If the 2016 election cycle has proven anything, it’s that many Americans will say almost anything when they are behind a computer keyboard.
Look at the average Facebook conversation about politics, and what will you see? Someone will post an article or news story that attacks a politician, which may be all or partly false; then the comments begin, for and against.
During this back and forth, what emerges is a scenario in which people think they are showing bravery, but they are really only showing bravado. Now it’s important to note that politics has always been an active playground for criticism. In fact, one hallmark of freedom is that, unlike in some countries and times throughout history, we do have the right to criticize our elected officials. At the same time, this bravado has become a problem that has led to other problems, including the following:
/// A substitute for real action
A leading Southern Baptist recently said that nowadays, people talking about politics on Facebook has become a substitute for real civic engagement. In some times past, people would attend local precinct meetings, listen actively to substantive issues-based debates and attend other meetings, leading up to a vote.
Today, we see a story online and, before doing any research, react from where we sit. Thus we substitute social media sharing for real action. Christians need to step back and spend more time praying for our politicians than simply commenting. And we need to roll up our sleeves and do our homework about the candidates—legislative, executive and judicial—and state questions, if we are to be effective citizens.
/// Trickles over into other topics
Political conversations are becoming so rancorous that it’s bleeding over to other areas of life. Take a topic like sports, and you know that people are always going to have their opinions. However, we can scarcely talk about anything these days—the weather, movies, people—without someone becoming overly critical. As Christians, we ought to know better. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
If people looked at your social media feed this election cycle, would they know you are a disciple of Jesus by your love? If the answer is “no,” then it might be time to reevaluate your posting habits.
/// Burning bridges
On Nov. 9, the election voting in America will be done for that cycle. Aside from any re-counts, it will all be over except the crying, to borrow the saying. What then? That lost neighbor of yours, with you whom you may have quarreled over politics, still needs Jesus. That family member, with whom you butted heads, will be coming over for Thanksgiving in just a few days. Too often, Christians willingly burn bridges with the very people with whom we ought to be building them.
None of this is to say we cannot criticize and find fault with our political leaders. In fact, on key moral and ethical issues like abortion, religious liberty and marriage, Christians must refuse to be silent. At the same time, we can take on a winsome attitude of grace that the unbelieving world finds appealing.
If we do season our online and in- person conversations with salt; if we spend more time conversing with the people around us rather than staring at social media on our smartphones; if we point people to Jesus more often than we point to our favorite candidates, then after the election, we can look ourselves in the mirror and be glad, regardless of who wins or loses.
Even more, we can look into the face of our Lord and Savior and say, “Just give me Jesus.” He is enough.