Imagine walking into a church service on Sunday and the greeter comes up to you and calls you a snowflake. As you are directed to your seat, the person next to you calls you an idiot. As service begins, the person making the announcements tells you that you don't belong in this country. And when the praise leader gets the microphone they shout at you and call you a sexist. The musicians on cue then call you a racist. And when the pastor takes the pulpit, he calls you a criminal. When the service is over the college and career pastor comes up to introduce himself and tells you that you are the cause of all of the problems in the country. Would you go back to that church?
That scenario may seem a little extreme and unrealistic. You may have even laughed as you read it. I have never heard of a praise singer getting the microphone and before singing say "Anyone who is not in this country legally is not welcome in this church." I have never heard of an usher before collecting offering say "If you are a Republican you can go ahead and leave because we don't want racist idiots to attend our church." I have never heard someone on the welcoming committee greeting a visitor by saying "Oh, you are a Democrat, you sure a radical crybaby." Nor have I heard of a pastor getting the microphone and saying "All Republicans exist the church because we know you don't like women." I have never seen those things take place within a church. In fact, I am sure if someone grabbed the microphone and said anything like that they would be escorted out of the church and kindly asked not to come back.
Yet I have seen pastors on social media share articles calling those who are not in this country legally criminals. I have seen praise singers and musicians share articles calling Democrats snowflakes. I have seen greeters and ushers on social media calling all Republicans ignorant, racists idiots. I have seen youth and college and career pastors use the terms to describe either Republicans or Democrats as extremists and radicals. I have seen church leaders and those who just sit on the pews on Sunday use some incredibly negative terms to describe those of the opposing political affiliation. And while they would never use those negative terms from the pulpit or their position within the church, when they are preaching a message, greeting, ushering, collecting offering, singing, etc., those who are sitting in the church pews aren't hearing the message they delivered from the pulpit, they are hearing the hateful things that they posted on social media.
And with every article they share and every status they write, they don't understand how they are tarnishing their testimony and limiting God's ability to minister through them. We have all heard the saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." But that saying is not Biblical, because the Bible says "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." (Proverbs 18:21). The words that come out of our mouth, including the words in articles we choose to share, the memes we choose to like, the statuses' we choose to write, can uplift but they can also tear down.
We are all entitled to our opinions. And often there is supporting evidence that backs our opinions up. However there is a difference between opinion and hate. Often what I see posted on both sides of the aisle is not opinion backed by evidence but hate. And that hate that is posted on social media truly does affect one's testimony. It is very easy to hit the share, like and post button on social media, but it is very difficult to undo the damage you've created by sharing, liking and posting. If you are making blanket statements about groups of people, you need to understand that there are more than likely people who are sitting in the church pews who fall under that blanket statement. You need to guard your testimony. You need to guard your ability to minister. Guarding those two things means watching what you say, watching what you post and even watching what you think. If your thinking and opinion is filled with hate towards a group of people, ask God to help you.
I want to end sharing with you why it was so important for me to write this blog. In July of 2016, I will never forget that the world was going crazy over a plagiarized speech and I was sitting next to my husband in his oncologist's office listening to the doctor tell us that the cancer was spreading. Later that day on social media, people from both sides were fighting and calling each other horrible names. They were acting as though the world was ending and I was standing in the Target aisle buying my children toys to help soften the news I had to tell them that their dad had to go back to the hospital. And then a few months later during the presidential election, I once again saw people fighting and calling each other names over social media based on who they voted for. After the election results were announced I saw the ugliest sides of people from both political aisles. There was so much hate spread from both sides. I witnessed all of this while trying to balance working, taking care of my children and caring for my husband who was home on hospice paralyzed and dying. I couldn't believe how ugly people were getting.
We have the privilege of voting in this country. And we have the privilege of deciding for ourselves who we are going to vote for. We get to decide what is important to us and we get to cast our ballot based on that. If someone votes differently than me, that doesn't make them a horrible person. Likewise, if I vote differently than someone, that doesn't make me a horrible person.
As I close, it is never too late to acknowledge that maybe you've been guilty of sharing hate filled articles. If you feel as though you may have offended someone, I encourage you to reach out to them and sincerely apologize.