Last week I wrote a thought about Kim Kardashian, and I knew there would be disagreement about it. I was stating an opinion and asking questions because I really wanted to hear what others thought. I got some push back, a lot of agreement, and, overall, I think I grew in how I understood the topic. There was one group, however, that responded vehemently – it was a clergy group on Facebook. Their responses were really helpful in content – the women were especially upset, and I heard what they had to say and took it to heart. The way they responded, however, really surprised me. They were verbally and personally abusive, and nothing I could respond with could satisfy them.
I understand that we all hold strong opinions and feelings about many topics, and I am not afraid to hear what people say to bring me a better understanding. The comments and name-calling that takes place, especially on Social Media, is something we need to be concerned about. I suppose those who responded this way felt like this private group page was a safe place, since it was only clergy, and I appreciate just how important it is for all of us to be able to vent without professional backlash. When we take our ordination vows, however, we are called to try – try – to be better people. When I was ordained, I made the same oaths to first, do no harm, and second, to always do good. My words in my thought that day brought some of the readers of that group (and maybe others) to a point of disagreement that went beyond what I think of as acceptable. I might be wrong about that.
I am well aware of the public nature of what I do, and I try to use that privilege to do no harm, and to do good, as often as I am able. I also know that there are people who disagree with me, and I with them, and that is just what happens when two or more people have a discussion. I am also aware of the need to speak the truth with love, even when it isn’t taken that way. This back and forth I had with some of this group reminded me of the intense level of incivility that has plagued our country for many years. This lack of respect – which I am sure I have been guilty of as well – does nothing except make us more divided. We can disagree on most things and still get along, or we can decide that our opinion can never be challenged, and spew hate.
After a couple of days of trying to express what I had learned from these members of this group, I left it. I found myself feeling uneasy with the tone of the responses, and decided that nobody needs that kind of grief. It reminded me just how dangerous Social Media can be when it is misused, and just how remarkable the rest of you are when you respond to ideas that I and others put out there. We can, and should, disagree with each other when we think someone has gone too far, but when that disagreement turns into verbal brutality, we have gone too far. I hope you will continue to help me learn about topics I don’t know enough about. We can make each other better, or we can treat each other like the enemy. I opt for door number one.
Prayer – This world, holy God, has been through a lot, and it has caused some to go high, and others to go low. Help us to give each other the benefit of the doubt, so that we are able to speak the truth with love. Amen.
Today’s art is called “Conflict” by Michael Lang.