Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reaction Satisfaction

"Lies, lies, lies!"

And then, "vomit."

On FaceBook's new ticker, running along the right-hand side of their main screen, you can watch what your friends are posting on other FaceBook pages.  Mostly, it's pretty boring.  But when you see a triumvirate of "lies!" and then the unpleasant "V" word, you're apt to take note and do some investigating regarding the impetus for such disparaging comments.

Turns out, they were replies a friend of mine was giving to news posts she was reading on FaceBook.  One, from Rush Limbaugh, regarding the widely-held suspicion that President Barak Obama's administration is doctoring unemployment numbers to make them look better than they really are, my friend Paige* swiftly branded as "lies!"

Three times!

Then almost immediately, she fired off her displeasure over a Fox News post regarding California's same-sex marriage ban being declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.  To that, Paige wanted us to know she felt like regurgitating.

Granted, these are likely familiar reactions among many of my right-wing FaceBook friends, although those other friends haven't been as graphic and emphatic in their reactions as my friend Paige.

What makes this interesting, however, is that during relatively the same timespan, another FaceBook friend, Leslie*, was posting "likes" to a post by Rev. Tony Evans, the well-known black evangelical pastor in south Dallas.

Granted, Evans wasn't necessarily talking about politics.  Still, instead of inciting his FaceBook followers into a vehement frothing over any issue at all, Evans' post that Leslie "liked" was simply this:  "You can trust what God says, even when you don't know the details."

Can you see the dichotomy here?

On the one hand, we have right-wing political agitators seeking to stir up dissension, rancor, and frustration among America's voting public.  Not that disappointment over the same-sex marriage ruling in California or concern over possible fudging of a basic economic health indicator during an election year are sinful reactions.  But how helpful are they, really?

Sure, Paige got to vent and blow off some steam, and it probably felt good to do so - at least, temporarily.  But how worked-up should we evangelicals be getting over American politics in the first place?

Now, Paige is a frequent reader of my blog, and she'll know exactly who I'm talking about here, even though I've used a pseudonym for her.  So, "Paige:"  please understand, I'm not preaching at you.  I'm simply using your example today as Exhibit A.  And I get as worked-up as you do over many similar topics.  So if I am preaching, I'm preaching to myself here.

How often do we freak out over aggravating circumstances and news instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to remind us that God is still in control?  The more sophisticated we get as evangelical people of faith, doesn't it get easier for us to forget the basics of Who God is and what He does for us?

The same God who provides eternal salvation for His people also guides them in the daily affairs of ordinary life, and those affairs, at least for those of us in democracies, include politics, where we have the privilege of contributing to political processes.  But we've bought into the false, knee-jerk premise that politics dictates our lives, instead of relishing the placidity of God's sovereignty.  We buy that false premise all the time.  Mostly because that's easier for us to believe than the fact that Somebody we can't see or vote for really is in control.  Yes, we are responsible for acting in ways that glorify Him, and those ways include - for example - seeking out truth if data is manipulated, and supporting efforts that preserve the sanctity of institutions God has ordained, like heterosexual marriage.

But shouldn't we keep it all in perspective?

Paige wasn't wrong in reacting as she did as much as she was too gullible.  Like many Americans on both extremes of the political aisle, Paige was more eager to contribute nothing positive to the dialog instead of availing herself of the peace that comes from remembering that God knows the struggles America is facing these days.  Why is that distinction important?  Because the struggles America is facing won't be resolved through soundbites or partisan factoids taken out of context.  And they won't be resolved by simply hurling anger - however righteous it may be - across the political aisle.

I have to remind myself constantly - and I mean constantly - that the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and self-control.  Don't you see how each of these ooze out of the reminder Tony Evans gives in his FaceBook post?

"You can trust what God says, even when you don't know the details."

Doesn't that put us in a better frame of mind - not to mention a better orientation to acknowledge the Source of our help - than the bluster right-wing media outlets love to incite from us?  And doesn't trusting in God even when we don't know how He's going to work - which is basically what Evans is reminding us - put us in a better position to help advocate for the types of changes and improvements we would like to see take place in our country?

Instead of lies and vomit, let's focus on truth and spiritual food.  We're to be salt and light.

Not doom and gloom.

*Not their real names

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