Some days, I seriously wish the internet didn’t exist and that we weren’t so darn connected … in so many ways … in such a remote kind of way. And despite the fact that I can’t imagine not being able to “Google” my way to any answer or information, I can certainly do without the vicious condemnations of one person or another, all done remotely within this strange social network enabled by the internet and accessible on all our devices.
One has to wonder if there would be so much vitriol if we didn’t have such a worldwide electronic forum. If we had no choice but to communicate face-to-face, wouldn’t we find ways to do so more civilly?
But it’s the way our world is now. Social media basically allows people to throw punches while, in a sense, hiding behind a curtain. As Christians, we have to ask: Is this helpful to deepening a culture of life in our homes, communities, and society?
When I searched for the phrase culture of life online, I found that its proponents describe it as a way of life based upon the theological truth that human life at all stages, from conception through natural death, is sacred.
If that is the case, why are some people who profess a culture of life sometimes so quick to judge others? Perhaps our respect for life needs to begin with our smartphones, because it seems that every time I look, someone is pronouncing judgment on someone else.
Take, for example, the reaction of some on Facebook to news that former Vice President Al Gore said he was open to becoming Catholic. We saw comments along the lines of “the Church doesn’t need another pro-abortion politician.” Or, say, news about the “nuns on the bus,” a group of women religious who travel around the country promoting social justice causes. “It’s no wonder young women aren’t becoming sisters anymore,” was a typical online reaction.
But are these responses in line with the belief that “human life at all stages … is sacred?” Are we treating others as if their lives are sacred?
Something in our human nature seems to love to lump people into categories. There is a strange comfort that comes from labeling others. And the net result is a growing division rather than the closeness that these technologies promise.
The problem is that we don’t live inside another person’s skin. We don’t know their history, their intentions, their dreams, and their relationship with God. It’s a most dangerous game we play when we act as judge and jury.
During other dark times in history (and yes, I consider this a dark time), some nations and institutions thought that they could tell the difference between good and evil people. Many innocent men and women have been persecuted based solely on outward appearance. Just think of the Nazis’ treatment of Jews or the trade in slaves from Africa, for example. Down through the years, how many people have been put to death by justice systems, convicted of crimes they never committed?
Judging some people as good and others as evil can be precarious business.
This doesn’t mean we can’t make judgments. In our day-to-day life, don’t we do so every time we choose one person over another? You need to do this when you are choosing a marriage partner, hiring an employee, looking for a babysitter, and so on. We make certain decisions based on what we can discover about a person.
And there’s no need to suppress our opinions as we enter into online debates about today’s most pressing moral issues. The internet offers us a potentially valuable platform for proclaiming the truth — and doing so in ways that can help others see that truth as a way to find true freedom and happiness.
But when we’re tempted to condemn another person, online or off, for holding a particular opinion or political stance, we need to step back and reflect. By finding ways to see the good in others and encouraging that, rather than turning others off because of our self-righteous put-down of them, we can do much more to foster a culture of life.
Let’s leave all judgment of persons in the gentle hands of God, the one who is merciful and gracious toward all of us, and he will help us to teach respect by our good example.