute others with varying opinions, it is less likely to even be introduced to an opinion different than our own.
When you add to the mix fake news, a lack of productive dialogue between people in disagreement, and the ineffectiveness of online arguing, we end up less and less connected with people who believe or vote differently than we do.
Serving as part of a church which is more and more ethnically diverse and definitely politically diverse made the 2016 election a challenging time. Our local church includes people who voted Libertarian, Republican, Democratic, Green Party, or wrote in Bernie Sanders. Some did not vote as a protest. Adding to the complexity, our church includes some campuses that are in more Republican counties and some campuses in more Democratic counties. Some of our campuses include attorneys, lobbyists, or even elected officials from one party or the other. As a result, all political sides end up frustrated that we are not willing to make political endorsements of policies or candidates or parties.
With our societies facing really important issues, should people of faith endorse a particular party and everything for which they stand or just completely disengage from politics all together?
Ultimately as people of faith, our allegiance is first and foremost towards the Kingdom of God. Remember: we represent Jesus everywhere we go – including online.
Politics certainly play an important role in our society, but so often political discussions turn into angry debates. Too often we are so focused on what we want to change that we miss others in the process.
What if people of faith considered new rules of engagement online when it comes to politics?
For starters, we could begin by asking: “What would Jesus post?”
Seriously though, we should consider our goal before posting something political on our social media accounts.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are we trying to get more “shares” or “likes”?
- Are we trying to start a debate to get ourselves more attention?
If “yes” then don’t post it.
- If we are trying to change someone’s mind, will this truly help them to do so?
- Are we reflecting Jesus well with the tone we use in what we are writing?
In these instances, if “yes” then consider posting it.
We need to realize that not everyone we know feels the same thing as we do about certain issues.
Some issues do not need to be addressed – at least by us. In fact, we could point others toward genuine experts rather than feel the need to present ourselves as an expert.
If we truly feel strongly about something and even led by God to do something about it, we could use Facebook or Twitter to invite people over for dinner to discuss the merits of an issue and consider the next path forward.
Consider this idea: use social media to unite people and bring people together.
Move hard conversations to face to face or over the phone. Rarely does an online debate make any progress.
We should ask ourselves: does posting this help me advance the Kingdom of Jesus or not?
When in doubt, don’t post it.