Whatever it was I was thinking about yesterday evaporated when I happened on this news, discovered on facebook no less. The tireless, ever cheerful Faith McDonnell has been locked out of her facebook account. Faith, as you probably know, directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program. She advocates for the human rights of Christians all over the world but particularly in South Sudan. If you are Anglican you will run into her in the oddest places. She will fill your ears full of anxious, dark news of the sufferings of people most of us are quick to forget about, but also true hope and pleas for prayer. In a world of ideological chaos, Faith McDonnell has her eye fixed on the things that matter to Jesus. So what better person for facebook to have a problem with.
Here she is in her own words, (but for heaven’s sake, click the link and read the whole thing):
On February 15, 2015, 21 men were slaughtered on a Libyan seashore by ISIS. The 20 Coptic Christians and their fellow martyr, Matthew from Ghana, were the subject of the jihadis’ grisly snuff film sent to the “People of the Cross.” The image of those soon-to-be-saints in orange jumpsuits kneeling on the beach in front of their killers became a powerful testimony of Christ’s victory over death and hell. On that anniversary I decided to honor these courageous and faithful men on my Facebook page. Scrolling through photos I had posted on Facebook in the past without ever a problem, I found that well-known image and made it my temporary Facebook profile photo. Then it happened!
They shut down her account for violating “community standards.” Which is rich, since a lot of us are her community and the goons at facebook don’t know her at all.
But that’s the nature of the game. All this time we’ve been using their product, making them money, adjusting our behavior according to their algorithms. All because we want to engage in one of the very basic elements of human community—communicating, even virtually, with people we love, people we envy, people we loath, people who spark our curiosity and enlarge our horizons. Faith is one of the latter.
I love to complain about facebook, so goodness, this is the best day for me. In this round, I am having a beast of a time balancing the affection and interest I have for real people who, through this very strange and increasingly uncomfortable medium, I have come to know and love, against the perverse anxiety I feel every day when I log on and put my soul in the hands of my algorithmically organizing betters.Let me just point out that it’s interesting that Facebook thought the thing that violated their community standards was remembering the ghoulish deaths of a lot of Christians who preferred to die rather than to pledge themselves to an unknown, false, harsh god. One different in temperament and religious expression from the American deity “Tolerance” perhaps, but not so different in the inclination to control and afflict ordinary people with “community standards.”
Yesterday I said that the nature of being human was wandering around in a wilderness, looking for inspiration. That is our more benign and charming estate. The second portion of that nature, once you have found your “inspiration,” is trying to bash everybody over the head with it. We like control. We like things tidy—especially the minds and hearts of Other People.
That’s one of the curious and terrible things about Christianity. You admit to yourself that all your inspiring thoughts only led you into a dark ditch. You admit that being in the ditch is the only place you ever would have got on your own. You then ask God, rather meekly as it turns out, to help you out. And he does. Then you go around nicely asking other people if they would like to know this God who will help them out of the ditch, calling helplessly across the swamp of human inspiration, pleading with ever person to grab hold of the true, living, and merciful God. But everybody knows, which is why the invitation is so offensive, that the cost of coming out of the ditch at the mighty hand of the Lord is that he will have your full and complete allegiance. The cost of being rescued is your very soul.
So I get it. The human soul is worth an extraordinary amount—advertising money, clicks, likes, and certainly an eternal life in one place or another. And the person who has clung to Jesus, though hopefully nice, is difficult to manage because he, and more often she, in some deep and terrible sense doesn’t care any more if he lives or dies, if there is facebook or no facebook. The true restless joy of knowing Jesus makes everything else appear to be the mire and muck that it really is. This is bad news for the bottom line of facebook. It is probably better for them, in the long run, to push the true believing Christian off as soon as possible.
In the meantime, before you cancel your facebook account, go follow Faith on twitter, pray for her work, pray for Christians around the world who aren’t safe today, nor tonight. But most of all pray for those people who, not knowing the saving love of Jesus, are still in it for the money, the clicks, and the likes.