This weekend I almost gave up.
It started with an innocent Facebook post. I posted an article on my friend’s wall about Rob Bell’s recent statement in support of same sex marriage. I meant it only for my friend, but, of course, on Facebook nothing is meant for just one person.
The first few comments weren’t too bad. A few people posted with vague variations of “Well, it’s about time he came clean” or “That is unexpected”—all of which could be taken either in favor of or against Rob Bell’s stance. It was funny at first. And then someone posted their true opinion, and it all went downhill from there. What started off as polite conversation quickly snowballed into a Scripture-slinging hate fest from people on both sides of the issue.
In response to all the hubbub, my friend wrote an awesome post about how Christians need to take a good look at how we read, interpret, and apply “biblical” teachings, particularly in regards to homosexuality. When he posted it on Facebook, politeness wasn’t even attempted. The lines were drawn, the verbal swords raised, and the feelings and opinions of many people were hacked into a million bleeding fragments. Finally, another friend jumped in to shout, “ENOUGH.”
And where was I while all of this was going? I was metaphorically curled up in the fetal position, deeply regretting ever posting that stupid article. I nearly deleted my Facebook altogether.
Remember how my number one strength is Harmony? That means that conflict bothers me. I want compromise, I seek the middle ground, diplomacy is my banner. This is why I have always had trouble sticking to one side on any issue. I can usually see ways in which both sides succeed and fail.
Moreover, I love Scripture. It hurts my soul to see Bible verses flung willy-nilly in an effort to prove that one side has the moral high ground. I hate to see Scripture twisted to support a human agenda. If there is anything I am learning about Scripture during Lent, it is that I need to develop a more teachable spirit, one that is open to God speaking to me through His Word, one that lets God flex and stretch what I thought I knew. It makes me angry and sad when others pretend like they’ve got the Bible all figured out.
And so, more often than not, I stay silent. And if I say anything, I usually regret it. I seek to be more like Switzerland and less like the U.S. in matters of conflict resolution. I make excuses about needing to stick to the “theme.” I pretend that by doing decent things people will automatically know I follow Jesus. Even though I do usually have an opinion, I listen to everyone. And because of my silence, there are probably people on both sides who think I agree with them.
I have really struggled lately with whether or not to write about my opinions on faith and political matters. Even writing about my personal struggle with feminism was a stretch. But the support I’ve received has been incredible. One friend told me that I’m the first Christian she’s ever met who doesn’t think feminism is a bad word! Another blogger was inspired by my book review of Full Frontal Feminism to come public with her own faith and the difference God has made in her life, regardless of how others might judge her for being a Christian. When I posted that I was thinking of deleting my Facebook because I don’t want to see or be part of hurtful conversations, there were comments and messages and emails about how my voice matters and how I have caused others to think about their own views.
If only people knew the trepidation with which I write those posts, the multiple edits and drafts and rewrites, the mouse hovering over “Publish” for far too long.
But none of that matters. My own fears don’t matter. I need to get over it, because bigger things are at stake here.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, there are some big issues that we all need to confront. And nothing gets accomplished if everyone is hostile or if anyone is silent. We’re all here to make the world a better place.
So show up. Don’t hide under a rock. Join us at the table, join in the conversation. Lean in.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. You may find yourself the victim of hurtful words.
But you don’t know whom you are blessing and inspiring and challenging.
And that means not just speaking about love, but speaking lovingly. Preach love in what you say behind a podium, and in what you shout from the rooftops, and in what you type on Facebook, and in what you whisper behind closed doors. When things get out of hand, preach love by stepping in to say “Enough.”
Engage in dialogue thoughtfully, intelligently, courteously, strategically, and persistently.
You have a voice. Don’t be afraid to preach love.