There's a problem with the world. We can't ignore it, we can't simply look away or pretend it doesn't exist. It's real, and frankly, it can be horrifying.
Evil is real and it is among us.
I know what you're thinking. "Wow, Nish. Way to be a downer." I get it, it's not fun or easy to talk about the dark realities of the world. It sucks, actually. I understand if you want to click over to more uplifting content like cute babies playing with cats or something. But, if you can hang with me, I hope you will.
Okay, back to evil.
It crops up in big moments in history, and it crops up in the underpinnings of everyday life. And with the speed of social media, we are made aware of the evils in the world at a fast, unrelenting pace. It slaps us in the face every time we look at Facebook or Twitter.
Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. And, and, and...
Charleston, South Carolina.
And most recently, the news about Planned Parenthood.
That's just a small, miniscule smattering of BIG examples in the news over the course of the last few years. I haven't even touched on the stories that we hear about, but slip through the cracks of mainstream media. With each devastating instance we encounter, social media explodes into a collective outrage.
AND RIGHTFULLY SO. This is not a post on the validity of being outraged over horrible events that happen in the world. We should be angry. We should be standing up, demanding change from the people who have the power to enact it. We should be standing up, shining a light on atrocities, oppression, white supremacy, trafficking, gun violence, mass incarceration, abortion, you name it. We should use the means available to us to do so, and that includes social media.
Now, hear me when I say - I am not equating one with the other. I'm not saying one issue is more horrible than the other, nor is one more important than another. They are all horrific in their own right. They all carry their own unfathomable pain, consequence, and conversations. They all deserve attention, protest, outrage, and pain. It's apples and oranges to try to compare pain. It's a lose/lose.
But there is a thread that connects these things and it's time we call it on the carpet for what it is. It's evil. Evil is in the world and we should all, as believers, be standing against it, arm in arm.
But, there's something that we forget in the midst of the outrage, especially on social media. Evil affects everyone differently. The survivors of Columbine are likely going to have a different set of responses to the news of Newtown. Parents of small children are going to have a different response than those without children.
Our black brothers and sisters are going to have a different response to the terrorism in Charleston than those of us who are white and don't have to fear getting gunned down in church because of our skin color.
Women who have had, or have come in close proximity to abortion are going to have a different response to the news reports of Planned Parenthood than people who haven't had that experience.
This is reality.
Like I said, I'm not valuing one experience over another. I'm only showing that everyone will internalize information differently on any given day because of their lived experience.
We forget this on social media.
If you are regularly active on social media, there is an unspoken expectation that you will respond quickly and swiftly to the most recent horrors that make their way across the screen. And if you don't, you are accused of being complicit in, apathetic towards or even sympathetic to the horror.
We've forgotten that people aren't always ready to respond.
Or maybe they do respond, but it's while they're sitting in a cloud of emotion and they say something that sounds pretty dumb or careless.
Every now and again, something will happen that strikes a little too close to home. It hurts and that person is forced to relive something in their past. Or their present, for that matter. Something happens, the news spreads, and someone just needs some time to catch their breath because the pain is too much to bear.
There is little room for immediate outrage in the midst of grief and lament.
People who are usually active and vocal may go quiet. And in the landscape of social media, where outrage is vocal, unrelenting, responses are demanded, and silence looks like complicity, we forget that sometimes, people just need to take one goddamned minute to FEEL. To be sad. To cry. To breathe. To sleep.
(And let's get real, they may just be away from the internet entirely. Like, you know, on vacation. I hear that happens from time to time.)
But, it's in these moments of pain & lament when the rest of the body of believers needs to stand up next to that person and and say, "You sit down for this one, we got it," and continue to protest and speak against the horrors of injustice, murder, oppression and more. When one part of the body can't function, the rest of the body learns to compensate. We hold each other's arms up when we're too tired. We stand in. We sub out. We support each other and believe the best about each other.
Even the best athletes in the world need a water break every now and then. We give them time outs. We give them a couple of minutes to breathe, rest, drink. Then, we slap them on the ass and they get out there and get it done. How much more gracious and accommodating should we be to our brothers and sisters who might be experiencing pain? How much more forgiving should we be of our friends who are devastated over the news?
Maybe, just maybe, they have a good reason for being quiet. Maybe, just maybe, it isn't that they're apathetic.
Where did our grace go?
Let's choose to be a people who honor each other. Let's choose to be a people who actually believe the best of each other, rather than jump to assumptions about their character or complicity.
Let's continue to fight against injustice. But for heaven's sake, let's not fight each other in the process.