I posed this question:
How many people do you know who will enter a debate honestly open to the possibility of having their own opinion changed, and are you one of them?
Among the responses I received were these five short replies:
- I’ve learned that nobody at all ever gets their mind changed in an online debate. Nobody.
- That depends. Is the person I’m talking with open to having their opinion changed?
- I think that in person people are more willing to listen to another point of view. I think there is more empathy and understanding that can happen in a face-to-face conversation.
- I’m more inclined to be open to listen when the other person gives me the same courtesy in listening with the intent to understand and not defend, which is how I try to be. I think this exists outside of social media, but social media exacerbates and exaggerates the problem.
- Those discussions never happen on social media. People are way more defensive of their position and don’t seem to have any intent to understand what someone is truly saying beyond the typed words.
Then there were two very thoughtful, and somewhat lengthier comments. Here’s the first of those two:
- I feel the anonymity of an internet connection, coupled with never meeting this person in real life, has created a “less than human” category in the minds of some people for online interactions. People are often willing to berate and dismiss opinions of those online in a manner they never would face to face. And the other roadblock I find online is when you put an opinion out there and someone responds negatively to it, they never actually seem to want to debate the issue. They honestly feel you’re not allowed to respond to them. They directly address your viewpoint with a negative comment, but when you respond to their comment the knee-jerk response is “What are you, mad? I have the right to say whatever I want!” Well… yes, yes you do. Of course, you do. But by your own logic, so then do I. So, let me get this straight – you’re allowed to respond to me, but I’m just not allowed to respond to you? Got it. What a person like this is telling me is that they really don’t have an opinion on the discussion topic, they just wanted to spread their childish negativity. To them, I say, come back to me when you’ve formulated a lucid and cogent response.
Piggybacking on this observation, someone else added:
- Nailed it! In a similar vein, anything to do with Christianity or politics with a biblically Christian (conservative) world-view makes things even worse. For Christians who voice an opinion or statement or – God forbid – share a blog post on what they believe as related to current society issues (such as abortion, given here as one of the more extreme examples), not only are Christians not allowed to respond back to others, but they are even more berated for voicing ANYTHING at all. Followers of Christ are scolded that they must always be “loving” (according to the reader’s perspective and understanding of what “loving” means). They are silenced into never voicing anything, never responding to anything they feel, think, or believe, even though they do feel/think/believe JUST as strongly as the opposing side. They get so bullied by others who attack their faith (even their very being is mauled) simply because they have the audacity to join the conversation. They get drowned out with actual hate and anger toward them as human beings, if they’re even truly considered as such, that they don’t get to have a seat at the table. They barely get to taste crumbs dropped to the floor, and when they try, they get kicked down for doing so. And we wonder where are all the strong, brave people? Sitting terrified behind the same glowing screens, like those who will scream at them for attempting to say anything and curse them for not being loving. I post this here, by the way, because if I post it otherwise or elsewhere, people will get mad at me.
Some final thoughts about all of this from me:
- Does the above commentary jive with your experience and opinion? In person have you seen better interactions than what occurs online? I fully agree that communication is far better in person. But even “out in the wild” it is rare to find patient constructive dialog. I will always cast a vote for “Face-to-face” over “Facebook”, but I wonder if this is a problem caused by Facebook, or if Facebook is merely exposing a larger problem in our society. Certainly, the words shared above by others contain many good observations. If we actually know a person, then we might discover we actually like them, and so we might behave more politely. Although, I must admit that I’ve become jaded enough that it also occurs to me that in some cases our experience is that it’s harder to like someone the better we get to know them. Regardless, we are to love our neighbor anyway.
We seemingly live in a world of make believe. People invent stories, disregard facts, ignore truth, and draw conclusions from information purposely selected to misinform others. Below is an example of a fake occurrence (built upon actual historical facts) that could serve to illustrate the point. Imagine that this is a transcript from one of the talking-head cable TV shows, with the host commenting on what is claimed to be a clear conspiracy of collusion:
“In September of 1992 the Chicago Bears defeated the Atlanta Falcons for one of their rare wins that season. What’s more, the Bears scored more points in that game than in any of their other games that year, perhaps providing a glimpse into just how much Mike Ditka hates birds. Then, later that same season the Mike-Ditka-coached-Bears suffered one of their worst defeats of the year. The opponent? The Houston Oilers. This created a loathsome attitude toward the entire petroleum industry by none other than… you guessed it… Mike Ditka. Fast forward one month. On January 5th, 1993 the oil tanker MV Braer ran aground on the coast of the Shetland Islands, spilling 84,700 tons of crude oil. The environmental damage was mysteriously limited to mostly the killing of birds. Is all of this mere coincidence? You decide. Mike Ditka hates birds, so he crushes the Falcons, and then murders feathered fowl by way of a shipping disaster. Mike Ditka is humiliated by the Oilers, and then an oil tanker ‘accidentally’ runs aground. Need more? Here it is. On January 5th, 1993 (the same day the oil spill occurred) the Chicago Bears fired… wait for it… Da Coach Mike Ditka. Bam! Stay tuned for our hour-long exclusive expose tonight at 11pm.”
A story such as this would have seemed completely insane a few years ago. Now this sort of nonsense would pass for news and be what drives the opinions of government agencies. Discernment derived from a biblically informed worldview has never been more important than right now.
Do you remember this news item? It was much celebrated at the time.
There are at least several problems with a happening such as this. One, a resolution is not a law. Two, the political will for following through on such a statement of purpose is sorely lacking in the current American generation. Three, no state assembly truly makes such a declaration as though the truth depends on their opinion– at best what they do is provide an affirmation of what the God of the Bible has already declared to be true. (I saved the best and strongest point for last.)
An out of the blue sharing of the powerful Word of God was posted on social media. It uplifted and edified me, so I share it with you. Galatians 6:1-6.
Doing Good to All
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
My friend added, “I believe that this Scripture is written with the belief that no one is perfect, and that there will be a day each of us will find ourselves on each side of the situation – then you’ll know who lives by the Word when it’s hard, and not only when it’s comfortable. Certainly, something for us all to think about.”
Right after seeing the above Word from God, I saw another friend post this:
Isaiah 55:7 ESV
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Keep sharing the Truth everywhere. The Word never returns void.
And then I saw this from yet another friend:
God uses pain and weaknesses, along with other afflictions, as His chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weaknesses deepens our dependence on Christ for strength each day. THE WEAKER WE FEEL THE HARDER WE LEAN. In moments like this I lean on my faith, and I feel a little bit of peace knowing that He is in control from above.
Random thought of the day.
One of the worst things about Westboro Baptist Church is that they call themselves a “Baptist Church”. They are neither. Not Baptist. Nor a true church (at least not one that is based upon biblical Christian teaching).
Two random article links someone sent to me that are actually a bit interesting.
- Random link to a movie clip. One of the all-time great inspirational movie scenes! https://vimeo.com/5428632
Random quote from Tool.
- “All I knew and all I believed are crumbling images that no longer comfort me. I scramble to reach higher ground, some order and sanity, or something to comfort me.” I immediately thought in response, “This is a reminder to not put our hopes in unsatisfying things.”
Another random item.
- “Have a wonderful day. Don’t stay here when God is calling you there. The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance.’ (Deuteronomy 1:6-7)”
And speaking of random, someone sent this. “Obi-won Kenobi… is not Jesus.” True. True.
Someone I’ve known for years wrote this diatribe:
For those who have relied on David Barton’s version of history, please take what he writes and says with considerable suspicion. He gets some things right about the founding era, but too often he has a political agenda to prove, then goes and finds quotes about his agenda from some historic figure. That is not history. That is storytelling about history to support a political agenda Sadly, he (and many pseudo historians in the pulpit) have had way too much influence in the Christian community. But when you’re trying to prove “America is a Christian nation,” and thus should be run by Christians, well, you have no choice but to disingenuously cherry-pick quotes to support your thesis. That’s not scholarship, that’s political storytelling.
Finally, to my Christian political activist friends who believe the Scriptures are the final authority in matters of faith and practice (and not some new American idea of special revelation), if you’re going to insist on promoting the idea that “America is a Christian nation”, or that “God create America as a Christian nation”, the onus is on you to prove the unprovable. Not with theological ideas like “this mandate or that mandate,” but an actual passage inspired by God, describing His “new people” in a land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans flowing with milk and honey. Or, a passage where Jesus told us to “take back America” or “take dominion over the country”. Please cite that passage for me.
Since you won’t be able to find that passage, please join the fight and actually make an argument why you believe Christian’s should be in charge. On the abortion front alone, if we can’t get the strategy right on how to end it, how in the heck can we be trusted to run the entire thing? My argument for years and years has been that decentralized political power closest to the people is the smartest thing to do; not have a nation of 330,000,000 wildly diverse people ruled by 535 people in a place a few thousand miles away. What a dumb idea this has turned out to be!
This is an argument I will continue to make as a Christian engaged in the political arena. I will not misuse the name of the Lord and tell you that my political point above is a special revelation or a mandate gleaned from Scripture. I will instead make my case by loving God with my mind (Matthew 22) and actually putting thought into how to end the holocaust in the United States – plus, how to form a system of government that NEVER gets us back into this mess again (as best as we can, as fallen people).
The link above is what triggered my friend’s strong words. Is my friend correct?
Just because The Gospel Coalition publishes something does not make it the biblical view (that’s for sure!). And believers in Christ should always keep in mind this quote from Jesus of Nazareth, circa A.D. 30: “My kingdom is not of this world.” So, as the church works to consistently keep our eye on the ball, how should we think about these things? I’m very open to feedback on this.
Always remembering that Obi-won Kenobi is not Jesus,
Pastor Troy Skinner