I was really happy today when I logged onto Ignitum Today and noticed this post, which deals with Christians avoiding anger, because I think that is a very good place to start the conversation I want to have. Fundamentally, the question I want to ask with this piece is this: why do we as Christians often write and comment online angrily as if we’re constantly in the middle of an argument against everyone?
My reason for writing this piece is pretty simple: I use the internet. Knowing that the internet is a dangerous place to form an opinion of anything, the reality is that each of us forms opinions based on things that we read. I think, therefore, that it is important to evaluate the way that we as Christians are perceived based on our online presence. For my money, I would bet that most opinions of Christians formed via the internet is that we are a bunch of angry, self-righteous people who disagree with most of society on just about everything.
I understand that we as Christians do disagree with many people about many things, and we have the right to have our voice heard about those things. The question, though, is whether the voice they are hearing is the voice of Christ, or a jaded modern-day Christian voice that repels much more often than it attracts.
In Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Communications Day, the theme of which is “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter,” he makes this point abundantly clear. In his message, the Pope spends time to talk about the ways that modern communications can unite us, allowing us to be closer than ever to people from around the world that we never would have been able to communicate with previously. What the Pope says is that “[t]he walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.” You can read more of what the Pope says here: Pope Francis Communications Day Message, but the key of it all is this: our modern media can assist in communication and encounter with one another if we are willing to speak to those we normally wouldn’t and really enter into a dialogue person-to-person.
What makes me more than a little upset is when a see a Christian blogger write an article where they are very angry about something they do not need to be angry about, and then the blog they angrily and hastily wrote about some non-issue or non-related issue spreads on my social media feeds like wildfire because we want people to be angry with us. When we as Christians create this closed off mentality where we have to make every issue an us against the world issue, we are never going to do anything but lead more souls away from Christ, and that is a tragedy.
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated in 2013, the internet and social media now provide many new spaces for communication, and these “spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family.” What I hear both of these Popes calling for is very different than what I see happening, and the challenge for all of us is to change our mentality from an angry, us-against-the-world mentality to a welcoming, engaging mindset which desires to reach out into the world and win hearts and souls for Christ.
What I propose is this: from now on when we read a story or hear about a recent development, let’s start by hearing it and not by picking it apart. Maybe if we are willing to sympathize with the other before we disagree with him or her, we’ll see the benefits of friendship and open communication as our voices are more readily heard than they currently are. If we start by truly hearing someone and respond with openness and sympathy instead of anger and outrage, then maybe our words won’t so often sting and offend but will become, as Pope Francis says so beautifully, “a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.”