Friday, March 21, 2014

Moral Superiority and Social Media

As I was reading a particular Facebook post yesterday, it occurred to me to read said post through the eyes of a complete stranger who just happened upon the conversation.  I was struck by how I read the post with such eyes--even if those eyes were a sort of guess.

I thought to myself, "Man, this poster and several of those who are responding sure do come across as holier-than-thou."  Of a possibly more fascinating note, the particular poster and many of those who responded to the post oftentimes decry "fundamentalist" Christians who believe they are somehow more morally superior than others.  Yet, I do not believe they would see themselves as being morally superior by their own actions or words.

Yet, they were.  No doubt in my mind.  And it got me thinking--particularly about many of my own posts and blogs.  And I shuddered.

I mean, I don't think, I KNOW, that many of my postings and blog posts come across in exactly the same way.  I know that of the several times I've posted on message boards, I've come across in exactly the same way.  There is no doubt in my mind I have come across thinking I am morally and intellectually superior than others.

I apologize.  I won't say it wasn't intentional, because as I think back, I am sure it was.  I wanted folks to think I was right.  I wanted folks to think I was intelligent.  I wanted folks to think that I had moral insight and superiority.  There was and still probably is a lack of humility on my part.  Again, I apologize.

But please don't think that I am backing off of any claims of truth that I have made.  I do not believe a person can live without making some sort of truth claim.  I mean, if no one makes truth claims, then all really and truly is relative.  All really and truly is socially constructed, and right and wrong is simply a matter of what society chooses it to be at any given moment in history.  If a society decides killing off a particular race or religious group is okay, there is nothing to appeal to other than brute force to stop such behavior--unless there is a truth claim honoring the basic human dignity of another.

Truth claims are important to make.   They govern our behavior, but the problem as I see it with much of social media and even blogging is a lack of humility when posting about our truth claims.  I've done it.  Someone will probably think I am doing it now.  Maybe I am.  I hope not.  I don't feel morally superior or intellectually superior to anyone while writing this post.  In fact, if we were sitting down visiting with one another, I think you would discover that very quickly.

But, we are not sitting down talking to one another.  You are reading this post.  I am writing it.  We are separated by a huge gulf.  Instead of seeing my facial expressions, reading my body language, and hearing the inflection in my voice, your brain is left to add all that stuff in.  Depending upon your mood, how you understand my stance, and your assumptions about my character, you will read this post perhaps in a very different manner than I personally intended.

This is one of the major problems with social media.  Even though it claims to connect us, it only does so superficially, and I have yet to figure out how to make truth claims without coming across as morally or intellectually superior.

I do know, in the deepest part of my heart, that coming across with any kind of moral superiority or intellectual superiority is contrary to the Gospel.  For if we are indeed saved by grace, then we cannot feel morally or intellectually superior to another.  It's an impossibility.  We know we cannot save ourselves by our morality or our intellect.  We are helpless to do so.  We are totally and completely dependent upon God for salvation.  This leads directly to humility, but that humility is so, so difficult to express through words on a screen--140 characters on Twitter--even in the short amount of space in this blog post.  Even in large tomes read over e-readers or on old-fashioned paper humility is hard to see.

I am not sure what the answer really is.  In this digital age with the entrapment of social media, I wonder if we are left to divide ourselves further and alienate one another more and more because of an inability to come across humbly AND the way our brains intentionally fill in information that cannot be seen.  I wonder if it is possible to entertain claims of truth over social media without coming across as morally and intellectually superior.  I just don't know.

It is my hope, after seeing the things that I saw, that somehow, my words presented on Facebook and through blogging may express my convictions without coming across as haughty.  My apologies if they do. 


ACB70 said...

Another great blog. I think we have all posted things and the intended "tone" was conveyed wrong.

Anonymous said...

If we could come up with the proper mix of humility and assertiveness such as St. Paul expressed in his letters to the churches...again thanks Pastor for a great post

Kevin Haug said...

Thank you both for reading. :-)