Can we be kind? Even on the Internet?

Hello there. Happy Tuesday. Or Monday, depending on which country you are reading this from! Its a microblog today, because although this particular thing happened last week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. But first, a scripture reference to have in the back of our heads: John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give you: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” Love. And again love. And just incase you missed it, love.

It’s the year 2020. So far we’ve had an impeachment trial in the US and the first throes of the 2020 US election (which will likely end up in a second Trump term, despite all recent history). Brexit has finally, after much ado, Brexited. Scomo continues to try and swim rather than sink in the aftermath of a very poor few months in terms of crisis and questionable national leadership. It’s only mid-February and in terms of politics, the Western World is doing a pretty good job of making a joke of itself.

A few weeks ago I did something that is (these days) quite an anomaly: I made a political statement online. Now I sit in an interesting place. Pre-deconstruction and considerable life change, I was a conservative voter and involved in conservative politics. Now, post-deconstruction (or during it – However, you choose to view that), I’m a left-leaning swing voter. So I get that when past and present combine there could be some interesting conversations.

I put a post up on Facebook lamenting the fact that Trump is likely to win a second term even though the evidence for impeachment was all that it was. What happened for the next few hours was lovely. My left-leaning friends posted memes about Trump (and Michael Jackson’s infamous popcorn). They lamented along with me, albeit it in a kind-hearted way. My conservative, Christian friends chimed in with their pro-Trump views in a very measured, conversational and friendly way. I took a couple of their points, as they were points well made, and no one got shirty with anyone. It was lovely; lovely enough for a friend to remark how courteous it all was.

Then a far-right Christian Trump supporter from the states weighed in. That record of kindness got shot to Hell.

Guys: read that scripture at the top again. We should be known by our love for each-other. Love is patient, kind etc. etc. But lets just focus on the first two parts of the oft-repeated scripture from Corinthians. If love is how we ought to be known, then surely it should make itself known in our actions.

In the end, I had to unfriend that person because the namecalling was ridiculous.

Look: I think people can follow whichever politics they want. That’s personal. That’s a choice loaded with personal history, values, and nuances that no one gets to dictate to us. But it has mystified me how the king-hitting nasties increasingly come from the right side of things.

When I say “Right” I do not mean correct. I mean conservative. I mean rooted in Christian values and morals. The same place that, horribly, we have seen the re-emergence of white nationalism and white supremacy in recent years.

I’m still a Christian. I always hope to be. And I know that white nationalists and white supremacists are to Christianity what terrorists are to Islam. But its easy to see the slippery slope into that way of thinking when you see insults and prophecies of doom being thrown around the internet because someone dared write a political post that leant a little bit left.

I was so proud of my friends, both conservative and progressive, that day. We had, up until that point, been so nice and thus showed that people can be great. It made my heart sink that the record was so utterly shattered by an older, Christian man whose mandate was given by Jesus Himself in John 13:34-35 – a mandate to show love.

As we fling ourselves into another year of God-only-knows-what politically, can we give ourselves a bit of pause to think about how He is best represented? We need to fight nice. Or better still, turn the other cheek and realise that politics isn’t best played out on Facebook. Its best played out in letters to local members of Parliament, in taking up party membership, signing petitions, contributing to research or even protest rallies. But not so much on social media (which is why I hardly post political stuff on Facebook at least. I will admit to shitposting on Twitter a bit, but thats what its there for!)

What we absolutely should do is allow ourselves to look in a mirror and take in all the details that our reflection offers. Are we kind? Or do we mock those who disagree? Are we able to take criticism and think about it, or do we react like a dog in a fight and leap forward to tear off the next piece of flesh we can sink our teeth into.

It seems these days as if kindness is a lost art (yes, and thoughtful debate! That is certainly a lost art!). We are all about the truth-telling, rarely about the fact-checking, and hardly ever about the most important bit: taking into consideration the innocent or even vulnerable people on the other end of the Facebook post.

Now, I’m under no illusion to the fact that my words have done unncessary damage before. It would be a rare person who hasn’t wounded with words. I’m always happy to apologise for that when the fault lies with me. For me, words are what I deal in and build a career around. My words should educate, protect, advocate, build up, bring laughter (spark joy), encourage, show different perspectives, and occasionally (very occasionally) bring caution. I love words. I know their power. That power has wounded me in the past, and I am learning to let the words that define me come from my own mouth rather than that of other people.

But I have to take responsibility to my words too. If they are rash, unkind, unwarranted, and calling people names and flinging insults just because they disagree with me, then I am not manifesting the love that my Christianity demands I show.

As we wade into another year full of politicking, left vs right wars, and another year of Trumpdom, lets do this: lets be kind. Let’s not fling insults. Let’s be measured. Let’s check our facts. Let’s be the kind of person we wish there were more of on the internet.

God is not best represented by people who have to be unfriended and blocked because of their name-calling, insult-flinging, and threatening tone. I know the temptation to get in the ring, raise your boxing gloves to your face and give it your best. But that’s not what we, as Christians and as reasonable people, are called to. Turning the other cheek isn’t fun. I know. Luckily, silence can often be convincing, and yelling the loudest rarely changes a mind.

Just something to think about. Well, something thats been on my mind.

K. Thanks. Bye.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry Morgan says:

    Hippocrates, or a minion, it is uncertain and not in the legendary oath, but elsewhere says: “First, do no harm.”
    This maxim does not necessarily accord completely with the “golden rule” of multitudinous origin. And the philosophical meaning of that rule has been, and still is, analysed to within a micron of its ancient uttering. While not a rule per se we most often apply it, sometimes under internal duress, to try to love the unlovable. I regret that I have let some of the unlovable down …….in that I just cannot. But I can separate them and or their stated beliefs from my own orbit by “first doing no harm” through the internet expedient of delete or block or personally by not being coincident. Thereby avoiding harm both verbally and physically. Because I swear that there are folk, of no particular wider group, but certainly aligning with the far something whose unenlightened zealotry causes me to wish physical harm upon them. Even to the point that I could imagine my own participation in administering said harm.
    The forgoing largely caused my self imposed exile from social media for the last 10 months.
    I come back refreshed and more able to dismiss the terminally stupid with nary a concern, knowing that it is not my role to realign the ratsnest of beliefs inhabiting the cranial space of those unfortunate souls. For one does not change the mind of another, one rather presents a cogent, critically thought argument which may or may not cause another to change their well held belief.
    I can easily love from afar and have chosen therefore, in my re-emergence, to ensure that zealots and the terminally stupid remain afar from me.
    Your most recent blog, Kit, took the words right out of my mouth.
    Peace ✌


    1. Kit K says:

      Welcome back, Terry! Ahhh distance from the terminally stupid. What a thought! Haha. I love it


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