Maybe I don’t have to hate the person I disagree with online

Maybe I don’t have to hate the person I disagree with online November 21, 2014
Every so often a need arises to remind ourselves of what we are doing here on social media, on the internet, in the public sphere.  Having engaged in a number of discussions and witnessed a number of tirades on social media recently I am moved to think that today may be a good time for such a reminder.
As a Priest I am called to be a living sign of Jesus Christ in the World.  That reality goes deeper than my priesthood though, it goes to my vocation as a baptized member of the Body of Christ.  And if we are all called to witness to Jesus Christ in the world, then that means that we are called to make his presence known on the internet.  As Catholics we are called to make a daily examination of conscience to see what we have done wrong and how we can improve our lives.  We should examine our lives on the internet and our interactions therein.  Allow me to point you to this excellent Examination of Conscience for Social Media Users.  Some of the points to especially consider:

Do I encourage, incite, or extol violence through my online conversations?

Do I use social media to “kill” others’ reputations, honor, or dignity by spreading gossip or posting or sharing slanderous or mocking comments about others, including celebrities, politicians, or other public figures?

Do I use social media to build relationships or kill them by failing to consider the feelings and thoughts of others before I post, share, or make a public comment on a post?

I would add:

Do I see Jesus Christ in those I disagree with?  Do I treat them civilly as a result?

Do I allow my ego to drive my social media presence?

Do I disregard a person and focus solely on what they say, or on what others say about them?

As human beings we are bound to think that we know best, that our way is the right way.  The Lord, however, calls us to be open, to listen, to respect. We will not always agree with everyone that speaks, and sometimes we must speak out our disagreements.  We must never be silent in the face of evil.  But if we do speak out, we should speak out with charity, never attacking a person.  The Lord demands that we Love our enemies.  He doesn’t say we have to love what they stand for, or love what the teach or preach or anything like that.  

Hurling insults or names at the stranger causes us to harm not only those around us, but our very selves.  Jesus Christ came into this world to save us, to show us how to be truly human.  We do a great disservice to the Lord when we treat others only skin deep, when we only consider them as titles or names.  

In a Fantastic interview in with Crux, the great Cardinal George said

What we have to do is to preach the truth, in season and out, and do it in such a way that it has a chance to be heard rather than beating people over the head with an idea, even if the idea is true. We’re supposed to preach the truth and I believe we have to do that.

In answering if Cardinal George sees himself as a conservative he answered

The liberal/conservative thing, I think, is destructive of the Church’s mission and her life. I’ve said that publicly a lot at times. You’re taking a definition that comes out of nowhere, as far as we’re concerned, it’s a modern distinction, and making it the judgment of the Church’s life. It’s because we’re lazy. You put a label on people, you put a label on something, and it saves you the trouble of thinking.

I find that we are not self-critical as a people of our own thinking. We’re critical of authority, because we’re trained to be that. That’s the liberal/conservative thing … conservatives give authority a pass, liberals don’t. But for both, everything has to do with authority. What’s that got to do with truth? For us, the category that matters is true/false. I just reject that whole liberal/conservative deformation of the character of our lives. If you’re limited to that, as the press has to be because it can’t talk about the faith in its own terms, then somehow or other you’ve betrayed your vocation as a bishop and a priest. (Emphasis mine)

To rehash a passage from Paul – we are neither liberal nor conservative, but we are one in Christ Jesus.  Don’t be the one to split us apart, but rather, work towards keeping us one.

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