Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bullying... with Jesus

I am having a little trouble with something, and am trying to gently express this special request. I hope that what I say here might give some people pause for consideration of the wording of their messages on Facebook and blog comments throughout the Web.

Throughout the recent presidential campaign, while I found people to be publicly kind when expressing thoughts, the Web became a free for all and many posts were hard to take. Readers were told to wake up, that they were blind to truth, that they were allowing the media to delude them, and referred to as ignorant. Would you have said such a thing to your neighbor over dinner? Would you have told this to your mom or to your boss at work? 

A general assumption was made that people were not following the news, conducting research, or in any other manner carefully weighing the voter decision. And finally, of course, God was used as a weapon, as a way to represent the be-all and end-all. Does this not smack a bit of judgment? Are some of you aware of how it might feel to be preyed upon by Facebook friends or blog buddies in this manner? Certainly, I have enough faith in humanity to know that if those who do this were aware of their impact that they would have chosen a better way to frame their ideas. I can tell you this morning that one gentleman told me the attitude of certain people pushed him away from choosing their candidate. He was reluctant to be part of a group that didn’t seem welcome to the variety of reasons and ideas that should be considered in the decision-making process in general. He felt alienated. I understand. Right now, I feel bullied… by Jesus.

While some posts were blatantly callous, others were blindsiding. One Facebooker posted a lovely sentiment about looking within our hearts. When I expressed nicely that I was still on the fence and considering points of view, I was told that if I read my Bible, I would know what the answer is, and among other things said, I was fairly well accused of being one who was ill-informed or misdirected—for still working to come to a sound decision. In that same chain of post and responses, another person cited disapproval of a candidate’s religion. Do you remember that John F. Kennedy was our first and only Catholic president? His Catholicism was often used as a point of doubt by those who opposed his candidacy and election, yet today he is cited as one of our most popular and best presidents. 

The religious posts have taken the form of bullying. Many plead us to pray for the half of the country that “voted wrongfully.” Posts are constant, and the worst ones I remove from my newsfeed, but that doesn’t stop the feeling of sympathy for those being hounded by pages full of bitter Jesus-wielders. To those that keep crying defeat and fear for the future of our country, find solace in knowing that our history has often held our citizens to flames of doubt, and we have survived: stock market crashes, World Wars, the Great Depression, polio scares, and more. Each time, it was not fear that drove us to rise. We rose again because we fought to do so. The only difference between then and now is that it is easier to quickly expose the masses to every worldly event and our opinions about it. So put your pack on your back and march on, fair soldier. Have faith. Have hope.

I researched my voting decision carefully, not even telling my husband who I voted for until the election results were coming in. My goal was to be happy with the decision I made; to combine reason, rationality, and instinct; and to find the blessing in the ability to vote and watch an election come to a resolution. What I ultimately wanted was a message sent to whoever earned the title of president: Many in this country weren’t sure enough of your principles to endorse you. Please do your best to inspire us and resolve the crises close to our hearts. When I left the voting booth Tuesday, I was completely at peace with my decision.

To the people who write that those who voted for Obama should be prayed for—to have some kind of political conversion or eye-opening, they say—I am sorry to say your message is not being received as goodwill. It feels like you are passing out hair shirts. I offer this morsel of thought: Perhaps, God in all his infinite wisdom, desired a close election after all, and called individuals to vote a certain way for reasons beyond our understanding. Or perhaps, God in all his infinite power, doesn’t need an election by limited mortals on one patch of land in the globe to effect change. Do you think it might be, maybe, a kind of errant supposition on our part, that we are so great, so noble, so flawless, our spot at the right hand of God so given, that we should belittle, patronize, or  criticize others as we attempt to cling to virtue? Do you think, given the hand-to-hand battles of daily life, that an unconditionally loving God would punish you for your vote

Over recent years, the word “Christian” has morphed from not just “follower of Christ,” but to become more synonymous with “charitable.” What I wish is for those who do claim Christian as part of our heritage and faith, and continue to espouse it in our public posts, to exercise both meanings of the word, in hopes of inspiring those that remain to follow.

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