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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hypocrisy on Facebook

It never occurred to me that I might one day find myself praying to God about Facebook.  But that day has come.  Actually it arrived last year some time, in the midst of the political campaigns for the presidency of the U.S.A.  I’ve long been a registered Republican, and had strongly disapproved of Barack Obama when he was elected the first time.  (In fact, I wrote several blogs here about him back then.)  As he was running for re-election, I didn’t see a suitable opponent.  I had initially thought Hillary Clinton would take his place, but then it became clear that the only real choice would be between Obama and Mitt Romney.
Of course there was no shortage of positive or negative rhetoric about either of the candidates running for President.  But I found myself with reservations about Mitt Romney.  No, it wasn’t his Mormon faith.  I actually have a lot of respect for many of the ideals and values espoused (and held to) by the Mormons.  Rather it was a sense that Mitt Romney might not be as sincere in his caring for all of the people.  Much as I hate to admit it, some of his remarks about people who are poor, handicapped, or even unemployed seemed strangely reminiscent of now-deceased billionaire Leona Helmsley who was quoted as having once said that, “Only the little people pay taxes.”
So I turned to Facebook to try and find worthwhile understanding other than my own.  From time to time, I would pose a question, usually about Mitt Romney.  Several times I tried to start a dialogue about the issues.  Does Mitt Romney really have a plan to bring our country’s deficit spending under control?  Do we really believe that reducing tax rates will result in increased tax revenue with which to pay for our government’s spending?  But time and time again, questions like this on Facebook would result in the exact same outcome.  The Obama-bashers would in outrage ask some stupid question like, “Would you like four more years of Obama destroying our country?”  Never once did they answer my question, mind you.  They would just try to “disarm” me with a condemning question --- resting on the assumption that I was an Obama supporter (which I am not).
It’s of course no secret that I’m a born-again Christian.  I spend my life with great concentration on the teachings of Jesus Christ.  I work hard to reconcile my sinful nature and selfish desires to the godly standards of the Old and New Testament.  And as you might imagine, a great percentage of my friends and even my acquaintances are also Christians.  At least that’s what they would have you believe.  Frankly, the bullying and hateful disrespect that some of them displayed (on Facebook) had me wondering if they could really be following the same Christ that I do. 
At times I would try to point out the hypocrisy that seemed apparent to me.  I would try to re-engage them back on the original topic at hand.  After all, I really did want to discuss the issues.  But I had no interest in demonizing either candidate.  Ultimately, I failed in those endeavors.  My so-called Christian “friends” prevailed in their desire to hold on to their hatred and disrespect, demonizing Obama and trying to bully me for not joining them.  Eventually, I began to “unfriend” them on Facebook.  That didn’t stop some of them, so I had to go back and actually block them from even seeing my wall or communicating with me.  This was quite sad for me.  I’ve known some of them for nearly 20 years.  I also had thought of them as godly men.  (I don’t any more.)
There is plenty of Scripture in the Bible that tells Christians how we are to regard our government and its leaders.  Romans 13:1-7 says that, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. …. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the (governmental) authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Did you catch that last part?  If you owe respect … then give respect.  If you owe honor … then give honor.  They are no less important than paying the taxes that you owe.  This passage makes it abundantly clear that we are to obey the government God places over us. We are to obey the government in everything—paying taxes, obeying rules and laws, and showing respect. If we do not, we are ultimately showing disrespect towards God, for He is the One who placed that government over us.
When the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, he was under the authority of the Roman government during the reign of Nero, who is notorious for – among other things – being quite possibly the most evil of all the Roman emperors. Nevertheless Paul still recognized the Roman government’s rule over him. Do we dare do any less today? 
Recently I had to “unfriend” an old classmate from high school.  I had reconnected with her not long ago, and thought it would be fun to catch up.  That didn’t turn out to be the case.  While professing to be a Christ follower, and quoting Scripture regularly, she also refers to our (now re-elected) President Obama as “the antichrist” (sic).  When I tried to point out the error of her thinking, she reacted the same way those other Facebook friends had reacted last fall.  I got a severe tongue lashing for refusing to join or support her demonizing of Obama.  I cautiously tried to discuss the issue with her, but was quickly attacked by her adult children as well.  Finally I retreated, apologized for offending her, encouraged her to review her position with her pastor, and, of course, “unfriended” and blocked her. 
Sadly, my self-proclaimed Christian Facebook friends don’t appear to be familiar with the context of what Paul said to the Romans.  Even if Obama were the “antichrist,” the command for Christians would not change.  Obama may have been elected by the American people, but he got his position and his authority from God.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to him not only because of the law, but also, as Romans 13 tells us, because of conscience.  You see, we honor God when we give respect to those in authority over us – whether that is at work, at church, in government or anywhere else. 
One of the things we mistakenly conclude is that if we don’t agree with someone then we don’t have to submit to them.  We may think that they “don’t deserve” our respect (as if anyone could).  I’ve heard people say that the politician whom they think is vile “hasn’t earned” our respect.  But who has earned our respect?  After all, each of us is so terribly flawed and bent toward sin and evil that we required the salvation of a Messiah.  It’s good to remember that when looking at those in authority over us (and others) whom we don’t agree with. 

You see, I don’t have to agree with you, support your policies, or even like you in order to submit to you, show respect for you, obey you, and even love you.  Love is patient and kind, it always forgives, it never gives up, it is never harsh, and all those other things that 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us. 

So, here’s the question:  Have you loved your politician (insert name here) today?  I started out saying that I never imagined I'd be praying to God about Facebook.  But as I've encountered this conflict and nasty business on Facebook, I've found myself bewildered by so-called Christians who were behaving so heinously that I didn't know how to react.  So I've found myself praying, asking God to show me how to respond to someone.  Fortunately, He's been willing to guide me.  In some cases, I've been able to re-focus the conversation in a more righteous direction.  In other cases, I've been led to "shake the dust off my feet" and move on. 

I have to say that in those cases, it gives me no pleasure to "unfriend" someone on Facebook.  For I realize that they are lost in their hypocrisy and have a reckoning day coming that will surely be ugly.  Because I love them, I don't want to see that in their future.  I wonder if anyone ever sees my hypocrisy so clearly.  And I wonder if they do, would they love me enough to try to call me out on it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Wow, I just read this. Even though it's old, it's sobering indeed. Why wasn't this published in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal? It's an essay that will no doubt find relevance in our next election cycle - regardless of the candidates.