grace, judgment, & toxic social media culture

Maybe I’m the only one, but has anyone else started to notice how toxic social media sites have become? I doubt there’s a single one of us who’s never been on the receiving end of some social media “friend’s” cruelty. Whether it’s a cold-hearted comment from a distant relative about the way you look or your taste in clothes, or the polarizing biases of people who claim to be unbiased while attacking you for every view you share that is contrary to theirs. We’ve all experienced it. And I think that a lot of us have even been the perpetrators of it. Lord knows I’ve left a brash comment here and there when someone says things like “contemporary worship music is shallow” or “republicans and conservatives are all evil.” No doubt we’ve all gotten more than our fair share of heated on social media; with strangers and family and acquaintances. It’s come to the point where I am convinced that social media, even for all its benefits and marketing/networking opportunities, is nothing short of toxic.

Case in point: some of you may have watched the latest season of America’s Got Talent. If so, you probably now Michael Ketterer, a singer, worship pastor, children’s nurse, husband, father, and adoption advocate who made it to the finals of the talent competition. I’ve followed the Ketterers for a few years now and have loved seeing their heart for family and adoption. I was one of those who was brought to tears by Michael’s audition for AGT. In fact, hearing the Ketterers’ story of adoption is one of the things that solidified my own heart for adoption.

Anyway, if you’ve seen Michael Ketterer on AGT, you probably saw that he quickly became a fan favorite because of his tender heart and family values. He won the hearts of millions all over the world. But… in late September the news got a whiff of some disturbance between him and his wife at the hotel they were staying at for the show. And, despite the facts, the news spun this story of domestic abuse. The headlines were everywhere. (Though, the content of the actual articles gave no solid evidence for their claims.) The damage was done. And millions of people took to the Ketterers’ social media to do one of two things: 1) show their support for the family despite what the rumors were saying, or 2) show their contempt and hatred for this man they didn’t know.

When I saw the comments, I was livid. It was all I could think about for days. I was deeply concerned for the family and prayed over them numerous times. Considering I don’t know them personally, I don’t know why I felt such deep, personal emotions about the situation. The only possible explanation was my shock and horror at the bitterness and cruelty of thousands of strangers toward a family they didn’t know over insubstantial claims.

This isn’t the only time I’ve noticed such cruelty. You could go to any article or social media post about Trump or the Clintons or abortion or gay marriage and you can find, without doubt, comments spewing nothing but hate, bitterness, contempt, and division. From all sides of the argument.

I firmly believe that social media is largely responsible for the hate and division we see in our world today. Because people think they can hide behind their computer screens and their picture-perfect families and say whatever they want. Because people don’t see the consequences of their words when they’re spoken to someone who lives halfway across the world. But that doesn’t make it right. You still poison the waters even if you aren’t the one who drinks from them.

At some point, this has to end. At some point, people have to grow up and realize that they can’t hide behind their computer screens anymore. At some point, people have to realize that you can disagree with someone on every point and still be kind. Right?

The further this world descends into lawlessness and chaos, the less I am certain that grace will prevail over the bitterness of human nature. But I am hopeful that there may still be those who carry a genuine heart to do good.

People rush to judgment. About everything. We assume that because someone is passionately opposed to something that we are passionately in favor of then they must be a bad person. We assume that because someone is passionate about fighting racism in our culture and we are passionate about honoring our law enforcement, then we must be mortal enemies. But that can’t be the way it works. Why not extend grace to the Black Lives Matter supporter who may have experienced brutal racism in their lives? Why not extend grace to the Christian who loves contemporary worship music because some of the songs produced in the last few years have had a huge impact and even secured their faith?

Why is judgment the default? Why is division our automatic response?

Its time for us to step up as a culture and to not be so quick to rush to judgment. To not be unkind to those we disagree with. To not be mean-spirited and cruel and divisive.

It’s time to make grace the default.

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