By Beth Ann Cook
Tuesday, March 26, was my church newsletter deadline. It was also the day that the internet exploded over Indiana’s passage of SB101, which is also known as RFRA (The Religious Freedom Restoration Act). I wrote this piece for my church members but decided to share it with Indiana United Methodists via Together.
I have an incredibly diverse group of friends on Facebook; this community is made up of 1000+ family members, colleagues, church members and former church members. They span every possible theological and political persuasion. They live all over Indiana, across the United States and around the globe. That diversity made for very interesting reading that day.
At one point, my computer screen seemed filled with people giving into the temptation to paint those who disagree with them on this controversial piece of legislation in the worst possible light. Anyone who supported the legislation must be a bigot who hates gay people and wants to set Indiana back 50 years. Anyone who opposed the legislation was in favor of trampling the religious rights of others.
Many of the posts and articles I saw contained pure fear mongering – on both sides of the issue. Hyperbole abounded. Courtesy seemed to vanish.
In the midst of all of this, I found myself thinking, “snarkiness is not a fruit of the Spirit.”
If you are not familiar with the slang word “snark,” it is a contraction of “snide” and “remark.” To be snarky is to be rudely critical, sarcastic, dismissive or condescending. Snarkiness is the exact opposite of the fruit of the Spirit – the internet is filled with it.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)
I wasn’t seeing a lot of grace demonstrated in most of the posts. Sadly, snarkiness abounded today even among Jesus-followers. I was deeply grateful for a few people I saw who were dedicated to sharing their perspectives in a healthy way and lifting up facts.
When we are tempted to give in to snarkiness, we would do well to heed the wise counsel of James: 3:2-8:
“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” (Jam 3:2-8, NLT)
As far as I know, God never gave James a prophetic vision of the future where he saw the instant communication on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, however he definitely speaks powerfully to our day and time!
My prayer is that God will come and sanctify us – starting with our tongues and typing fingers.
Lord, help us choose the least inflammatory language possible.
Lord, help us put scoring easy points and motivating people to apply political pressure below truly trying to understand where those who disagree with us are coming from.
Lord, help us see that people who hold the worldviews that make our blood boil are created in Your image. That they are broken people, imperfect people, just as we are broken and imperfect, but they are people that you loved enough that you were willing to die on a cross for them.