The One Thing I’ve Never Seen on Facebook

We see lots of things on Facebook: pictures of families at holiday dinners, vacation selfies, and nature scenes. We see videos of pet adventures, talking heads, and wild animals. We receive birthday and anniversary notices. And we wade through lots of advertisements! But we also encounter lots of heated political, moral, and theological rhetoric. This rhetoric sometimes involves outrage, name calling, labeling, and hyperbole—all in the name of truth, reason, justice, Jesus, the kingdom of God, and all we hold dear. There is no need for me to give examples. You know.

But the one thing I’ve never seen is a reply to a FB post that reads like this:

“Before reading your argument I held strongly to an opposing view. But your cool, careful reasoning and your fair—even generous—representation of those with whom you differ has convinced me that I was mistaken and that the view you espouse is the correct one.”

I wonder…is there any place in our culture where cool, patient reason reigns? Where there is enough humility before the truth to let it speak while we all listen? Where we leave final judgment to God?

How can disciples of Jesus avoid becoming like those we despise? Perhaps the first question we ought to ask is where our spite comes from.

How can we speak with those with whom we disagree? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves first about the character of the force that drives our urge to speak.

What if we thought of persuasion this way: you listen to others until they hit upon the truth?



11 thoughts on “The One Thing I’ve Never Seen on Facebook

  1. Paul Highfield

    Great thought Ron. Would you consider writing in a more detailed manner in a very specific way about how to discuss difficult difficult topics in a cool, mature, open way eliminating inflammatory language and yet still with a truth seeking heart? I have often thought that we all need to learn how to eliminate condescending language, unnecessary dogmatism and sarcasm in our writing. Once when I corrected a friend after his sermon he said to me, “Paul could you try to correct me in a more gentle way in the future. Maybe you could say something like this, ‘Have you ever thought about ….’ and I could be more receptive to it.” I have never forgotten this, but I still need to learn more about how to discuss difficult topics in written form in a non-inflammatory manner.


  2. Paul Highfield

    Ron I am not sure my post got posted but anyway thank you for writing on this and I wonder if you would mind writing more specifically how to do this eliminating all inflammatory language that hinders communication in correspondence?


  3. nokareon

    I wonder if the medium itself might bear some of the blame. Facebook may not have an aggressive character limit like Twitter, but nonetheless the interface and even graphic design (size of the reply boxes, etc.) encourages one to post shoot-from-the-hip reactions in sound-bite form. I fear that this ends up encouraging ad hominem attacks and fodtering a general lack of understanding of opposing views. The medium leads us to become quicker to judge, quicker to speak, and slower to listen. And this is the kind of culture that social media may be engendering in the world…


  4. ifaqtheology Post author

    I think the medium definitely has something to do with it. Face to face with no audience, we would never think of saying what we readily say in the little FB reply box. Thanks.


  5. falonopsahl

    It always amazes me that we live in a culture that preaches “tolerance” as the ultimate idol, yet once people are hidden behind a screen (anonymously or not), we’re equally as “intolerant” as any generation that has come before us. I think part of the problem is the prevalence of tolerance rhetoric. Everything I want to say in response to this blog post is actually connected to that, and I wrote an article for the Graphic a year ago about it. Here’s the link:


    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      When a person or group thinks only of marshaling an army to fight for their cause, every value–tolerance, truth, justice, compassion, and even love–becomes subservient to that end. They are useful only as they can make your side look good and the other side bad. Speech intended to convince needs to appeal to commonly held and commonly understood values. Solidarity and agreement must be the starting points. And we must actually “practice we preach” if we expect others to listen to us. I will look at your article. Thanks!


  6. paulbrazle

    A Facebook friend recently posted the Henri Nouwen quote below – which I think ties in with some of what you address here. I think that she posted it in response to the question (issue) of receiving refugees. It applies in the sense here in Europe too, but I have used it for two sermons/studies on the challenge to unconditionally engage>embrace those we encounter without an obligation to become as we…

    From Hostility to Hospitality
    When hostility is converted into hospitality then fearful strangers can become guests revealing to their hosts the promise they are carrying with them. Then, in fact, the distinction between host and guest proves to be artificial and evaporates in the recognition of the new found unity. Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines…Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.
    – Henri Nouwen

    (Note that since ‘lifestyle’ is such a loaded word, I admit to having had a bit of a struggle to process the last sentence. I settled on “my welcoming/engaging the stranger should exemplify a lifestyle connection with Jesus, that may encourage him to make his own such connection – but based on who he was, and it shouldn’t trouble me that it looks different than mine.”)


  7. ifaqtheology Post author

    Perhaps the Nouwen quote relates to patience and listening. They are a kind of rhetorical hospitality. We need not think we are betraying the truth if we seek to discover and understand our common beliefs before we rush to find points on which we disagree. Thanks!


  8. davissavage

    I am of the opinion that the reason for such a lack of patience today is the supposed overwhelming need to satisfy the self, and we are continually fed that idea through the multiplicity of products and services that offer instant gratification. I think we all need to worry a little less about making sure are view is heard, and first take some time to humble ourselves and show empathy towards the other person. I’m sure we’d make a lot more progress if that was the case.



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