Reflections on Social Media and Persecution

It’s a tremendous privilege to be a citizen of the United States. Many of the privileges that we have slip by unnoticed, and it’s very easy to forget the freedoms we possess by being part of a nation that claims that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The US is by no means perfect—which is precisely what we should expect by a nation inhabited by imperfect people—but we cannot deny the fact that as Americans we have a greater potential for comfort, success, and the fulfillment of dreams than any other nation in the world. We should be on our knees thanking God for that privilege every day. The social media phenomenon that shadowed the turn of the 21st century is useful because it unveils the subtle expectations and freedoms that we often take for granted. Freedom of speech is the first example that comes to my mind. I’m free to post just about anything I want without any fear of the government intervening. Social media also highlights our ignorance of the outside world and our sensitivity to differing opinions, which leads me to state the obvious: we are a sheltered people. Christians in the US are especially sheltered, because to be called a Christian in other parts of the world is a damning title. Before we start feeling too sorry for ourselves, let’s not be so blind as to think that only Christians suffer persecution—there are many faiths and non-faiths that have been killed for standing up for what they believe (or don’t believe) in. But let’s face it, we’re sheltered. Too often do I see fellow Christians challenged in their theological beliefs on social media, and upon cornered, resort to saying things like “I see that you disagree, and this is exactly what the Bible said would happen.” It’s almost as if we see disagreements as being intrinsically disrespectful, and the people that make them as being opponents of truth. I have even seen fellow Christian liken online disagreements to social persecution.  This is troubling to me for numerous reasons.

People have been martyred for ideas and statements since the human race has been in existence. Socrates was forced to drink poison, and Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. You have a negative comment on a theological statement you made on Facebook. Hopefully we can see the difference here. If it seems petty and naive, that’s because it is. I have even seen Christians post belittling and pharisaical messages on Facebook, and upon encountering resistance, they wave the flag of persecution. They believe they are martyrs for the truth and the backlash response they get is proof. Even worse, many Christians will make claims about some controversial matter, and upon facing resistance, have no idea how to back up their point Biblically. They either take verses out of context, or they provide no verses at all. This is dangerous. Just because you and I are Christians, does not mean that every opinion about morality or truth is golden. I’ve seen fellow Christians make claims about a subject that the Bible would be at odds with. If you cannot back up a claim that you say is in the Bible, with a verse from the Bible, then you probably aren’t making a Biblical claim.

We cannot simply use the Bible as a way of corroborating our moral agenda. If someone disagrees with your moral agenda, do not be so quick to cry “persecution!” We are not martyrs. We do not know what it looks like to be shunned for our beliefs. Our freedoms and our access to technology have spoiled and sheltered us from knowing what it is like to truly be marginalized. Not only this, but some people face backlash on social media because their arguments are actually poorly formed, contradictory, or fallacious. Other people face opposition because their comments are blatantly offensive or ruthlessly judgmental. Though the gospel can be offensive, too often it’s not the gospel that’s being communicated–it’s  you. And it’s me.

If we are going to take heat, let’s make it count, and let us not be fooled into thinking we’re being persecuted simply because of truth. That may not be the case. We may be unloving, and we may even be wrong. Check your motives, and check your Bible; and “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). Let us “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), because it is by our love that people will know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). There is a right way to communicate truth, and there is a wrong way to communicate truth. There are times when truth will be offensive regardless. But let us make sure that we are truly speaking truth. And when disagreements rise from the result of our writings, lets invite open and honest discussion. It is a beautiful freedom that we have. But let us be sure not to play the victim. And lets certainly not call it persecution.

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