Several years ago, I wrote an article about being blocked by an old friend of mine on Facebook. Someone I had considered close and respected in high school asked me to stop commenting on what he was posting. And he went further than that, telling me he was going to use the privacy settings for good measure to hide his posts from me. I would not even have the choice to comment on them anymore, and he wanted me to know that.
His reason was simple. He was tired of my asking questions and contradicting him. He didn’t want me presenting my own beliefs and opinions on the social and political issues he was talking about.
This friend assured me he still loved and respected me. He just hated what I had to say and did not want to talk with me anymore. What is more, he added that he – being a school teacher – did not want his kids and their families on Facebook being exposed to my ‘dangerous’ ideas.
You might suspect my friend was an atheist or Democrat, and objected thereby to my conservative Christian beliefs and ideas. He was not. My friend was not only a professing Christian, he was well-known for being outspoken about his faith in high school. We met at Bible Study.
Yet this friend – as is true with so many of my generation in this post-modern, post-truth culture we live in – was big on feelings. A charismatic Christian, he had been raised much more “in tune” with the Holy Spirit than I had. Yet as I saw it and still do, my friend often mistook his emotions for the Holy Spirit. I do not believe he could have told me the difference between one and the other if I had asked him.
The Unpopularity of Intellect and Studying Scriptures
All through high school, and now in adulthood as well, my direction has been a different one. I was not raised to believe my emotions were the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or to chase feelings, or even to give in to sentiments – my own or other people’s – without good reason.
In discussions with my friend about social, political, and spiritual issues, he would always fall back to his experiences, his own personal truth, and what he “felt like” the Holy Spirit was telling him was true.
By contrast, I would carry on as I was raised, bringing the Scriptures to bear. “But Paul writes in Corinthians…” “But Jesus said…” “What about when God says to…”
In my attempts to be a Berean, I was often dismissed, ironically enough, as trying to make the Bible say whatever I wanted it to. In the back of my mind I thought my friend was making the Holy Spirit say whatever he wanted.
But how could I contend against feelings? Logic and intellect were of no use in the face of his emotions and experiences. I worked tirelessly to present proofs, evidences, and careful articulations. Yet they were consistently batted away with “I just feel like God is telling me…”
Meanwhile, the insinuation seemed clear and deeply disturbed me. Did my friend not believe I had the Holy Spirit too? Could God not be speaking through the Scriptures I was referring to? Perhaps my friend would ask God whether he was contradicting what he had clearly said in the Scriptures, or why we even had the Bible to begin with if we were just going to go off his feelings all the time.
Questions like these are why he stopped talking with me.
It Could Happen To Anyone
His rejection wounded me. He was so outspoken in high school! Was I not allowed to be outspoken also?
Yet here we were. I was being told explicitly that the level of interaction I was invited to now would be relegated to liking photos of our children and wishing one another Happy Birthday once a year. We were not to be close anymore. He did not want me speaking truth into his life anymore. Now he had new friends and a small group at his new church for that.
He was not alone, though. I have heard often that Facebook is not the place for discussing important matters. Facebook is for pictures of cats and children.
But why? Facebook is where the people are! Facebook is the marketplace of ideas. To not have meaningful discussions there is to give up on trying to influence people online. Period.
Yet only some people are supposed to give up on that. The Christians and conservatives with dangerous ideas that make others in their emotional bubbles uncomfortable – they are not welcome. But the rest of the world of superficial, materialistic, secular, Progressive, and Islamic influencers will see the floodgates opened wide.
And if those floodgates offend you, you are the one at fault. You are the one who needs to go. But if you speak up and your ideas offend others, then too you must go.
It is yet another classic case of “heads I win, tails you lose.”
The ideals of the Scriptures, self-government, the gospel, and truly free speech are not supposed to win. If you argue otherwise, prepare to be dis-invited from parties.
Prepare to hear, even from your friends, ‘I love and respect you, but… I don’t want to hear what you think and believe anymore.’
Egotism and Self-Absorption Run Amok
This has become more the rule than exception on social media. Even as we are supposedly there to connect with others and take an interest in their lives, we are more interested in being seen and heard ourselves.
This becomes evident in the violent reaction people have when they encounter contradictions of their closely held, yet only barely formed, thoughts, feelings, impressions, beliefs, and opinions.
Most Facebook accounts become de facto echo chambers. If you go in commenting something contrary, expect to be dog-piled in short order. The friends of your friend who are also commenting probably think along similar lines to one another and will not take your challenge kindly.
And the worst thing you can do is present facts, evidences, and rational arguments. The more compelling your argument, the more of a threat and challenge it is to swat it away with mere feelings. So people become angry and resort to name-calling and accusations of bad faith, arrogance, and meanness.
Argumentum ad hominem reigns supreme.
When I survey social media and the sensibilities of my generation, even those thought to be strong Christians, I am reminded of the end times.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. Then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”