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Before Sharing Your Religious Opinion on Facebook

OpinionAbortion. Divorce. Homosexuality. Poverty.

When you have a bunch of Christians in your Facebook news feed, you end up being privy to numerous, unsolicited discussions about explosive issues.

Maybe it’s a meme or quote image about abortion or commentary on a current event, sometimes one can’t help posting an assertive update about a divisive topic.

From there it takes off into a drawn out conceptual discussion from a bunch of different Christians—many of which speak strongly and definitively. Eight out of ten times it devolves into an argument.

Here are some things you might want to think about next time you want to post your religious opinion (and for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re right) on Facebook.

These issues are not theoretical

I get that these issues might be important to you, but they represent more than ideas and concepts. For many people they represent a real, living hell full of sadness, regret, and deep wounds.

As these discussion turn sour and judgmental, as the nearly always do, there are people reading the exchange and grieving.

The problem is that you cannot necessarily know who’s seeing your update, even if they’re not commenting. And what feels like an important, conceptual discussion is tearing the scab off someone else’s wounds.

I brought this up recently in a similar thread and was rebuked by someone who condescendingly said, “I keep forgetting about the 11th commandment, ‘Thou shalt not hurt anyone’s feelings.'” 

But this isn’t about “not hurting feelings.” It’s about not doing more damage to damaged people.

Are you just communicating that you’re unsafe?

Many, if not most, of your Facebook friends have had experiences, tragedies, and moral failures that you know nothing about. Their healing isn’t contingent upon confronted with “the truth.”

Most of the time they’re more aware of their failures than you are. They might not feel forgivable or valued, and part of their restoration requires relationships with people they can trust.

You might have the best intentions when you post that fetus picture with the strongly worded abortion message, but what does it say to the friend that you didn’t even know aborted their child? You might not intend it, but maybe you’re reinforcing their shame. Maybe you’ve sent them into hiding when they would have been willing to open up to you.

Or worse yet, what happens when that obnoxious guy from church drops words like “baby killer” in your update? Now to them, you’re guilty by association.

Or when you post your disgust about some celebrity’s “sin.” You communicate something significant to the people who may be guilty of the same failure. Your disfavor towards this faceless celebrity is internalized by them as commentary on them.

“I’m just trying to stand up for the truth”

Yeah, I get it. You’re passionate about this issue, and whatever your stance is, you’re confident you’re right—Scripture is squarely on your side. So, what’s your end game?

We forget that Facebook is a public venue. Sure, you can post your opinions and get a lot of kudos from people that agree with you. There might be a couple strong-willed people who are willing to bicker with you.

But most of the people you alienate will never say a word.

It’s sad, because what you do imperfectly by shouting your opinions onto people’s walls, could be done better by building relationships.

Facebook’s weaknesses make sharing potentially divisive material a huge gamble. Too much important information and interpretation is left to imagination.

Sometimes what you gain isn’t worth the loss.


13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you for the reminder, from someone who’s often on the other (non-Christian/pro-choice/agnostic/liberal) side of the aisle. As is often the case, remembering that there are real people seeing your “shares” tend to help me think before I post: “Do I want my friend, who feels just as passionately about this issue as I do, but on the other side of it, to see this? Is it derogatory towards her (or anyone)? Is it hurtful towards people who share her view?” Sometimes, the answer is “no”; it’s something we disagree on, but not something offensive: a post extolling the benefits of nationalized healthcare. I’ll post that. Sometimes, the answer is that it might be painful, but not hurtful: a post celebrating marriage equality. I’ll post that. But a post making fun of those who disagree, or tarring all [conservatives/Republicans/Christians/etc.] with the same brush? I let those go, even if I agree with the majority of the post’s point. It’s not worth the risk of hurting a friend.
    (It also helps to remember that most–MOST–people in general really do want what’s best for everyone; they just have different ideas of what that means, and how to go about it.)

    April 24, 2014
  2. Hey Jayson:
    Facebook is a strange place. As you might know, I like to write about the environment and have opinions on the ethical treatment of animals. That said, I realized at some point that people were probably “turning off” my newsfeed. Maybe for them, I’m “unsafe”, which makes me laugh.

    I’ve also interacted with fundies on Facebook, who refuse to discuss any disagreement on issues. They’ll simply cite scripture, and if you tell them the reason why you think differently, they’ll tell me they don’t want to argue with me. For them, the matter is settled and any discussion offering different points of view is apparently “argument.”

    Generally I think you stake out too much of a bright line. I think it’s clear that you’re thinking about some particular conversations and experiences you’ve seen on facebook, but your article doesn’t really make it clear.

    Alot of this is a matter of perspective. I probably come down down more on the progressive side of issues. For others, they might be totally offended by my desire to take away their guns, tax them to feed the poor, or give rights to LGBT people. Who gets to state their opinion? For the most part, I come down on the side of free and open speech, and if you say something that seems cruel, hurtful or unloving, or mentally unbalanced, the great thing about facebook is that I can literally turn you off. I pretty much have zero tolerance for trolls.

    For me, it’s helpful to think whether, I would be comfortable stating the same opinions in the company of my close friends, children, or to people at my church. Is it loving? If not, then I probably should keep my virtual mouth shut.

    Anyway, thanks as always for making me think. Blessings.

    April 24, 2014
    • Hey Darren,

      Thanks for the comment. A couple of responses:

      1. Yes, there are specific examples I am thinking about but I didn’t want to narrow this discussion. There are many ways this issue is applicable.

      2. I don’t think a call to be wise about how we post revokes anyone’s free speech.

      3. I thought I was pretty specific on the kinds of things I was talking about. In fact, I started the post with a list of them. It annoys me when people talk about concepts with strongly worded diatribes like “lazy poor people” in full view of people who are doing the best they can and struggling. Can they unfollow them? Yes. But that’s not really the point if we can have a discussion about how we talk.

      4. Ultimately, if I can get someone to not talk publicly about an issue like divorce in a way they wouldn’t talk to an actual divorced friend, I’d be happy.

      April 24, 2014
  3. “So, what’s your end game?”
    This is a really good question, and one I wish more people would ask themselves. Are we here to win arguments or to win people? Is it about making me feel good because I expressed my view of “the Truth”? Or is it about engaging with others in a real conversation (and perhaps learning something along the way myself).

    April 24, 2014
  4. Wise. Thank you.

    April 24, 2014
  5. froginparis #

    My feed has been pretty quiet as of late, either I’ve lost friends or I’m not seeing the opinions. When the kids were first on social media, we came up with this rule: If you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, then it shouldn’t be posted.

    Tasting words is much better than eating crow.

    April 24, 2014
  6. I think this is why I try more often to share funny videos or impressive stories on Facebook rather than issue-related material. With the comic or heroic stuff, I can at least add something to a Facebook friend’s day. All that a hot-button issue article will get me is either an ego boost from a “Like” or a reactionary comment.
    You make some good points. Just the kind of commentary I like to see on Easter Week.

    April 24, 2014
  7. A great word.

    April 26, 2014

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