Well social media is blowing up yet once again. This time it’s about Planned Parenthood or Cecil the lion or Planned Parenthood and Cecil the lion and which one is more important. It seems that people are, as is to be expected, full of opinions that they feel the need to share with the world. Unfortunately in sharing those opinions many rarely take into account the effect that their rants might have on others.
Last week I shared an article on my Facebook page titled “How Should Christians Comment online?” by John Bloom. I found it on John Piper’s website. It seemed appropriate given the unfolding of events over the past few weeks. I found it interesting, and a little confirming, that it was not all that far off from my post on the Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage. In the article Bloom says; “The immediate, shoot-from-the-hip nature of comments on websites and social media is what can often make them [the comments] minimally helpful or even destructive. Comments can easily be careless.” I couldn’t agree more.
At some point we need to take responsibility for what we say and how it can affect other people. Too often we spout off our opinion and don’t realize that while we may be directing what we say in one direction there is often collateral damage.
Cecil the Lion – Isn’t that a bit much?
Before anyone starts to jump on me let me say this; the dentist who shot Cecil was wrong. What he did was devious, cowardly, unethical, illegal, and flat out stupid. First of all he spent $55,000.00 to kill Cecil. Now I just don’t understand that. But he does have a right to spend his money however he wants…well except in this case.
But what needs to happen to him is a fine and some jail time. While I disagree with what he did, and some level of public outrage is understandable, I don’t think he and his family deserve millions of death threats and to have their lives ruined.
Of course when it comes to Cecil the lion and Planned Parenthood, Matt Walsh is full of opinions. And while it seems hypocritical of him to publish a rant criticizing the extreme nature of how people have handled these situations, he did bring up some interesting information. On his post he writes:
Meanwhile, the internet lynch mob predictably leaped into action. Palmer’s personal address was released, death threats were issued, his business was attacked and shutdown, he was forced into hiding, and scores of drooling trolls flocked to Twitter to fantasize about all of the creative and violent things they’d love to do to him.
Refusing to be upstaged in this contest for the title of Most Exorbitant Reaction, PETA proclaimed that Palmer ought to be “extradited and hung.” A bunch of famous people joined the dog pile, utilizing their platforms to declare Palmer “disgusting,” a “murderer,” and “Satan.” Other celebrities have asked that his citizenship be permanently revoked. Sharon Osbourne labeled Palmer a “killer” and said she hopes he loses his house and his business. According to Sharon, even his wife and children deserve to be homeless.
Now that’s just a little much, don’t you think?
Planned Parenthood and Careless Words
The post about the Planned Parenthood videos are what really have me concerned. I understand the moral outrage surrounding these videos. And I agree with Matt and others that it is sad that there is not more, especially considering the nature of the videos and what is being done to our unborn children. But it’s their potential harm to others that has me concerned.
Now I don’t want to start a debate on the subject of abortion. That’s not the point of this article and it’s not why I’m concerned. What concerns me is that in our moral outrage and righteous indignation over the nature of abortion we forget that there are hundreds of thousands of women who regret that they ever had an abortion and are consumed with guilt and shame that they will most likely carry with them the rest of their lives. In fact, many of them relive the horror of what they went through on every birthday, holiday and special event. Some would say they deserve it. Even Christians have stated this. But the last time I checked, the foundation of Christianity is that we don’t get what we deserve. Such is the scandalous nature of God’s grace.
So my caution to those that call themselves Christians, those that enjoy the complete and total forgiveness of God; is to be careful of what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. Because if you’re not careful you may be contributing to the damaged and broken heart of another. Let me give an example.
Karen and I have a friend who moved away several years ago who we got to re-connect with through social media. This friend has a story that has driven much of how I think and what I do as a pastor. You see, when she was younger, she got pregnant. She and her boyfriend were afraid to have the baby because of the stigma associated with her getting pregnant so she secretly got an abortion. But the abortion did not solve anything, it only made things worse. My friend grew up in the church, so she knew that what she did was wrong and the guilt set in. So she tried going back to church. She thought that re-connecting with God would help ease the pain she was feeling.
But going to church didn’t help. She quickly realized that she would never be able to be completely honest with the people in her church. Where she had hoped to find acceptance and love, she only found rejection and condemnation. So she vowed to never let her secret out. She stuffed her feelings and put on a religious mask. She gave the appearance to having it all together. She married her boyfriend and tried to have a normal life. But the pain never went away. It just continued to eat away at her heart like cancer.
After years of unresolved hurt, she couldn’t take it anymore. One night when her husband and her children were away from the house, she tried to take her own life. Fortunately it didn’t work. She has since been through extensive counseling and has begun the healing process. But she still has a long way to go.
The first thing that bothers me the most about this story is that the one place that claims to have the answer to life’s problems, only aggravated and intensified my friend’s problems. The second thing that bothers me about this story is that it is not an isolated incident. There are people all over who have similar problems. Some of them are working things out; many of them aren’t. And very few of them are finding help in the one place that actually has the answer.
So, as you’re making comments sharing articles online, please take a minute and think before you click “post.” Think about those that see your comments and read the articles that you share. Think about how it will affect them. And be careful; because it is entirely possible that what you say and what you share may be destructive to those you never intended to hurt. Because the church should never be a place that heaps condemnation on the very people that Jesus died to save. The church should be a place of healing, a place filled with love and grace, a place where people are accepted as they are, no matter what.
Let’s take great care and choose our words carefully, so that what we say whether it’s in conversation or on an online forum, we are representing Christ to a world in desperate need of His mercy, forgiveness and life-changing grace.