As it turns out, not everyone in my social media feeds is on the same side.
As I noted in "When Christians Turn Facebook Into Hatebook," my online followers are a melting pot of friends and acquaintances from all the communities I've been part of; all the communities that are still in someway a part of me.
There's such a poignant and awful mix of conservatives and liberals amongst my online people. As a result, there are people who are flaming on the left and people who are ball and chaining themselves to the right. And the result is not always pretty.
Anytime a shutdown-related news story breaks, I want to duck and run for online cover because I know that morning my news feed will be populated by 141 Republicans and 134 Democrats or 356 theological liberals and 299 theological conservatives who have made it their morning agenda to oust the other side.
I am totally confident that if, in addition to having a 'Like' button, Facebook offered a one-click way to scratch the eyes out of someone else's Facebook photo, some of my followers would spend all day blinding their opponents' profile pics.
And the awkward, disappointing irony of it all is that it is sometimes people of faith who are leading the flocks of blood-thirsty vultures to the hatefest.
I do get it. The stance of our political or religious other sickens us. And it gives us a weird sort of adrenaline rush to find gaps in their logic or errors in their ranks and to exploit them, one after the other all day long. Here's another link and another photo and, oh, watch this hilarious video berating so-and-so. This is all helping us win, right?
But I think there is a time when together we find a bipartisan place to stand and say, "Enough."
"They will know you are Christians by the way you use your ideology as an excuse to spew hate on social media," said Jesus NEVER.
Will you join me in some personal efforts to call off the vultures?
1. If you really want to be a voice of hope in this world, then insist on making your platform focus on what is hopeful. What a rough time in our economy and culture! And that provides a natural opportunity to shrink into our complaints and celebrate un-virtues like cynicism and bitterness. But when we do this, we shift energy away from our calling as good-news bearers and toward being evangelists of doom. Don't let the larger narrative of hope and good news be swallowed up by national circumstances.
2. Protect yourself from a sneaky kind of idolatry.
When we allow ourselves to get sucked into the mud-slinging between various parties, it often causes us to dwell on the negative. We give more and more time to noticing what is going wrong, to tracking it, to venting about it. Pretty soon, we've given hours of our day to frustration and disillusionment. And those hours, if we're not careful, can add up into days. The result? Suddenly we're giving days of our life to anger and not to Jesus, the being we pledged our allegiance to.
Whatever we dwell on, we become. Whatever we bask in, we end up worshiping.
3. Don't let your primary identity be that of a record-keeper of wrongs. What happens when we form a hypothesis? Those Democrats are so enabling. Those Republicans are so heartless. Those liberals are so Godless. Those conservatives are so hypocritical. We sometimes then use that hypothesis to filter what we see. We begin looking for ONLY evidence that supports our hypothesis, that paints our political and religious other as a monster and finds only the bad in them.
But is it possible that the other party is not in fact waking up in the morning purposefully intending to attack your ideology? That they are not wholly moved by evil, clamoring away at a strategy to take health care away from people or mismanage the care you receive? Is it possible that they are bringing some sort of sincere belief and effort to the picture and simply landing on a different conclusion about the best way forward?
We have to be careful. The Bible says love does not boast in weakness and does not keep record of wrong. (Read more about how "Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind Was Not a Wedding Sermon.") Sometimes we manufacture and exaggerate monsters around us, only to one day realize the villain-maker was us.
4. Own that venomous speech is self-defeating. I know both sides operate out of conviction. That they're trying to bring a little vigilantism to social media, to swing people's attention toward right belief.
It always makes me wonder, though, if they -- the theys on both side -- who do this kind of political-sociological-theological anger-mongering and anti-campaigning know how volatile and ungrounded it makes them seem. How much it entangles their credibility.
I want to tell them what the other 90 percent of my reasonable, less-extremist Facebook friends think. Which is no matter how passionate and outrageous your posts become, people will never ever buy what you're selling if your alleged "right beliefs" don't result in "right actions."
If all your intellectually and theologically "correct" statements allows yourself to completely black out that the Bible says love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you or to humbly think of others as better than ourselves. If the way you speak comes off like you'd be celebrating on other people's graves if they died today.
No one sees Jesus in that.
Instead of helping people see what's "right," you helped them hate truth instead.
5. The message of the Bible offers transcendence.
Problems, suffering, evil, none of it was absent from the Bible. God never guaranteed our life would be free from conflict or opposition. Jesus never taught that all our ideas would prevail! As my father once pointed out to me, think about the famous Shepherd's Psalm. Where are you when Jesus is walking with you through the green pastures and leading you by the still waters? You're in the valley of the Shadow of Death! And where are you when he's anointing your head with oil and your cup is running over? You're in the presence of your enemies.
That Psalm 23 imagery isn't painting life as a Thanksgiving feast, surrounded by all your friends and relatives. It's acknowledging that life is a little more like soldiers eating in a makeshift tent on the battle field with explosive devices detonating in the distance.
For faith to be worth pursuing, it has to help us transcend and operate out of peace, not just in the good days when we come to some sunny, bi-partisan consensus where everyone feels good regardless of beliefs. Faith offers hope and contentment in the middle of even unpleasant circumstances.
Sarah's new book containing other similar wisdom she's collected from veterans of the faith and humanitarian arenas is now out. The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide To Staying Sane While Doing Good is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. You can also find great shareable content at her book's Pinterest page. And you can contribute your own life lessons to an online collection of wisdom using the hashtag #worldchangerbook.