Anyone who has been Facebook friends with me or has followed me on Twitter for any length of time knows I follow politics very closely, so what I say in this article comes from a place of introspection as I consider my own social media habits. I want to make it clear that this is simply an opinion piece based on some of my own considerations over the last few weeks, so take the article for whatever it is worth to you. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your opinion, as I think this is a discussion that needs to be had and is broader than what one article may cover.
It’s no secret that we’re all tired of politics. We’re coming off of an insanely long and loud election cycle and the chatter hasn’t died down in the first month-plus of Donald Trump’s presidency. Despite the widespread exhaustion with the entire process, Facebook is still somehow littered with links, pictures, and status updates about politics every day.
Why? Because we like having our voices heard on the day’s hottest issues. And it’s funny when we see pictures that humorously defend our viewpoints and mock those positions held by our opponents. Plenty of us enjoy following the Facebook pages and bloggers who find creative, snarky ways of helping us express what we believe and put down those who disagree with us. But what is all of that doing for us?
As you’d expect, it’s giving us a world that is more divided by the minute. In a Rasmussen poll, 40% claimed that the election had hurt a close relationship. One woman even claimed she divorced her husband of 22 years for his choice in the presidential election. The people of this country have been whipped into such a frenzy that people are throwing relationships with friends, family, and even their spouses away just because they don’t see eye to eye. I’d like to think that we could have calm, rational discussions about our disagreements with people, but that’s just not going to happen right now (particularly via social media).
So, with that much tension in the world, the question has to be asked – should Christians be politically vocal on social media?
If I’m being honest with myself, I know for a fact that there are people I get along with fine in person whom I now view in a different light after seeing their political posts. The stats bear our that the exact same thing happens in the opposite direction, meaning that they’re going to view me in a negative light if I share political views that contradict theirs. That means that I, as “the only Bible some may see,” am being a massive stumbling block. Many non-Christians view their Christian friends as ambassadors for a specific church and/or Christianity in general (as they should, per Matthew 5:16). If we tie our Christian witness to a candidate or a party-line platform, we have to consider how people are going to respond.
It’s not that it’s wrong to discuss politics and hold beliefs, it’s that Facebook and Twitter are horribly unnatural places for such discussions. Pre-social media we would almost never lead with our political beliefs. You could know someone for years without either person ever knowing (or caring) how the other voted. Now you can accept a friend request from someone who barely qualifies as an acquaintance and familiarize yourself with their political beliefs within 30 seconds of scrolling through their profile. So, instead of people getting to know us over time as friendly, loving Christian people who care about the people around us before they learn about our political beliefs in the proper context of who we are as humans, they see us as Republicans or Democrats, as Trump supporters or Hillary supporters, and so on. And there’s a 50/50 chance (at the least) that they disagree with what they see.
So the real question isn’t so much whether Christians should be politically vocal on social media, but this: is it worth it?
Sure, some minds are changed by political posts, but the number of people we influence will be nowhere near the number of people we annoy and drive away. If we’re focused on our lives here on earth first, then it’s only natural that we should boldly advocate for the people we think will make our lives here better. But if we’re focused on eternity, then we have other considerations to make first. The thought of placing a stumbling block between someone and the Gospel while taking a stand for the name of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or whoever else is in the news that week should be abhorrent to us. “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
As for me, I’ve decided that it isn’t worth it to keep talking about politics on social media. Some moral issues (such as abortion) that go beyond politics will remain fair game, but as far as backing a person or a party or delving into strictly political issues goes, I won’t be posting to Facebook and Twitter or liking memes or articles that will show up in my friends’ feeds. I’ve already created enough rifts with people with very little to show for it. Despite their lives occurring under some horrific rulers, Jesus and the New Testament authors were all fairly silent about their government other than calling for submission to it as far as possible. They had higher priorities, and I should, too. The message of Jesus’ Lordship is divisive enough as it is. I think we should be very careful about making that divide any bigger than it needs to be.
By Jack Wilkie