It can be a minefield navigating conflicting views on contemporary issues on social media. Photo: File
It can be a minefield navigating conflicting views on contemporary issues on social media. Photo: File

When social media turns out to be not so social after all

If you are at all aware of social media, you are probably aware that it isn't always very social. In fact, you have probably seen posts and articles blaming one side or another for just about everything under the sun.

At the moment there are conflicting views about climate change and environmental protections; the covid-19 virus and political solutions; black lives matter, all lives matter, slavery and reparations, and in the church there are ongoing conversations about how we read and approach scripture, and the outworking's of that.

Quite often the posts, memes and articles seem to be about shouting out one's own opinion or about attempting to ridicule or shame the nebulous other for not following the 'rules' of your own enlightened position.

The shaming and rule enforcing are what I want to focus on in this article.

The first thing is to recognise that the rules are not in and of themselves a negative thing, they provide for the good, the safety and the identity of the community, but like the shame structure they work on a zero sum game.

Michael Jackson's song 'You can't win' paraphrases Ginsbergs's theorem of thermodynamics with the lines; "You can't win, you can't break even, And you can't get out of the game". This could equally be applied to shame and the Law, and to the destructive cycle of engaging or disengaging in the modern debates.

Much of the New Testament was written in an environment that had a strong cultural affiliation with the rules and with shaming others.

This has given those who spend a lot of time with it the opportunity to reflect on those topics in a less emotionally charged environment, and to detect a Godly response.

Peter Rollins describes grace as the technology of transformation in the context of shame. Grace is the space to be loved without being required to transform, which provides the space to re-evaluate and to transform.

In the modern context if you honestly wish to change someone's mind, the first thing to do is to have the courage to truly listen, not just listen to argue but listen to empower their voice.

I don't want to promise that this will always lead to people changing their mind, but it does create a space for transformation, rather than inspiring the circular firing squad of modern conversations.

Rev. Andrew Schmidt Good Shepherd Anglican Church