Facebook, Jesus and Politics
Someone I like very much posted a link on Facebook last night to an article I did not like at all. This tends to happen a lot (with many of my Facebook friends), and it is more common during election season when rhetoric is at its height and everybody seems to have a very strong opinion about one thing or another.
Not that I am opposed to strong opinion. I actually love a good debate, and I love tackling difficult topics – when there is genuine room for debate and conversation. But I don’t like doing this on Facebook, because I don’t think that Facebook truly allows for such a thing due to its structure (or Twitter – which is worse in this respect). In addition, I don’t like doing this on Facebook because I think most people who hit "share" on a divisive or inflammatory article aren’t really looking for any of their friends to express an opposing view anyway – they are looking for cyber-high-fives from the like-minded. And because of these two factors, as well as the fact that my online time is limited and I can’t afford to embroil myself in likely-fruitless conversation, when stuff pops up online that irks me I usually just sit on my hands. But for some reason, though, last night the Huffington Post article "Jesus vs. the Christians" got me, and before I knew it my hands were on the keyboard.
As soon as I was done typing my comment, I thought that maybe I should just stay off of Facebook until after November elections are over. But then I thought, well, that’s not very realistic. But what I can do is use my little corner of the internet to tackle this issue in a way that is meaningful and a little bit better than what I can write in that irritatingly-tiny Facebook box or the 140 characters on Twitter.
Here’s what got my proverbial goat when I read this article. I wasn’t annoyed that he was critical of Christians, and I wasn’t annoyed that he was critical of Republicans. I am critical of both of those things sometimes too, despite the fact that I frequently vote Republican and also a follower of Christ. Criticism can be a good thing, because anytime you get a group of people together – be it a religious group or a political party or even an group of Avon ladies, there are going to be some people in the group who do something to make the founder/core values/purpose of the group look bad, or who seek to undermine what the group stands for to begin with. Maybe it’s unintentional or maybe their intentions are quite rotten from the get-go, but either way, for the sake of the health and integrity of the group, these people need to be called out. So no, my issue was not with the fact that he was being critical of people who claim allegiance to the same God that I do, or who likely pull the same voting lever that I will (though I have not decided who I’m voting for yet).
So what’s my beef, then? My issue with this author is that his criticisms are based on a faulty, deeply-skewed understanding of what the Bible says to begin with – which is not surprising, since he has zero scholarly religious credentials whatsoever. He claims to have read the New Testament, but either he is not being honest, or he is telling the truth but completely did not understand what he was reading, or he read it and only paid attention to the parts that he liked. And if he was just an individual dude, walking around operating on his personal misconceptions, quite honestly, I couldn’t care less. But he’s not. He has a voice, and a loud voice, and evidently people are willing to take what he says at face value and to spread his word.
(On a side note, let me be clear – I do not argue that having scholarly religious credentials means that you automatically know what you are talking about, either. Some of the wisest people that I know when it comes to matters of faith are not credentialed whatsoever, and there are others who have earned a degree from an institution that still offers religious education but abandoned orthodoxy a long time ago and are therefore essentially credentialed heretics. But credentials do mean something, because they are proof that you have spent a significant amount of time studying the topic on which you are now claiming authority. And if you don’t have credentials, and you write something like this article – which speaks authoritatively on a very important topic despite the fact that it contains zero footnotes, zero verifiable scripture references, and zero quotes from people who actually have credentials – you have not earned the right be taken seriously, even if people like what you say.)
I am not going to debate the content of his article. I don’t have time to do that, and there are plenty of people who are already doing so in the comment section on Huffington Post. But I do want to make a few points that this article brings up, and you can pretty much apply these points to any sort of article like this – or the sharing of any such article – in the future…
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