December 10, 2018

Ambassadors Not Antagonists

Next weekend I am going on a canoe trip down the mighty Mississauga river. This week I realized that I had a canoe that needed fixing. So as the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry, today’s post is quite different from what was originally planned.

That being said, it does dovetail rather nicely into yesterday’s post, “Calling Out the Good in Technology”. The sermon at my church on Sunday dealt with how we respond to social media, and there were quite a number of “quotable quotes” which got me thinking a lot about how I interact on social media. Do any of these quotes grab you by the shirt collar and give you a little shake? How have you found yourself reacting on social media? Let us know in the comments what you think?

From passive-aggressive notes on ambulance windshields to bilious political discourse, it feels as though society is suddenly consumed by fury. What is to blame for this outpouring of aggression? ~ Zoe Williams

Perhaps the only thing we can agree on at this painfully divisive moment in our history is that all this anger and derision in which we’re marinating isn’t healthy. Not for us, not for our kids and certainly not for the country. But… we can’t seem to quit. We’re so primed to be mad about something every morning. It’s almost disappointing when there isn’t an infuriating tweet to share or a bit of our moral turf to defend waiting on our phones. ~ Susanna Schrobsdorff

Political polarization is both the United States and Canada seems to increase every year. Those on the left appear to move ever farther to the left; while those on the right find less and less in common with their fellow citizens. The political rhetoric has, in fact, escalated to a toxic level. ~ Philip Salzman

I’ve been thoroughly dismayed by Facebook the past couple of years. Maybe it’s a quirk of memory, but I don’t remember my feed being so full of political sparring and overwhelming anger between 2009-2012. Outrage has become the default position of my peers, and it doesn’t show any sign of diminishing. ~ Jason Hreha

Jason should see my Facebook feed! He’d see that theological sparring is catching up with political sparring. ~ Darrel Winger

I’m so weary of the “call out” culture. We need a call forth culture instead. Calling forth the best in people. Calling forth compassion, gratitude, empathy. Calling forth justice. Calling forth beauty, goodness, wonder. Calling forth courage. ~ Diana Butler Bass

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. ~ 1 Peter 3:15

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ~ Romans 12:17-18

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ~ Matthew 5:9

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefor Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:19

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things. ~ Colossians 1:19-20

Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It’s the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evil doer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. ~ Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

THINK before you communicate (speak, tweet, post).
T: Is it true
H: Is it helpful?
I: Is it inspiring?
N: Is it necessary?
K: Is it kind?

God gives us discernment in the lives of others to call us to intercession for them, never so that we may find fault in them. ~ Oswald Chambers

The Hebrew concept of Shalom (peace), isn’t merely about the cessation of hostilities, but also about the restoring of right relationship. ~ Mike Bell

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Robert F says:

    Much of the rhetoric on both sides has been heated and unkind; that’s for certain. I’m not an innocent in that regard, I confess. I think I resort to words because, given my own particular situation and its limitations with regard to age, health, and wealth issues, I feel impotent to act in other ways at a time when I think that, as a Christian, an American, and a human being, activism is definitely called for. I don’t believe many of my words have been helpful, especially as they have mostly been driven by fear and anger. But complete silence and inaction would not, in my view, be the faithful Christian response. Neither would trying to occupy some sort of neutral ground between sides, because I believe we don’t have that option, since that ground does not exist at our present moment. There is no neutral ground, where peace-making words alone, or non-partisan acts of love and kindness alone, can move things in a good direction. We have reached the point where the following words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer describe our situation, and what we as Christians are called to do:

    If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.

  2. senecagriggs says:

    2010-2020

    The decade of the perennially outraged?

    On the one hand, I love the internet for it’s accessibility to information.
    On the flip side, it encourages displays of outrage – gives a megaphone to the perpetually aggrieved

  3. john barry says:

    M. Bell, What is the difference between an expedition canoeist and a catfish?

    One has whiskers and is smelly and the other is a fish.
    Two men canoeing down the river, run into cement wall, first man says “dam”

    Knock Knock
    Who’s There
    Canoe
    Canoe Who
    Canoe you, help me with my homework? from Boys Life years ago.

    How do you tell a Jack Benny from a canoe?
    A canoe tips.

    There is a lost of civility and manners certainly in our country for sure. The internet as noted many places due to its nature has added to that lack of as noted in the article THINK.

    The transmission of values, traditions and heritage from one generation to another is failing and the internet and mass media are filling the void. Common courtesy is becoming uncommon. We as a society are marching to too many different drummers and everyone defends their drummer

    • Robert F says:

      We as a society are marching to too many different drummers and everyone defends their drummer.

      Well, you’re not expecting me to defend your drummer, are you?

  4. Robert F says:

    What is civility? What does it mean? What does it require? Does it mean that I should never say anything that would make someone else angry, that I should never challenge the morality or rectitude of their social or political positions or expressed opinions? Does it require that I keep quiet about behavior on the part of others, including leaders, that I perceive to be evil, as long as it’s not illegal? If I’m a cartoonist, does it require that I never draw political cartoons that expresses a biting, satirical critique of a leader or social issue? If I’m a writer, does it require that I never write an article that expresses a biting, satirical critique of a leader or social issue? Who defines civility, and who gets to give the definitive answer to all the questions that the issue of civility gives rise to?

    • The ability to hear. Lightheartedness that knows people are always more important than points. Willingness to amend my viewpoint if a better one is offered, even from the (fill in the blank…Democrat/Republican). Making a positive assumption about the character of the person with whom we are debating. Those sorts of things represent civil discourse. They in no way necessitate a wishy washy approach.

      • Robert F says:

        What if the viewpoints of two other people are mutually incompatible, one of them claims to be the victim of the other, and I am in the position of either having take up and defend the position of one, or the other, and no matter which I choose, the other will view me as the opposition, enemy, or oppressor? We are not just talking about our own perceptions, experiences, and value, but the way the perceptions, experiences, and values have or do not have a right to claim our attention and investment.

        There are occasionally situations in which lightheartedness does not fit the issue at hand, such as discussions/arguments that occurred between abolitionists and supporters of slavery in the antebellum South, or about the issue of separation of undocumented immigrant families at the border, or the willingness of a head of state to turn one of the country’s former ambassadors over to a hostile foreign power (known for its assassination of critics) for questioning. There are others, but I’m sure you get my point.

        • Correction: …..but the way the perceptions, experiences, and values of others have or do not have a right….

        • You’re right. There are issues that go to the core of who we are and can’t be taken lightly. In those cases civility must take a lesser role. We seem to think in this society that Cowboys vs. Eagles is one of those topics. Everything seems to have risen to the level of life altering drama where any compromise is verboten. Civility finds no place anywhere.

        • I think it’s important as Christians for us to seek good for all those we deal with, even if we disagree strongly. We must treat them with respect. And we must look for ways in which we agree.. if not in means, then in ends. But sometimes the best we can do for someone is to not give them a chance to bring out the worst in us. Which is where that THINK acronym is effective. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be said.

          • Christiane says:

            “But sometimes the best we can do for someone is to not give them a chance to bring out the worst in us.”

            This!

    • john barry says:

      Robert F. I should have expanded on my drummer statement but I am always worried my comments too long.

      We use to as a nation follow a “common” drummer on issues like being respectful of opinions and really have a real debate or conversation on issues. There was a common drummer that you were polite in public speech and how you addressed others such as public cursing. Certain behavior was not acceptable or alibied . I will stop here on examples.

      I believe we need as a society to have a set of normal behavior in the public arena . That does not mean we all agree or it is a fake setting but that the basics are followed.

      I do not expect you to defend my “drummer” on individual issues but we have a common drummer we both can defend when it comes to being civil in our discourse, not hateful , not vengeful and on and on. That are certain core principles we can all agree on.

      • Robert F says:

        Often in the past, in the history of our country, and right now, the claim that everyone should respect the opinions of others in public discourse amounted to nothing more than a way of getting those who had real and significant personal and communal grievances to shut up already, and just accept things as the were, or are; in other words, it was nothing more than cover for maintaining the status quo after a little over dinner discussion. I’m not willing, and many others are not willing, to get back into the line that follows that drummer, however polite you may think it would be.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          In my experience, SOCIOPATHS are THE Most POLITE people you will ever encounter.

          It’s just another weapon in their Manipulation arsenal.

    • Christiane says:

      Civility is RESPECT.

      I have a problem being ‘civil’ to those who want to shut people up who are seeking justice for persecuted (really persecuted) individuals, particularly if those individuals cannot speak up for themselves.

      What’s with the great push to shut people up?????
      Particularly when the issue is the fate of those who are most vulnerable???

      I can’t RESPECT those who try to silence anyone who stands up for the vulnerable. So that makes me a problem, which is fine by me. The thing is that the ‘silencers’ don’t want ANY discussion, even down to WHY they are trying to shut advocates up.

      I’m guilty of disrespecting the ‘silencers’ of the advocates of vulnerable and helpless people.
      I’m angry at the ‘silencers’. We all know the ‘why’ they are afraid of light put on their ‘leader’s inhumanity.
      I will not be silenced nor will I turn away and ‘not see’ what is happening. Or not hear the cries of the afflicted.

      I never will accept ‘looking away’ from evil and ‘being silent’ as the price a moral person has to pay for being called ‘civil’ in our country, no.

      • Just remember, Christiane, total war is never justified.

        • Christiane says:

          Good advice, I know, if I could fathom what you are meaning here:
          can you ‘splain please 🙂 and thanks

          BTW, hope your wife is doing well, last time we heard, she had developed a fever and was going to the doctor again

          • The fever is gone, and temp has stabilized to normal. The crisis seems to be over. Thanks for asking and praying.

            I don’t really think I need to explain, as your commentary already exhibits that you understand it. I need to avoid pontificating; even popes aren’t good at it, why should I think that I would be?

            • Christiane says:

              Hello Robert F

              Good to hear your wife’s condition has stabilized. It’s been a rough week for you both.

              As to pontificating, please don’t trouble yourself. . . . we in my Church only have one pontiff at a time usually, except for the century when we had three and that didn’t work out, and now we’ve got a ‘pope emeritus’, poor old worn-out Benedict who was very intellectual but lacked the physical stamina to be an active pope, so he retired and turned the job over to Francis, also old, over-weight, and in the possession of only one lung, go figure.

              Thanks for the update, and have a great weekend.

      • I think grace speaks louder than anger, movements led by MLK, Ghandi, Corazon Aquino etc were able to break through immense power and hatred by using Jesus command to love our enemies. I think resistance to Trump can be done this way.

        • Christiane says:

          I think resistance to Trump can be done at the ballot box. And in demonstrations (large, noisy, and peaceful).
          And in SPEAKING OUT when others tell you to keep quiet because they don’t want light shone on the inhumanity of their ‘dear leader’, Putin’s Puppet.

          Sure, we could all sit quiet. But that serves the purposes of them what wants the ‘quiet’ which will not disturb the on-going nightmare that is Trumpism.

          I can’t believe one woman who pretended to be a ‘christian’ saying that the treatment of the border babies was a ‘political’ matter, when we all know it was an immoral inhumane fiasco ordered by Trump who had been warned by his own advisors that it could harm the small children and infants. Where’s the Christianity in ‘looking away’ and ‘keeping sweet’ while hell rains down on innocent children in our own country?????

          There is a ‘divide’.
          On one side, the people who cannot abide those who criticize the Trump and want to silence them.
          And on the other side, those who SEE and HEAR the horror he is inflicting and who cannot be silenced.

          The battle lines are drawn. Putin’s Puppet has opponents who don’t respect bullies and toadies.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Where’s the Christianity in ‘looking away’ and ‘keeping sweet’ while hell rains down on innocent children in our own country?????

            Victory in the Holy Grail of the past 40 years:
            A Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v Wade, put Prayer back in schools, stop the teaching of Evolution, and return us to a Christian Nation.

  5. I have no presence on social media with the exception of this site and still I feel it but I think to a much lesser degree than if I spent time on Facebook and others. I’m guessing anger, incivility and radical partisanship may end up being some of the prominent, if not the defining, features of this era. Lack of personal connection produces depression which is frequently the cover for all out rage due to isolation and a real or perceived inability to change one’s circumstances. People with whom we interact on the internet are just barely this side of fictional characters in our minds or in a video game with whom we are dueling or loving or…. This is never a substitute for genuine communion. I have long thought that this continuing social isolation is a large source of the anger that seems so present these days.
    The flip side is that I encounter many people who are blissfully oblivious to the rage by all appearances. These things are never as all permeating as they seem at the moment. The sun still comes up. Children still laugh. Hands are still held. Kindness can be anywhere and anyone. Hope is right next to us.

    • Robert F says:

      Good observations. I don’t have any presence on social media, either. Imonk is pretty much it. But I sure do get mad when I see the Confederate flag flying on the flag pole in front of somebody’s house just around the corner.

      • –> “But I sure do get mad when I see the Confederate flag flying on the flag pole in front of somebody’s house just around the corner.”

        They might just be proud of their southern heritage rather than flaunting it to aggravate you.

        • My friendship with African-Americans has led me to view it the same way that they do, as a symbol on the same order as the Swastika.

        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          The trouble is, whatever else constitutes “southern heritage” that flag (as I understand it) was designed as the Confederate battle flag and the only bit of “southern heritage” it memorialises is the bit where the south fought an unsuccessful war to keep african-americans enslaved. Flying it means you are proud of your forbears having fought to preserve slavery.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And then there was the postwar “Romance of The Lost Cause”, which to be frank was probably the best of a bunch of bad alternatives.

            As for me, if I ever need to fly a Confederate flag, it’ll be the 1861-pattern Stars & Bars, NOT the 1862-pattern Starry Cross or its derivative, the 1863-pattern Stainless Banner. It’s the Confederate flag LEAST likely to be flown by white supremacists.

            (I have also seen a variant of the Stars & Bars with ONE star, which adds another point of difference.)

      • That Other Jean says:

        You might, instead of letting the “Confederate” flag (it’s actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, and later the CSA’s Naval Ensign) raise your blood pressure, you might instead pity their profound ignorance of history, and their attachment to the losers in a battle for the union of the United States, and their support of a clear moral wrong. Or, what Iain Lovejoy posted that I failed to read before I wrote this.

        • Christiane says:

          My great grandfather’s brother, William James Ausbon was a Confederate war hero, one of the six heroes of the Siege of Petersburg.
          But I do NOT want Confederate flags flying anywhere in my country because the sight of them wounds my countrymen whose forefathers were held under the inhumane brutality of slavery.

          Do I admire the bravery of my great uncle? Yes. Very much. He saved a lot of lives. But I don’t need to rub the Confederacy in the face of my countrymen and women who are haunted by the treatment of their forefathers that was brutal and inhumane.

          So, I am on the side of knowing about the history of this country; but I am also on the side of those for whom the sight of the Confederate flag for so long was meant to intimidate them in ways unAmerican. Let the descendants of the victims of slavery live in peace with the descendants of those who once were a part of the system of slavery in our land. Now I see ‘race’ on a questionaire, I can write ‘human’ in good conscience.

  6. Michael Z says:

    This sort of divisiveness isn’t new. Every time US culture has shifted to offer more rights and protections to people who are not in a position of privilege, we have gone through a period of conflict. It happened with the end of slavery, with women’s voting rights, with labor unions, with the Civil Rights era, with feminism and the push for women’s equality, etc. In many of those past cases, the conflict was actually far bloodier than our present angry discourse.

    As in the 60s-70s, the US right now is experiencing several simultaneous expansions of rights and protections: the “Me too” movement, legalization of gay marriage, expanded trans rights, and public outcry against racist policing, white supremacy, etc. It’s inevitable that we’ll have a period of turmoil while our society tries to integrate those shifts into the way we live. But we shouldn’t overlook the fact that for many people who are *not* in a position of privilege and power, their situation today is far better than it was 50 or 100 years ago. It’s not like harassment or racism didn’t exist back then – it’s just that people who are white and male had the luxury of not noticing it.

    • They are trying to get the luxury back. Hence the current Occupant. And they are not being civil about it; and the current Occupant is the worst offender of all.

      • Michael Z says:

        Yes, but judging purely from past history, the most likely outcome in the *long* run (decades in the future) is that society as a whole will shift in a more progressive direction, and all the regressive folks will succeed in doing is creating small sub-pockets of the country where that progress is not happening as quickly.

        Of course it’s not guaranteed that our country won’t degenerate into chaos or authoritarianism this time around; all I’m saying is that there’s good reason to hope that this is just a decade-long sickness that we’re going to have to weather but that we will be better off for in the end.

        • That’s what I hope for too, but some countries in Europe are providing counter-evidence to the narrative of likely progress: Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland are headed in the direction of choosing an ethno-state future. That would be much less likely here in the U.S., since we are much more multicultural, especially in and around our urban areas, than most places in Europe have ever been.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        While the Christians go “AAAAAA-MENNNNNN!” in Praise and Adoration.

  7. john barry says:

    Robert F. just saw these comments. There is a difference , of course my drummer says you have the right to free speech, however if someone irrationally gets angry over your comments that is their problem. If you are trying to make them angry by your comments , that is un civil and your problem. There is a difference. However, we both follow the free speech drummer, I think.

    The 1st amendment gives you the right and as a citizen you have the duty to challenge opinions and positions you disagree with. Civility does mean that we follow the “rules” on now we disagree .

    Society and culture define civility in a general sense. The least effective and the last recourse to set civility is the judicial system. I think most people can detect the difference between civil and uncivil behavior.

    In my stupid joke I wrote in my first comment about what is the difference between a canoe and Jack Benny , I substituted Jack Benny for Canadians as I did not want to offend anyone, especially M. Bell or Canadians in general. I was trying to be civil. If I did say Canadians I would not be trying to make Canadians angry but now that I am “mature” I can understand how they might be offended and angry at the stereotype. I was trying to be socially and politically correct as well as truly sensitive that some might be great offended by the joke and take it seriously. Just a quick example of me, trying to be civil . Again , in 1970 which about the time I first heard the joke , I would have not given it a second thought to use. In person , if I really knew M. Bell and thought he would take the joke as what it is , as stupid as the catfish joke , I probably would say it to him personally , but on the internet I have no sense of his sensitivity and would not risk offended him personally or Canada, as they have the best side of Niagara Falls.

    A judge once said he can not define porno but he knew it when he saw it. I think the same can be said about civil and uncivil behavior.

    • Who is Jack Benny?

      • Michael Bell says:

        Jack Benny is John Barry showing his age!

        From Wikipedia: “Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky; February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) was an American comedian, vaudevillian, radio, television and film actor, and violinist. Recognized as a leading 20th-century American entertainer, Benny often portrayed his character as a miser, playing his violin badly, and claiming to be 39 years of age, regardless of his actual age.

        Benny was known for his comic timing and the ability to cause laughter with a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated “Well!” His radio and television programs, popular from 1932 until his death in 1974, were a major influence on the sitcom genre.”

        • I know who Jack Benny is. I was just pulling J.B.’s leg, because he dates himself so often…Lol! But I’m sure the younger folks here have no idea who many of the popular entertainers that he mentions from days of yore are.

          I never found Jack Benny or Henny Youngman funny. Rodney Dangerfield, now, he was funny!

        • But here’s something I didn’t know: Canadians are stereotyped as bad tippers? Never heard that before. Of course, if it’s true, it’s probably because all employers are mandated by Canadian law to pay a living wage, unlike the U.S.

  8. Christiane says:

    “Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It’s the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evil doer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. ~ Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals”

    very thought-provoking comment . . . . I love the idea of the ‘careful arduous pursuit of . . . . . justice’ but right now, I’m so ANGRY that I’m not sure I WANT ‘reconciliation’ and I see that as where I need to do some work on myself, so as not to be provoked to respond in ways that are not productive towards seeking justice for the helpless who are under institutional assault and who are suffering as we speak.

  9. I wish my Christian friends on social media kept in mind that sneering is not listed among the fruit of the Spirit.

    • +1.

      Not at all.

    • Anger is not a fruit of the spirit either, we become so blinded to our truth that we can’t see the forest for the tres

      • Christiane says:

        ““Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
        Not to speak is to speak.
        Not to act is to act.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

  10. What we’ve done is provide to anyone with internet access a big ole megaphone with a single volume setting of EXTRA EXTRA LOUD. And because it bypasses the gatekeepers regulating the system in old media it gives voices to those who were previously marginalized. (Unfortunately this includes groups who probably should have been marginalized.)

    The problems with access to old media were obvious. Who elects the gatekeepers? But now we see the problem with unfettered access. A continuous stream of white noise. There are intelligent and thoughtful voices out there but they tend to be drowned out in the unending cacophony. And as undemocratic as it sounds, not everyone really has anything interesting to say. (But of course the people with the least interesting things to say are almost always the ones who insist on being heard. See the Dunning–Kruger effect )

    I was in my thirties before I had access to the Internet so I can still conceive of a life without it. I’m not sure younger folks can. Always useful to remember that we are under no obligation to participate.

    ps On the News I hear that Google is preparing a search app for China that will comply with their strict censorship requirements. Oho so there are gatekeepers!

    • Very perceptive comment, Stephen. Pre-internet – Gatekeeper problem. Post-internet – lack of gatekeeper problem.

      –> “What we’ve done is provide to anyone with internet access a big ole megaphone with a single volume setting of EXTRA EXTRA LOUD.”

      I’ve said all along that Facebook, and now Instagram and Twitter, are a narcissist’s dream come true.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      The possibility of creating a significant stream of revenue drives compromises that initially seemed outrageous. Don’t know that I will be alive to see it, but the likelihood of an overarching and omnipresent gatekeeper on the worldwide web is not unreasonable. As long as the Chinese government can hold together its financing scheme, they are well positioned to be in the catbird’s seat.