Rise & Shine - November 05
How can we as Christians live out the truth of our faith through social media?
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's story can be read or downloaded below.
A Facebook Fight Destroys a Family's Small Business
In the News
In a Boston suburb earlier this month, Sophie Mele, the 23-year-old daughter of the owner of the White Rose coffee shop, posted a comment on Facebook (without her mother's knowledge or permission) that said the shop would never host a "Coffee with a Cop" event, meant to provide an opportunity for police and citizens to get to know each other better.
To make things worse, Sophie wound up calling police bullies and racists when the conversation that ensued online got heated and nasty. Sophie's mother, Kato, leapt in to calm things demanding that her daughter remove the offending comment, and Sophie obliged. Then Kato fired her daughter from her part-time coffee shop job and wrote an apology to the police.
The police chief wasn't bothered by all this. He noted that Sophie had every right to her opinion. But, others weren't nearly so kind.
As Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham wrote, "A mob had descended within hours of the Facebook post, whipped up by a website that specializes in (and makes money from) marshaling drooling goons for mass attacks, mostly on victims who express left-of-center views.
"They got into the cafe's Facebook page, leaving hundreds of bad reviews to drive its five-star rating down. Mele's daughter received rape threats. … [T]he café was slammed with abusive callers, saying horrific things: They hoped Mele and her daughter are ruined, that they never work again, that her daughter drowns."
Kato Mele wound up offering this deep lament after she made the difficult decision to shut down her coffee shop: "I've lost my business and I've lost my daughter." There is no indication in the news reports that Sophie ever expressed any remorse about her actions, which may be why Kato concluded that she's lost her daughter.
Clearly, the internet allows for a kind of anonymity that can embolden cowards and unleash the unhinged. Social media sites -- and comment sections on blogs and news sites -- can be a space where wisdom and other useful information and insights can be shared. But often a sort of "Lord of the Flies" situation develops, and people who might not otherwise accost people in person blast away in ugly ways on their keyboards. And over the years flaming comments have come from both ends of the political spectrum. Extremist reactions seem to know no boundaries.
The result can be devastating in many ways, including economically. The power of mass movements on social media sites sometimes can result in newly minted "conventional wisdom," which can influence lawmakers who then want to institutionalize that wisdom with new regulations or laws.
Social media gives us the ability to share anything at any time. Thus, truth can sometimes give way to mudslinging, unfounded opinions, and outright hate. However, this also creates the possibility for mass movements toward positive change. How can we as Christians live out the truth of our faith through social media?
More on this story can be found at these links:
How Rage Over a Woman's Anti-Cop Facebook Post Killed a Lynn Coffee Shop. The Boston Globe
White Rose Owner: 'I've Lost My Business and I've Lost My Daughter.' ItemLive.com
Cops Are Racist, Her Daughter Wrote Online. Her Coffee Shop Didn't Last a Week. Miami Herald
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation ... (No context needed.)
In many places, the Bible affirms that God is the God of truth and that we must learn to be truth-tellers. This foundational commitment to honesty and to its divine source should underpin all we do and say. The slippery slope of white lies, of course, can quickly take us to a place where we fudge on the truth for lots of reasons that we can justify to ourselves.
Questions: How can we learn to tell divine truth from human fiction dressed up to seem like God's word? What are effective tools of discernment? How does humility -- especially acknowledging the possibility that we might be wrong and actually promoting a lie instead of truth -- come into play?
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. (For context, read John 14:11-21.)
Earlier in John 6, Jesus said this about himself: "I am the way and the truth and the life." One unique aspect of Christianity is that truth is not fully contained in a doctrine or dogma or even in a book. Rather, truth is a person, Christ Jesus himself.
Christians are called to be Christ for each other, to be Christ bearers, to be God's hands and feet on Earth, which also means that somehow truth must be incarnated in us. Our task is to allow ourselves to be open to Christ's truthful presence and to be channels of that graceful presence for others.
Questions: How does Christian thinking and teaching about truth affect you in the daily tasks of responding not just to the news but also to what's happening right in front of you, in your family, your workplace, your school, your neighborhood? Do you feel somehow obligated to ask yourself before you react to what's going on how your reaction can be guided by your faith in the one who is himself Truth? If so, is that obligation part of what makes the Christian faith so difficult to live out fully and authentically?
Matthew 18:15-17 (CEB)
If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you've won over your brother or sister. But if they won't listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won't pay attention, report it to the church. If they won't pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. (For context read Matthew 18:15-35.)
When considering Jesus’s advice about how to settle disputes or "sins against you" today, we must factor in the existence of social media. In some cases, it's likely that those sins have been shared almost immediately with the world via the internet, so the opportunity to "go and correct them when you are alone together" may disappear nanoseconds after the wrong has been done.
Still, what Jesus is teaching here has to do with personal responsibility for finding a way to reconcile a split between individuals. That's still the mandate, even if the split has played out before thousands or even millions of people who have decided that they, too, should express an opinion about all of this.
And isn't it an intriguing irony that Jesus says, "treat them as you would a Gentile and a tax collector"? After all, how did Jesus himself treat Gentiles and tax collectors? He welcomed them in. He affirmed their humanity. He died for them.
Questions: How can we react redemptively to inflammatory comments on Facebook? How can we use the reconciliation advice in Matthew 18 on social media?
Prayer in Times of Conflict (BCP p.824)
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.