My wife likes to read the comments.
Whenever she sees a post that interests her on social media, she goes straight to the comments sections to see what is written there. Almost always, the commentary section looks like a verbal war zone, usually fueled by the primary, extremist expressions of political position. Yesterday, a horrific tragedy fell on the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas as a man entered the First Baptist Church and began firing into the congregation. Lives that range in age from five to seventy-two were cut short and the lives of those left behind irrevocably scarred from this point forward. Almost immediately, the social media engine came to life and every comment by every politician, celebrity, lobbyist, and average Joe became lightning rods for controversy. Everyone seemed to be picking a side in some peripheral argument, tangential to the situation at hand.
For example, on one social media post that was running an early version of the news story, a man wrote a comment regarding the need for stricter gun laws. A woman responded to that comment saying this was not the time to discuss things like that. The man replied, so when is it time? From there it devolved into name calling and hate filled invectives fueled by religio-political positions. By the end of the thread, no one was discussing the story itself, but everyone seemed to have launched into diatribes on why everyone who disagreed with them were wrong and how their opponents were misguided and best, not worthy to breath the same air at worst.
As a Christian, I struggle with this kind of commentary. On the one hand, I feel the need to speak on both religious and political issues, particularly when they come into contact with the Kingdom work of the Church. On the other, I’m simply tired of hearing it. I believe the continued exposure to it is something analogous to radiation poisoning; a little expose can be tolerated, much more than that begins to alter your physical structure and eventually, destroy it. So, as believers in the Way of Jesus (I emphasize that because I feel it is often forgotten that it is a Way of Life and Being and not just a decision to be made once), there must be a better way. As trite as it sounds, I believe that way begins in love.
When I say love, I don’t necessarily mean the warm, fuzzy feeling you get watching a Hallmark movie or seeing pictures of kids and grand kids. What I am talking about is the kind of love that gets below that, the deep seeing, I recognize your pain because it is my pain kind of love. The kind of love that knows the humanity in the other person exists even when they are not acting very much like a human at the moment. It is the kind of love that comes from abiding in the Sermon on the Mount, the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, and fruit of the Spirit.
Maybe if we see beyond the pain in us to the pain in others, maybe if we seek to ignore the smoke screen of political and religious difference, maybe then, we can actually find solutions to problems rather than finding new and inventive ways to damage an already broken society and its people.