When We Criticize One Another
We love to argue.
With a thousand words and sarcastic asides and 140 characters slung around like projectiles in the air, we draw battle lines and come to blows.
When I made up my unofficial resolutions at the start of this year, I included “don’t argue on the internet”. But I can’t seem to get away from it.
If I’m being particularly noble, my motivations are of learning and dialoguing and expanding the bounds of my world. If I’m being particularly honest, I enjoy the competition, the quick retorts, the rhetorical knock-outs. Probably at the heart of it all is an attempt to validate my own shifting opinions and views by getting strangers on the internet to agree with me, which is a little bit sad.
I’ve watched quite a few arguments unfold in recent days, sprawling across the internet in corners unknown to most of the world but apparently of utmost importance to those of us residing there. Factions formed (or were revealed), lines were drawn, volleys were exchanged.
In another corner of the internet, even smaller than the first, a few of us rehashed the same conversation that raged ugly just outside our door. But here it was different. Here ideas were debated fiercely and deeply, but wrapped in respect and understanding. Rather than exchanging jabs, we exchanged ideas. Here, we learned from one another. A small group of people from very different backgrounds and experiences, but we had a common identity. A name and a logo. Just a few words and loose ideas united us, but maybe that’s what made all the difference. It wasn’t “us” vs. “them”. It was us, amongst ourselves.
If only we ALL had a shared identity, a name under which we could unite together – then maybe we could have healthy, productive conversations.
Instead, we draw circles in the sand. Circles traced around where we are standing and those circles become our foxholes as we wage war against one another. And sitting here watching it, I cringe. Because I have people in foxholes on both sides, and when it turns ugly I feel caught in the middle.
”…but I show you a better way”. That phrase from the Scriptures has stirred in my mind for a week or two now as I’ve watched this all and wondered why it has to be this way.
A better way. Just a few words hiding in the shadows between a chapter about the Body and that famous passage about Love. But they’re important words for today.
Maybe we can’t stop arguing on the internet. Maybe we don’t have to. But perhaps all of us could lean toward learning “a better way”. Because we DO have a shared identity. So many of us call each other brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. Followers of the same Carpenter. And even those who find their identity outside the Church are fellow humans, citizens of the same planet.
When we criticize one another, let’s first pause and remember who we are. Then when we speak let our words serve to draw us near, rather than drive us apart.
When we criticize one another, let’s return to the beginning and draw a circle in the sand again, but broad enough for all of us to stand together.
When we criticize one another, lets drop our sticks and stones and instead hold out the Bread and the Wine that unite us as one.
[ image: Warner Bros. ]