I learned long ago that Facebook isn’t the place for serious political, religious, or philosophical debate. In our culture, Facebook debates are usually platforms for personal opinions and preferences. The existence of this platform (and our 1st Amendment right to free speech) doesn’t mean we must become evangelical about every idea we hold dear. Ideas rarely, if ever, are changed in over wrought, profanity laden Facebook posts. Thankfully, those I followed this week were both civil and profanity free; a rarity on Facebook. However, they were indicative of the former.
When we select a topic (seemingly at random) and invite others to a conversation where we tell others how right we are and wrong they are (under the pretext of open discussion), nothing good occurs. At best, you’ve got hurt feelings, confusion, and misunderstandings. At worst, people are alienated and friendships are destroyed.
Perhaps the greatest mistake other than having a debate on Facebook is having a religious debate on Facebook. God and Facebook do not mix. Take this week’s discussion on intelligent design vs. evolution. Is a guiding hand “God” or is it just some intelligent force? Are we talking about God or not? I didn’t bring up God you did. And so it went.
God is a touchy subject on Facebook. Each time God is invoked in a Facebook argument, even obliquely, my job (as a pastor) becomes harder. Let me tell you why. Ordinary folk (our non church going neighbors) read these debates about God, evolution, creation, science, war, peace, immigration, homosexuality, and other hot button culture war topics. They see different opinions being expressed by self-professed and self-identified persons of faith. For the non-believer, the person not too familiar with religion, or the person who might be willing to give church a chance, this confuses them. Do you have to believe these ideas, as expressed by the people who are debating in order to be a Christian? Is this what all Christians are like, squabbling over the minutiae of creation and scripture to prove points that have nothing to do with our daily lives? Many people walk away and say yes! The stereotypes I see on television and read on the internet are true. It’s being played out on Facebook right before me. Why would I go to church if this is the kind of junk they’re going to talk about? If I was looking for a church and this is what I saw, it would turn me away.
Christians make more atheists and turn more people away from Christianity with our desire to be right about things that have no bearing on anything related to Jesus Christ. Proving God’s role in creation was never central to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus never preached about human sexuality. Jesus preached about loving our neighbors.
Our desire to win the culture wars is killing the church. We’re committing suicide by Facebook. With each attempt we make to stir the pot and have a discussion disguised as a diatribe, we’re doing more harm than good. Each time I have one of those “no we’re not really like that” conversations it gets harder to do it with a straight face. Why? Because I wonder, am I lying? Are we really like that? Maybe we are.