Finding myself unable to vote in good conscience for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I wrote in the name of my brother Jaris, one of the most fair and like-minded people of faith whom I am blessed to know. Since he just turned 35 last March, he was qualified to run.
As the possessor of two votes, total (100% of precincts reporting), Jaris did not win in this election cycle; he was further dismayed to learn that Harambe, the deceased gorilla, received approximately 5,500 times as many votes as he did.
If you are anything like me, as you watched the results coming in from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, you heard various pundits of differing political stripes declare that they never saw the Trump victory coming. Incredibly, they said they were “now aware” that many Americans were sending a message that got missed.
Color me a little incredulous and a lot unimpressed to find that supposedly well-informed media folk seemed not to have seen the sort of incessant posts that crowded my Twitter and Facebook feeds during the campaign. These were full of people, from both “sides,” sounding off every day about what they loved, or hated, or feared, about the way things were going, or what the future would hold. Had the members of the press simply unfriended or blocked minds and thoughts that did not echo their own?
With the votes counted, and the winner called, all of the angst so readily viewable on my own feeds got me wondering about the role of the Christian in terms of restoring unity with our fellow citizens. Would this not, of course, include listening to those who are trying to get our attention, whether or not we agree with them, especially on social media? Shouldn’t we all make a point of at least trying to listen to each other? If this election teaches us nothing else, shouldn’t the expressed “surprise” at the election’s outcome teach us that echo-chambers are self-limiting and sterile?
No matter whom you supported in this election cycle, or will support in future election cycles, here are a few ways that we as believers can – and must – follow the Lord’s command to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), especially when using social media.
1) Do not gloat. This is uncharitable, undignified, and ultimately un-Christian.
2) Consider not responding to a post with which you vehemently disagree. Instead, read the post carefully, try to understand where he or she is coming from, and pray for the person who wrote the post.
3) Do not readily unfriend or unfollow someone. This invites discord and gives the perception that disagreement with a position means intolerance of the person.
4) Post more uplifting things. No, not a cute kitten or a command to “send this to 20 people, or the Infant Jesus will cry,” but truly uplifting things. Scriptural excerpts. Quotes from the saints. The day’s Gospel reading. Anything that supplants vitriol.
5) If you are tempted to post something sensitive, wait a reasonable amount of time in order to deeply reflect on it beforehand. Whether it is an hour or a day, do not hit that “post” button until you would be willing to display what you have written on a billboard.
It is vital for the Christian to exercise charity when it comes to stepping outside of his or her comfort zone, perhaps more than ever, now, on social media. It is possible to remain civil in the midst of discord, maintaining charity as the foundation of our iterations of national dialogue.
When considering the life of a disciple, and the Lord’s call to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), allow yourself to gain inspiration from what you might hear when you invite other voices to help you dismantle the walls of your echo chamber.