“Let Me Go, I’m Only Letting You Down…”

Photo by Mizzu Cho on Pexels.com

If you follow me on social media, I’m probably going to disappoint you at some point, if I haven’t done so already.

I’m not going to do it on purpose, mind you. I try to keep things pretty light and avoid unnecessary squabbles. I may retweet more “controversial” things, but only if they’re things I truly believe, and even then I’ll admit that I weigh the importance of the issue to the potential negative feedback I might receive. I’d never go out of my way to act like a proverbial internet troll. There have been a few times where I’ve gotten pretty heated about a subject and that comes out in a quick thread that may or may not stay up for more than a few minutes, but usually when I tweet from the spleen, I’ll refrain from hitting “send” or will delete the posts pretty quickly once the moment of anger passes.

All in all, as much as I can, I keep it pretty low-key. It’s more fun for me that way. But even with that approach, I will still disappoint you. (Depending on how up-to-date you are with “cancel culture,” I may have even disappointed you with my post title.)

About 6 months ago, I discovered that over the course of just a few days, I had deeply disappointed folks in two opposite ideological directions. What can I say, I’m just that talented.

You say you want a revolution…

If you’re an American citizen and/or a news junkie, the date “January 6th” holds a new level of meaning after this year. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, the date might inspire some sort of visceral response, even now. In the heat of the moment, it certainly did so for me.

I was in the middle of a particularly plodding Zoom meeting and decided to check the news; it was the day that the presidential election results were scheduled to be certified, and the buzz was that there may be some rhetorical fireworks in the People’s Chamber. (Little did they know.)

As I started to see the raw footage being shared over social media and network news feeds, I was shocked. The Capitol, surrounded by a crowd pressing in at the doors, smashing windows, crossing barriers and security gates, celebrating like they just captured the enemy’s castle. From my virtual vantage point, the mood was a swirl of elation, outrage, and undefined hunger looking for an outlet.

When I saw footage of mobs smashing buildings and burning businesses and cars last summer, I viewed it with a mix of resignation and bewilderment; the logic of looting is something I’ll never fully comprehend. But when I saw this raucous crowd push their way into the Capitol, I felt something else: indignation. It felt like a civic transgression had taken place. I was incensed.

So, like so many watching news they can’t do anything about from a distance they can’t cross, I did the only thing I could think of: I tweeted about it. (Spoiler: This was a mistake.)

My comments were basically that anyone who had been trafficking in weeks of reckless rhetoric about election fraud and Deep State coup owned a little piece of the chaos unfolding, because my position in that moment (and to be honest, even now to some degree) is that there seems to be a pretty clear line from one to the other. If you tell people enough times and in enough ways that their country was being stolen by corporate and political powers who were defrauding them of their ability to vote and that they need to show up at a certain place and time to “fight for their country,” I don’t think you can then see a mob busting into the building chanting “Stop the Steal!” and throw your hands up like Captain Renault, shocked that there’s gambling going on in Casablanca. My tweets were essentially, “Here are your winnings, sir.”

In my head, I had in mind certain political talking heads and commentators–the tastemakers of the right. But hoo boy, did that not communicate well, and members of our church family reached out to my fellow elder and our lead pastor to let him know about it. (Fewer of them reached out to me directly, but that’s neither here nor there.) Thankfully, one of them did follow the Matthew 18 directive, confronted me about the tweets (which he felt were reckless and directed against some members of our church family), and exhorted me to take them down, saying they did not reflect well on the Gospel or our church. I realized I’d really stepped in it this time, so I screenshotted the offending posts, sent everything to my fellow elders for review, and took them all down. It took a while, and multiple conversations, to try to heal the offense I’d made against certain members of my church family. I’ve been able to have coffee with the offended brother and work out some of the misunderstanding, but it would have been better for me to take a minute and breathe and try to communicate things in a wiser manner.

Guilt by Association…

A few days later, I mentioned on Twitter (why am I still on there?) that I had an account on the social media platform Parler, in case people wanted to follow me there. As you may recall, this was one of the several times in the last year that conservatives on Jack Dorsey’s platform were threatening to pull up stakes and move elsewhere (which is about as convincing as when progressives threaten to move to Canada if Republicans win elections).

Now, in the interest of clarity: I originally set up that account because I was thinking it might be a nice, encouraging, apolitical alternative to Jack’s platform. (Silly me.) I used it a little bit, didn’t really like the interface, and saw that the folks I followed from Twitter onto Parler (mostly pastors and writers and podcasters) were actually MORE abrasively political there than they were elsewhere, so I just stopped using it. I kept the account as a placeholder with a link back to this blog, but otherwise haven’t really touched it since late 2020 (as far as I can recall).

I mentioned to my Twitter followers that I had an account over there they could follow, on the off-chance Jack became too inhospitable toward overtly Christian content or content that was too far to the right. (Which, I recognize, seems silly given my stated philosophy of “keeping it chill,” but as it turns out, some of my mutuals are starting to take heat from the tech overlords, so hey, better safe than sorry. Besides, I have a “brand” to maintain.)

I soon got a rather disapproving comment from a mutual follower on the left side of the political aisle who was shocked that I would even have an account on that platform. I’m not “real-life” friends with this person, but we’ve interacted positively several times online, so I was a bit surprised by her comment. She indicated that Parler was a place for those who wanted “people like her” dead. She posted a few screenshots from random Parler users saying particularly crazy things and said she would never want to be associated with a site that engaged in that sort of hate speech. I tried to respond that a) I’m sorry there are posts like that; b) that’s not why I’m using it or who I interact with; and c) I’m really not using it that much anyway (for the reasons outlined above). By that point, the conversation had pretty much ended, and I’ve gotten radio silence ever since.

It’s funny how much a little bit of push-back like that can catch you off-guard when you’re not used to getting it.

“You’re not as brave as you were at the start…”

Thinking back over these interactions, I realize that I could have acted differently in two opposite ways, but somehow with the same end result.

Rather than taking the path of conciliation and explanation, I could have just said “No.” I could have argued my case, cited examples to back it up, poked holes in the accusations. I could have even turned the arguments against these people–arguing that if you’re so offended, perhaps it’s you who are the problem. Doing that would have perhaps gotten me the argument “win,” but at the cost of potential continued friendship or loss of having a voice in that person’s life. That’s a bad bargain for such a fleeting prize.

I instead could have avoided the issue altogether. Said nothing. Kept my head down. Stayed off social media. (There’s always a good case to be made for that.) But I don’t think that would have been any better. Sure, I could have avoided the drama that week, but sometimes living an honest and open life means you are going to rub up against people who just don’t like what you have to say. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to avoid that kind of conflict by being pleasant and agreeable. That’s part of my peacemaking people-pleasing nature. And in the end, am I really maintaining the relationship with someone to whom I’m unwilling to tell the truth? (The irony of this is, we’re slowly reaching the point in which “keeping it chill” stops working and you’re no longer allowed by your peers to avoid taking a position on certain issues.)

I think I need to be braver about saying what’s true and good and right on social media, even if it’s unpopular. I should be willing to get pushback if it can open up dialogue and provoke thought from others. I also need to be wiser and more prudent with my words. I think I’m growing in that, but I know I’ve got far to go.

I probably should get off Twitter eventually, because the balance of usefulness and connection to distraction and frustration is shifting too far to the latter. Until that day comes, if you choose to follow me on Twitter, just know that I’m probably going to let you down. I’ll say something you don’t agree with or are even offended by. And if you decide to push back, to argue, to call me out, I hope that I answer you well. I’m going to try to do so with grace and wisdom, for your good and for God’s glory rather than for a rhetorical win.

But I am going to answer you.

Friday Feed (1/29/2021)

Photo by Ir Solyanaya on Pexels.com — It’s not this cold where I am, but it feels this cold in my office at the moment.

Happy Friday, fam! Here are some interesting things I’ve found on the internet in recent weeks, for your weekend enjoyment.

That’s it for this week. See you next week! (How is it already almost February?!?)

#FridayFive: 07/20/2018

You know the deal–let’s do it:

Teens are Flocking to Youtube to…Study?: If you’re a computer-based office worker like me, one of the most important elements of your workday is background music to drown out the sound of your coworkers loudly calling out to each other. Especially your boss, who has no sense of–oh, that’s just me? Sorry. So yeah, background music is essential. I sometimes listen to podcasts, but when I need to focus just a bit more on the less-data-entry-like aspects of my work, it’s distracting. That’s why this article turned me on to what is becoming a lifesaver in my particularly slammed workdays: lo-fi streams on Youtube.

The Trophy: An Essay on Fatherhood: As the daddy of an…almost-one-year-old [*choking back tears*], essays about fatherhood hit me hard. Goins’ posts are always a good read, including this one.

5 Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective: Another Goins post, this time on the weak/filler words that creep into our writing and water it down.

Why You Don’t Need to Read Those Productivity Guides: Although the author drifts dangerously close to “not having an act is your act” territory, he makes some good points here about “enough,” a word that is almost anathema in productivity discussions.

A Choose-Your-Path Twitter Fairy Tale: This is SO GOOD that I furious with myself for not thinking of it. Every so often, there’s a moment–one shining moment–where we all stop and realize, “hey, social media is actually a pretty cool invention that can bring people together in an interesting way.” I think this is one of those moments.

=====

Your Turn: Any cool stories or blog posts you want to recommend? Throw ’em in the com-box below!

Vanity, 140 characters at a time.

Two (possibly contradictory) thoughts regarding social media (and Twitter in particular):

=====

I was all set to blast him.

I spent a few minutes crafting what I knew was the perfect, 140-character jeremiad against a political party leader. It was rueful. It was accusatory. It would surely be seen and echoed by others, gaining “likes” and “retweets.”

As my thumb hovered over the “send” button, I imagined this person somehow picking this tweet out amidst the thousands of social media comments he was surely receiving, reading it, and being struck by its truth and resonance.

And then I thought, “Wait–what if he does read this? What if this is the only interaction I’ll ever have with the man? Is this the impression I want to leave?”

I wrestled for a second…then deleted my perfectly-sharpened rhetorical barb.

Go ahead and laugh. I agree, it’s a patently ridiculous thought that my comment would be the one needle in the digital haystack that would actually scratch its intended target. But let’s bring it back down to earth a bit.

Rather than a major political figure, how about the random person on Twitter whom I have the chance to interact with sometime? In that one interaction, how would I want to be perceived? And would they be able to tell what I value?

If you knew that your only interaction with a person would be via 140-character messages, what would you say? More importantly, what wouldn’t you say?

The person you’re @-tweeting to, even if they’re a celebrity or political power player, is a real person with a living soul. Not just a face or a name or a persona.  A real person. (I know, I know, I’ve talked about this before.)

I guess I’m bringing up all this to say, sometimes I can be too much of a keyboard-cowboy. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m nobody from nowhere, and that Jesus is the only person who matters. Sometimes I need to be thumped in the head by the fact that every careless word I speak (or type) matters to God (Matt. 12:33-37). If I remembered that every time I pulled up Twitter, it would motivate me to represent Him better in that medium.

=====

On the other hand: If I’m not using social media for specifically spiritual purposes, am I guilty of sin?

A Twitter-buddy of mine posted a brave question the other day: “Based on the majority of my social media content, what do you think I value most?” From what I could tell, some of the answers he received disappointed him a little. I have to give him props for even asking the question. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the answers I’d get, especially lately.

That question may be useful as a litmus test for checking for secret idolatries–the tendency we sinful creatures have to value things far more than they are due and make them more important in our lives than they should be (what the sages call “disordered passions”).

But I think the answers we get to that question may be a little misleading, as well, due to the nature of social media itself, and how we use it.  Often, I use social media to connect to people who enjoy the things I enjoy, and get excited about the same aspects of art and culture that I do. So it wouldn’t be outlandish to notice a large part of my interactions on social media are about just that: movies, music, TV, sports, politics, books.

However, what you see on Twitter or even on this blog isn’t the totality of my energies and thoughts. It may give indications, sure, and I should take those clues  seriously. But there’s more going on than what we see on-screen, even when it comes to ourselves.

All this to say: If your whole life (both online and offline) is consumed with temporary things, then pay attention. Re-adjust. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and get your head on straight.

But if you tweet or post about Steve Rogers, Barry Allen, and Jake Arietta because the only people you know who would be interested in discussing these heroic figures are friends on the internet? Well, I don’t think that’s an indication that your heart’s grown cold to the things of Christ.

But what do I know. Maybe I’m another frog in the pot with you.

=====

Like I said–possibly contradictory. This is the push-pull that I feel when it comes to this issue. I want to represent Jesus well with my words and actions. But I enjoy this life He’s given me, with all its temporary pleasures and unimportant joys. Baseball and comic books and board games and karaoke with friends–these are all gifts from God. I am thankful to Him for them. And on social media, I geek out about all these silly things. I don’t think that’s wrong, as long as these unimportant things don’t crowd out the Main Thing in my life.

Ironically, last night, after I finished the first draft of this post, my wife suggested that we both take a step back from media involvement for a bit, to focus some extra energy on spiritual things. For her, that’s mainly TV. For me, it’s social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter).  She’s right. It would be good to take a break. Regroup. Focus on weighty things.

 

I will try to get back to regular Monday – Wednesday – Friday blog posting, next week. I just won’t be as visible on other platforms for a little while.

Have a good weekend, friends. Jesus is Lord. Give Him the glory due His name.

Wednesday Guest Post: Webster Hunt

[Hey readers–from time to time, I’m going to bring in a guest blogger, just to mix things up. So please allow me to introduce a Twitter friend, Jesus follower, and all-around good dude, Webster Hunt. Follow him on Twitter at @livingheart .] 

Thank you, Dave, for giving me a chance to test the waters of blogging, and thank you, readers, for deciding to continue to read after you discovered that your regularly scheduled blogger had turned the reins over to a complete stranger. My hope is that you’ll be edified, comforted, and encouraged in Christ, and not run over the side of a cliff by a man who obviously has no idea what he’s doing – though he may boast otherwise.

My name is Webster Hunt, I’ve been married for seven years (in May, technically), and for the last three years my wife has been severely sick.  She’s seen so many specialists that I can’t count them. She spent much of 2012 in the hospital. She currently takes about 30 pills a day to fight all her various heart and blood pressure complications. She also has a pacemaker. She’s 26.

This illness took us completely by surprise. I can still remember the night that would foreshadow all the suffering to come – her blood pressure had contually risen all night and peaked at 185/110, at which point we asked her uncle to run her to the ER so that I could take care of our daughters. From that night, her illness only seemed to get worse, and seemed to be one which no doctor could peg down nor treat effectively, and one which would force us to make life-altering decisions in our family. I’m tempted to go into all that changed, but I may unintentionally cause reproach by passing over massive amounts of detail that are necessary for fully understanding all that happened. But in short, that year, our daughters were kindly adopted into a family that could better take care of them than we could and we chose to leave our home church to mitigate the effect our daughters would feel in having to leave us. Those were the hardest parts.

By our Lord’s providence, we found an apartment close to where I work so that I could quickly get to my wife if she needed me to, and we’ve been there since. 2013 was a hard year filled with loneliness and regret that things had to happen the way they did. We missed our daughters, and although we were greatly thankful for our Lord’s providence and love toward us in providing for them two wonderful adoptive parents, we wished that the home they could have been in was ours.  We missed our life before my wife’s illness; the freedoms, the joys, the little things we took for granted.

But we grieved together and whenever one fell into deep sorrow, by the grace of our Lord, the other was able to lift up, weep with, comfort, remind the one whose strength seemed sapped of our Lord’s sovereignty as shown in His Word. Even my wife, in the midst of an illness that attacked her body and mind at various times, was able when I was broken down to give comfort and remind me of the truth that our God, Jesus Christ, had conquered death and sin and was seated at our Father’s right hand, and would avenge any evil done to us, and would take the evil done to us and work it to good.

And here’s where I’m going with all of that: I wish the men who counseled me before marriage (who, in their defense, did their best to prepare us for marriage with all the right intent in all the ways our parents did not or could not or would not) had posed this question to me –

“Do you want to keep your promise that you’ll make at the altar when the sickness is the worst it could be, and it happens before its usual time – after you’ve experienced the joys of marriage for a time and have been husband and wife longer than you’ve had a mortgage – and the normal joys and experiences given to normal young couples dries up, and you have to make sharp sacrifices to take care of her.  When there is no physical joy to be gained, when you have to work your day job and then come home and take care of her too, when all your money is going to treating her illness, and many creature comforts that you would have otherwise experienced is gone and you’re left with the charge from God in scripture to “Love your wife” and “to deal with her in an understanding way” and you understand that your reasonable service to Christ is to be gracious toward your wife and remain steadfast in righteousness and purity when, though your wife’s body belongs to you, you are no longer able to exercise the joy that normally brings, do you still want to be married to her? Are you willing to be a living sacrifice in order to bring glory to Jesus Christ in your marriage by loving her the way 1 Corinthians 13 says a Christian should although you may receive no rewards, no accolades, no praises, no recognition, no glory in this life? Will you remain her husband both because you want to and because you vowed to?”

– because I think it would have made me take marriage more seriously in the first four years. Praise God that He prepared us by giving us mature men and women who would train us up to understand on the far-side what we neglected in the beginning.

Now granted, when that question is asked devoid of actual experience, it’s probably easy to say “Oh, yeah. I’ll totally do that. So when do we get to the “I DO” part of this?” Nonetheless, that is what I want to give to you to think about from my guest-blog, because Ephesians 5 tells me that marriage is a most visible picture by which our God demonstrates the relationship between Jesus and His church, and it’s easy to remain married when all the benefits and joys are readily available – and praise God when they are – but should He decide to take away those benefits and joys, let me encourage you: it is for your good because it is for Christ’s glory, though it seems to be absolutely contrary. It has to be. Biblically, it’s the only way we can think about suffering in any context. But I think that there’s an especial focus when it’s within the context of a Christian marriage, because that’s the picture God has chosen to demonstrate how He relates to His people, His Church, Christ’s body.

As a bonus: If we want to make a slam-dunk argument for Biblical marriage in our culture and how they think about marriage, we should pray, pursue, and study to obey Christ’s commands concerning marriage without complaining, especially when there’s suffering involved. True enough, even a lost person can sacrifice much for their spouse in the midst of an illness – I believe that to be the image of God in man leaking out despite their best efforts to suppress the truth – but given enough time, and given enough loss, and given enough lack of recognition, glory, or return for their investment, they’ll give it up. Let’s not be like this crooked generation.