Thursday, September 20, 2012

On finding harmony in Facebook relationships...or not

I'll start with the obvious:  there are many, many different opinions.  If you look hard enough, each and every one of them has found expression, at one point or another, on the internet.  And most of them are expressed regularly on Facebook.

This can be a good thing, but it can also be a terrible thing.  It's good, of course, in that you are passionate about your opinions.  You should be.  And it can be terrible in that when opinions are not expressed in a way that is uplifting, friendships and relationships can be destroyed permanently.  (Long-time readers of this blog--if you're still around after yet another prolonged hiatus--may recall my chronicling of the end of a friendship thanks to this sort of behavior.)

It is about the dangers that I want to opine today.  You see--and this may come as a surprise to, well, absolutely no one--there are people who are unable to express a political opinion without insulting anyone who dares to think differently.  As a supporter of ideas put forth by one Sarah Palin, I've seen that more than once.  I know that people who support President Obama's policies (as, obviously, I don't) have been similarly insulted by others.  (And no, I'm not going to get into which group has received more insults in the past four years.  I honestly don't care.) 

But I write not to bemoan the lack of civility on Facebook.  (I could, but I won't.)  As someone who has friends whom I have met in various and sundry places (such as, for example, playing a now-long-dead internet game show), and wanting to maintain harmony with these friends despite their not sharing my political stances, I have two suggestions, both of which I have already taken for myself:

1.  Start your own political blog.  Then, of course, you can rant to your heart's content, and those who are just as passionate about your viewpoint as you are, or who at least respect you and your opinions, can have a non-Facebook location at which to discuss what you like, or don't, about Candidate X.  This blog has served as such a location for me, allowing me to present my opinions to upwards of 30 people!*

And once you have that set up, you can move on to step 2.  (Or skip to it, as you don't have to have a blog to go to step 2.)

2.  Start a public Facebook page for your blog (or simply your opinions), and move all your political stuff to it.  Why, yes, since you asked, my blog does have such a page, located here.  And yes, almost without fail, I place my political stuff solely on that page these days.  And then friends (or even non-friends) can subscribe to updates from that page if they want, or they can skip it.

But Snowed, doesn't that mean your opinions will be seen by far fewer people?  Who cares.

See, as I said earlier, I want my blog to be uplifting.  I believe it can be so even while being heavily political (and even with a large dose of Palin appreciation).  That is exactly why, on hearing that yesterday's edition of the daily comic strip that adorned the top of this blog for several years used language that did not mesh well with the overtly Christian theme of yesterday's post, I got rid of the comic strip entirely.  I didn't like doing it, as I appreciate its political slant, but if it's going to be a stumbling block, it will have to be seen in places other than my blog, to allow my blog to more toward being more uplifting.

I don't want my blog, or my political opinions, to be a stumbling block for others.  I hope my friends share that attitude.  If you don't--if you can't respect that not everyone is going to agree with you--I will be much quicker in hiding your posts entirely from my page (as I'm sure many have hidden mine).  And I will do that because, from my viewpoint, you are prioritizing your political opinions over your friendships.  I may briefly lament the loss of a relationship, as hiding your posts, to me, is just one step above a full defriending.

I can't put opinions over friendships anymore.  If I am going to be showing godly love to others, then relationships have to come first.  And in this case, I am extremely passionate in wanting everyone to share that viewpoint.

* Yeah, that number is pretty much spot-on.  If nothing else, it keeps me humble.  It is because of those staggering numbers that I refer to myself as a sixth-rate political blogger.**

** I actually did have someone tell me that I was better than a seventh-rate blogger once.***

*** Once.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Love

Warning:  somewhat long-winded and rambling post ahead.

This post has languished for many weeks as a draft while I figured out how best to express myself.  Please know that it got its start during the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha.  Now, let me say that I'd prefer not to write on the Chick-Fil-A argument.*  Also, I'm sure that not many people want to hear yet another voice added to the cacophony of voices about Chick-Fil-A and gay marriage.**

Unfortunately, this topic seems not to want to go away.  And it shouldn't.  As Christians, we are called to love one another, and too often love is forgotten in the midst of getting ahead, being right, or whatever.  As it happens, I have friends on both sides of the issue that enveloped Chick-Fil-A in July/August, and while I would probably identify more with one side than with the other, I can see both sides of it.

And I'm sick of this.

I'm sick of hearing about some people who applaud Chick-Fil-A for standing up for Christian beliefs while calling gays who want to marry things they would never call anyone to his face.  I don't like seeing people assuming that all gays are automatically pedophiles, or whatever.  (Yes, some say that, apparently.)  Though I am thankful that pretty much every supporter of Chick-Fil-A of whom I know hasn't said that.

I'm also sick of hearing about some people who support gay marriage and who have decided to accuse anyone who believes that gay marriage is wrong of being a bigot, a homophobe, etc.  (Those accusations really aren't hard to find.)  I don't like seeing tweets from liberals, some well-known, others not so much, expressing not just a passing thought but a hope, a fervent desire, if you will, for anyone supporting Chick-Fil-A to die of heart disease soon.  Though I am thankful that pretty much every supporter of gay marriage of whom I know isn't saying these sorts of things.  But some are.

The two questions I see in this issue are the following.  And they both have the same answers.

1.  Are gays going to stop being gay just because some people think they're sinners, going to hell, unnatural, etc.?
2.  Are Christians opposed to gay marriage (obvious disclaimer:  not all are) going to give up their beliefs because some people think they're bigots, haters, etc.?

The answers:

A.  Almost certainly not.
B.  But they are going to get pretty ticked off, and recent history shows that they'll probably do something to antagonize the other side of the argument.  For those in favor of gay marriage, that was to organize the boycott in the first place.  For those in favor of Chick-Fil-A, their response was to sign on with the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day (which came and went while I slowly wrote this thing).
C.  In response to the actions mentioned in B, the other side ramps up whatever they're doing, and so on and so forth.

In preparing for this post, I've read/watched many perspectives on the matter, including those from a somewhat prominent Christian blogger, a somewhat well-known gay activist, a gay Christian, a former Alaska governor, and the daughter of a former presidential candidate and increasingly moderate "Republican".  Some were in favor of the appreciation day, some were in favor of gay marriage, some (I think) were in favor of both, and some were in favor of neither.

So, you will see that by now I have heard all the arguments.  "It's about free speech."  "It's about our rights."  "They favored legislation to kill gays in Africa."  (That one's not true, by the way.)  "They have the right to do whatever with their money."  "Municipalities have no right to deny building permits just because they disagree politically with them."

It's been hashed out enough, I think.

When I originally started writing this post (seven weeks ago***),  I had intended to write about understanding each others' concerns.  There were concerns that believing gay marriage to be wrong might eventually become a thought crime (as it has apparently become in other countries), or that churches would be forced (yes, forced) to marry gays whether or not they agreed with the idea of gay marriage (as has happened in at least one other country).

But I don't think that's the real point anymore.  Not for me, as a Christian, at least.

A friend, in the middle of a long discussion about this, said that the real issue here is perception.  Christians can be as civil as possible in expressing their opinions, but thanks to how others have used their bully pulpits in the past, this is how a lot of gay people will see them:

Tolerance in action.  Or not.  Image courtesy CBC under "Fair Use" clause.)

We are called as Christians to love.  When we are sitting behind a computer screen, or in a group of like-minded people at a restaurant, it is easy to forget that we are to love not just our friends but our enemies.

But Snowed, I don't look at anyone as my enemy!  Good.  How are you treating people with whom you have fundamental disagreements?  Have you ever even had a discussion with someone with whom you have a fundamental disagreement?  It's simpler to avoid that, to be sure.  But avoiding confrontation is not what we are called to do.

We are called to love others.  To do that, we have to get to know others.  And that includes others who have been hurt by the actions and/or words of Christians (possibly even our own).  I mean, just look at that picture again.  To many, this is what Christianity means.  We have to show these people (as well as those who treat others in this way) the true love of Jesus.  It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be quick.  No, we have years (centuries, in some cases) to overcome.  And yes, as in the case of gay marriage, we won't agree on what all the solutions are. But we have to be willing to have that dialogue, to engage with those who do not look/act/think like we do.  Because He did.

* Anyone who follows my blog knows that I haven't really wanted to write about much of anything for a while.

** "Gee, I wonder what 'Snowed In' has to say about this?" - said by no one, ever.

*** I do have a life that doesn't involve the internet, y'know.