You can’t escape public debates these days on social media, making it difficult to live as an Orthodox Christian. It is no secret that our beliefs and morals are rarely (less and less every day) the same as the morals and beliefs of our society. Social media can be difficult to navigate without religious topics these days, let alone faith, so today’s Daily Lenten Journey is more of a ‘how to’ for Orthodox Christians on social media.
I was inspired by the opening verse of today reading from Isaiah below, and a question I was asked the other night at an Orthodoxy 101 class. I was asked when, and how, we should publicly speak out against the morals of our society when the conflict with the Church. It is a perfect theme to discuss in relation to social media, since most of us don’t spend time in the literal public square these days, since it has been replaced by social media.
I remember the days when social media was flooded with cat pictures and posts about dinner menus. It seems now, one cannot escape the hot topics of sexuality and race relations, political parties and government policy. I won’t speak about any of these specifically today, but I will attempt to give you a simple guide to how to navigate social media as an Orthodox Christian without turning people away from Christ.
The first rule of thumb is to humbly accept that maybe, just maybe (or more likely probably) YOU are not the one charged by the Church to challenge the secular society or call them to repentance. In the ancient Church, this was known as the prophetic voice. Not everyone was called to be a prophet, and it is the Church that appoints what we know today as official spokespersons. It isn’t that you don’t care, or that you don’t ‘know your stuff’ when it comes to the Church. Going all the way back to the Apostolic times, in order to ensure the proper teachings were perpetuated rather than personal opinions, the Church vetted such persons before sending them out with credentials. You see this in the books of Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament when, now saints, were sent out with letters of introduction. Unfortunately for social media, it is impossible to stop any voice from speaking, so it depends upon your humility to remain silent unless you have been commissioned by the Church.
The second rule is to realize who your audience is. The opening verse suggests that this commandment was to be kept within the Church. I always encourage personal dialogue with actual friends and associates. This is rarely done on a Facebook wall, and best done in person. If you are going to communicate with friends online, you should at least keep such topics as these to private messages to avoid being a scandal to your friends, you, or the Church. Over the years I have kept many close friends that are not even Christian, let alone Orthodox, but enjoy genuine dialogue about the morals and beliefs of the Church. Between friends, where love is more likely to be genuine, disagreements are less likely to escalate into raging boycotts and riots. At least, that has been my personal experience.
The third rule, which is really the most important, is to love the person you are speaking with. Love does not force, does not ridicule, etc. Go back and read 1 Corinthians 13. When you genuinely love, you allow for free will, the hardest part of being a Christian, if you ask me. I can be difficult to remember the truth that God does not force people to love Him, nor to follow Him, nor to live like He wants them to live. Who are YOU to try to force them? As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we want to be a light to others, but we don’t want to be a 1000 watt halogen spotlight shining directly into their retina. That only causes others to shut their eyes, rather than follow the light. Beating someone over the head with the truth, morals and beliefs of the Church will rarely, if ever, inspire them to repentance.
If you follow these simple three rules, your life will be attractive rather than offensive. You will draw others to the Church rather than chase them away. You will be a person of peace in a world that so desperately needs peace.
Thus says the LORD: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 'Why have we fasted, and thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am." "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. – Isaiah 58.1-11