I had a post-election meltdown last week. Overwhelmed by the rage and fear and blame being fired like bullets on Facebook, I accidently ‘unfriended’ people who I deeply care about in an effort to make the name-calling go away.
‘Accidently’ because I thought I could see their profiles again once the angry rhetoric quieted down. But the next day, poof, a couple hundred people had completely disappeared from my contacts. By acting in haste without realizing the consequences, I ended up injuring myself and others.
For better or worse, we live in an age of lightning communication, where clicking ‘like’ or ‘post’ or ‘share’ instantly broadcasts our views to hundreds or thousands or millions of people. But is this productive when what we are sharing is hostile and divisive without offering a solution?
Each time I checked my newsfeed, I felt like hundreds of people had suddenly shown up at the front door of my house with picket signs and bullhorns shrieking their political views. I have friends – real, in person, friends – on both sides of the political spectrum. But none of them has ever shown up at my house waving a picket sign. So why do we do this online?
The most hurtful messages blamed the church for our current political leadership, lobbing accusations of bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia at people with whom I worship every Sunday, without considering the good these people do in our country and communities, such as running food pantries and clothing banks, after school programs, homeless shelters, and addiction recovery support groups – often with money donated by people sitting in the pews next to them.
Angry rhetoric costs nothing, but actions speak louder than words – or Facebook posts. Last week, a church friend excitedly shared about the phone call she and her family had received from a caseworker needing a foster home for a newborn baby with severe disabilities. To make room for this child, who happens to be a minority and an immigrant, this family’s teenage daughters squeezed into a room together.
That same week I invited another Christian friend to a dinner. She couldn’t go because she was planning to spend the evening encouraging another friend who is struggling to overcome a lifetime of alcohol addiction. They met in jail, where my friend and her husband volunteer and routinely welcome hurting, recovering people into their home.
For the record, these two families voted for different political candidates. But instead of pontificating, they are living out Christ’s words in Matthew 25:35 to feed the hungry and take in strangers. “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat,” Jesus said. “I was a stranger and you took me into your home.”
This week is a time to give thanks, ushering in a season of celebration. Let’s find a way to love—not lash out at—others. Or we will too late realize the consequences.
Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of Mid-coast Maine. Her memoir, “Redeeming Ruth,” releases in May 2017.