Rethinking Facebook, incivility and violence

blue_nuclear_rods600

Radioactive rods in a nuclear power plant.

Can the hateful things we say on social media somehow lead to violence in society?

Yes, they can, and I confess, I’ve been a part of it. God forgive me.

  • Matthew 7:1-2 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
  • Matthew 26:52-54 – “…all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
  • Matthew 5:21-22 – “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill … but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

incivility_club296We’ve been talking about slander and tale-bearing in our Bible study. So naturally I turned to Facebook for some enlightenment.

Plenty of examples to choose from. It’s not news that social media has unleashed the subconscious hatred we usually keep inside, and has smeared it around for our friends to gawk at.

We like to think we’re reasonable people, conducting our lives on principles of prudence and practicality, at the very least.

But when we unpack the huge storehouse of opinions we carry around with us, and look at them rationally, they all fall apart, usually from lack of evidence.

Our manufactured virtual truthiness

Have you ever shared a post without checking its veracity, or even reading it? Don’t be surprised. That’s what we do in our heads all the time. We absorb information that supports our agenda or position – or that benefits us – and we ignore the rest. And if it enhances us in some way, we pass it along to others.

Facebook proves what the Bible and anthropology have discerned about human nature – we’re not nice people. When our self-regard is encouraged and nurtured in a social media environment on a mass scale, it seeps out into realtime society, and bad things begin to happen.

The Bible strongly warns against this error.

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people” (Lev. 19:16).

Words can lead to bloodshed

The Talmud says that sharing gossip leads to bloodshed, which is why the next words in the Torah are “you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.”

It has been said that gossip and slander kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. (Talmud Arachin 15b).

As we watch violence increase in our land, we search for a solution, but we are really the problem. While we debate the issues in social media, our own violently stated opinions, laced with sarcasm, invective and disrespect – usually devoid of any hint of human kindness – add to that boiling pot of hate.

Just say no

When we insert enough radioactive rods into society’s nuclear reactor, a meltdown can be expected. Or an explosion.

Of course, a democracy requires intense responsible debate and discussion among its citizens. And sure, some people and ideas need to be exposed for what they are, hopefully with some humor leavened with empathy.

But when it comes to slander and hate, please let’s just say no.

(If you want to understand how seriously Jewish commentators have taken the issue of tale-bearing, see the Judaism 101 website)

About Skippy R

Skippy R has toiled as a scribe for a large denominational newspaper in Texas for over three decades. He's written for The Wittenburg Door and Beliefnet. He lives in Dallas with his wife, Mrs. Skippy, and leads a Bible study in his home. Two grown children and couple of grandkids live nearby. He is-- what are they calling it now?-- a Jesus follower.
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