Relationships once developed slowly via personal encounter. Every chance meeting and handshake provided another casual conversation that gradually vetted the acceptable parameters of agreement on issues important to the two parties of a budding friendship. To the degree that two people found familiarity and commonality a friendship developed. Contrarily, when dissonance in virtue and ideology was uncovered a certain calculated distance was programmed into the relationship and the two parties silently negotiated an acceptable barrier for future encounters. At the end of such process, legitimate friendship was the result of natural commonality between two people. “Friends” were those who were generally in agreement with one another in areas considered important or desirable.
How profoundly certain things have changed in the social networking generation we now enjoy. Becoming “friends” is in theory as simple as clicking a button on a Facebook profile screen of someone who perhaps has been never actually seen with the human eye of the friender. Unlike the former process of methodically screening potential relationships through calculated conversation, now a person’s life story, political and social ideologies and a full array of revealing conversation with others is instantly displayed, organized and ingested in a single sitting. Gone completely is the discipline once required to garnish such privileged information.
In this setting our lives are on display to a much wider audience than many seem to realize. Things once said between friends with a wink of the eye are now heralded well beyond the privy of those who may have understood the sentiment of an inside anecdote. The concept of an ‘inner circle’ simply does not exist in online form. That which is posted on a social network is literally enshrined forever for public scrutiny.
The warning of James 1:19 must be seriously calulated more today than ever before: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
It seems that every week I see some exceptionally awkward situation being aired in full living color on someone’s Facebook wall. Personal disagreements are publicly posted in shameless attempt to illicit sympathy over issues which, if only left alone, would resolve themselvesg. Yet, “quick to anger” translates to “quick to tweet” in our current social paradigm. The frustration of the moment coupled with instant internet access persuades people to speak before they think and lash out before they listen. The friendships of yesterday provided a built-in buffer from such rash behavior. We went home, had a warm evening in the safety of family, slept on it and only then was the outside world encountered once again.
I was once told after a particularly frustrating conversation to write a letter to the person who had offended me stating everything I truly wanted to say. Then, I was instructed to fold it up and read it again in twenty four hours and send it only if I still felt the same way. Surprisingly to me, after twenty four hours I no longer wanted to say most of what I had written. I threw the letter away in the end, and no damage was done to an important friendship. What I practiced that day was the art of being “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
I would propose that any social networking post involving personal grievance be left alone entirely. Yet, if you simply must write something, rather than posting it to the entire world why not email it to yourself, have dinner, hug your kids, sleep on it and then read it again tomorrow. If it really needs to be said it will still need to be said tomorrow. Let us practice being quick to listen and “slow to tweet” that our own sin of anger be not what is actually on display when we next click the ‘submit’ button and reveal our condition to all.
I do not remember the exact context, but several weeks ago one of the airy-voiced DJ’s on our local Christian radio station was speaking about a difficult week that she had recently experienced. She spoke of what I consider to be very standard worries involving widely normal life scenarios; akin to perhaps a broken washing machine. Let’s make sure we understand each other: no one was being martyred for the cause of Christ. No one was under intense persecution out of retribution for the preaching of the gospel. No one had been accosted, jailed, stoned, or hanged. It was just a “hard week” in the typical, American, “I was actually inconvenienced” sort of way. Continue reading
You’d think I would be desensitized by now. But, truth be told, I get more irritated each time it happens. Before their morning coffee has opened passages to their hypothalamus, someone forwards me an utterly asinine email from their Aunt Myrtle which aptly demonstrates the theological aspirations of Joe Q. Christian. I’m sure it seemed relevant at the time.
The sentiment of Aunt Myrtle’s pining will be less than challenging to anyone who knows any actual scripture (beyond what is printed on their clothing or bumper stickers.) It will normally be the stuff that Touched By An Angel episodes are made of; such as the heart-warming story of the child who gave a homeless man his happy-fries outside of the local McDonalds. Continue reading
I have to admit that the last piece of news I expected to wake up to this morning was that Obama would be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. This shock has nothing to do with my personal feelings for Obama, but rather with my obviously incorrect assumptions that the prize was actually somewhat difficult to win. Clearly, nothing about this award could be hailed an actual “accomplishment” by Barack Obama.
The first and most ridiculous indication of this fact is that Obama was president of the US only two weeks before the deadline for the nomination of this year’s prize. It is my understanding that his accomplishments up to that moment were the consideration for his winning of the prize. Perhaps this explains some things.
One of the noted “accomplishments” of the then two-week-term president was his “pledge” to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms. While I have no reason to doubt that Obama’s pledge is one of sincerity, it has thus far been little more than political speak. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to “work out” a reduction limit on nuclear warheads. They even discussed the numbers of such future reductions. What they have not done, however, is to have stipulated nor spoken further about the actual dates at which such reductions should take place. Their “talks” have remained precisely that. The world’s nuclear arsenal is not dwindling. In fact, all evidence suggests, it is instead most likely soon to be growing; right into the hands of murderous mad-men like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man Obama “talks” about regularly. (Ahmadinejad, once enabled, will not talk about his position; he will act.) But, apparently “talk” is the substance of reward in the eyes of the Nobel committee.
Another noted reason for Obama’s nomination and win is his work to ease conflict between America and Muslim nations. Of course, Obama pledged to end the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts. Since his pledge, ironically, an actual increase in US presence in those nations has occurred, including 21,000 additional troops in Afghanistan alone.
Personally, I’m not in favor of reducing America’s nuclear arms or of getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq before the work in those regions which we began has been completed. Yet I am swooning from the presumption that Obama has actually done anything concerning his promises – however ill-advised – on those matters.
The Nobel Peace Prize, it seems, is about intentions rather than accomplishments.
A quote from the prize committee’s announcement describes, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.” Since when is the “capture (of the) world’s attention” tantamount to actual success as it relates to the acquiring of peace?
Clearly, the Nobel Peace Prize fails to meet its charter, which was noted in the will of founder, Alfred Nobel. In his last testament he specified that the peace prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
Clearly, no distinction is being made between one who “shall have done the most or best work” and one who shall “expressed the best intentions.”
In all fairness, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has historically demonstrated an aptitude for “lack of forward vision.” Among former nominees are Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, while Yasser Arafat actually won the award in 1994. Ironically, Mahatma Gandhi, though nominated five times, never won an award.
Perhaps it all makes more sense than we are admitting.
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Many of us have received an email concerning Jesus’ folding of his napkin upon his resurrection. As a pastor, I’ve received it dozens of times, myself. At first, I – like many people- found the story fascinating and was actually moved at the thought of it. But, a bit of internet wisdom compelled me to investigate further. Continue reading