”We don’t first define a class of people who will be our neighbors and then select only them as the objects of our love — leaving the rest to lie where they fall. Jesus deftly rejects the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ and substitutes the only question really relevant here: ‘To whom will I be a neighbor?’ And he knows that we can only answer this question case by case as we go through our days. In the morning we cannot yet know who our neighbor will be that day. The condition of our hearts will determine who along our path turns out to be our neighbor, and our faith in God will largely determine whom we have strength enough to make our neighbor.”
- Dallas Willard
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The power of the internet was evident this week.
I promised myself I would not say anything about the Chick-fil-A controversy, but I’m going to fudge a little bit. The cynical part of me would like to simply write it off as a stunt by a politician (Mike Huckabee) with little actual redeeming value. However in my opinion, like most things, the whole incident turned out to be a mixed bag of good and bad. Here’s my scorecard:
- Chick-fil-A made record profits and people ate lots of chicken. (good for business, bad for chickens, good for the CFA cows)
- American citizens supported another American citizen who exercised his right of free speech. (good)
- The power of mass media and the internet to rally people to a cause was once again demonstrated. (good and bad)
- People somehow came to believe that standing in long lines and buying fast food meant that they were making a coherent statement on behalf of righteousness. (bad)
- People bought into the idea that bold, public actions which demonstrate “power” (people power, political power, power of moral persuasion) are the way to influence society and bring about change. (good in a democratic society, bad if you think that’s what Jesus is all about)
- The people who participated either didn’t take into account (or didn’t care) how their GLBT neighbors might have felt about what happened that day. (bad)
I wonder what might have happened if Chick-fil-A executives had done this — instead of accepting a demonstration of support for the right to speak their mind on behalf of traditional marriage, CFA restaurants would show good will toward their neighbors by giving away free meals to members of the GLBT community. What if, simply as a gesture of recognition, kindness, and grace, they had said, “Yes, we have our political opinions, but we respect you and want to find ways of living together that are better than this culture war in which we’re fighting.”
And what if they had asked conservatives and Christians and others who support their beliefs about traditional marriage to bring a GLBT friend to their local restaurant and treat him or her to a free meal where they could engage in constructive conversation at the table together?
What kind of coverage would the cable news networks have given to that?
Would Facebook and Twitter have blown up the way they did?
In my idealism, I would hope it might have garnered the same kind of attention and show, in a different way, that our ability to communicate with each other and rally support and organize together for good has been greatly enhanced by the media at our disposal. But I wonder.
The power of the internet was evident this week.
In the suburbs of Washington DC, a person few of us know by name and fewer still know personally was admitted to the hospital. He was seriously ill with an infection in his leg.
He goes by the handle, “Eagle,” and he reports he’s been burned by religion, having bad experiences in churches and parachurch ministries in the past. He likes to comment in blogosphere discussions, where he often plays the part of devil’s advocate, challenging Christians with his questions, insights, and the sharing of his experiences.
Eagle has become a regular participant on a number of blogs, and when a lead writer on one of them found out about his condition (because he called her, worried), she made it known to her readers and to our Internet Monk community as well.
Comments began pouring in, and people starting sending emails of support, asking that they be forwarded to him. Some folks called. Others visited. They found out some things he likes and brought him gifts. They sat and talked with him and provided good company.
The blog writer (Dee from Wartburg Watch) then decided she herself should visit. She and her husband have medical expertise and Eagle needed counsel and assistance as he tried to deal with this situation by himself. So she took a couple days out of her life, traveled to see him, and was able to help a person she had come to know over the internet gain needed perspective and make some important decisions.
The story is not over. We await further developments and will continue to listen, act, and communicate as we are able to help Eagle. The whole affair has been remarkable to watch and experience. A “community” of strangers has come together to help another stranger, assisted by technology in its efforts to care for an actual human being in real, human ways.
Of the two stories about the power of the internet this week, which one do you think more fully reveals the love and way of Christ?
Ephesians 3:10 tells us that the church is making God’s wisdom known, in all its rich variety, to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.
Which of these stories is making them smile today?