Social media has given us a unprecedented avenue to complain about other people’s behavior. Don’t like the way a person dresses in the supermarket? Post about it on Facebook. Think a person’s parenting isn’t up to snuff? Post about it on Facebook. Think another has faulty theology? Post about it on Facebook. I’ve posted this sort of thing and thought about posting a lot more.
Then last week a friend posted a comment that seemed particularly aimed at me. It was presented in a general way. You know the formula, “No one should ever do X. In the 21st Century decent human beings should know that X is wrong. Especially ministers. Of all people, Ministers should avoid X. You should know better!” (Where X = an offensive behavior). Normally I agree with the ranter and I’m glad to join them in feeling morally superior but, not this time. This time, I recognized that I was guilty of the very thing this person was condemning.
I had thought about responding but, I couldn’t come up with anything to say. I didn’t necessarily want to defend the behavior. The person did have a point. It just felt like a public shaming more than “provoking one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). It just made me think of the need for a social media Miranda rights. “Anything you say, do or wear can be used against you in the court of social media.”
Last night I was talking with some friends around a dinner table about experiences in church. One of them mentioned a story about a woman, a devote Christian, who just happened to be wearing earrings in a church that strictly denounced the use of jewelry. Rather than speaking gently to her in private, the preacher preached directly at her during the sermon. The public humiliation wounded her. In a less direct way, that’s what these social media complaints feel like. Certainly not as damaging as being singled out in a sermon but, still a public chastisement. I wonder if we might not succeed in truly making the world a better place if we learned to speak directly and privately to people who act in ways we think are inappropriate. My sense is that we would be more likely to change people than blanket posts directed anyone and everyone.