Politics and Tongues of Fire

In recent weeks, there has been much debate on the roll of Social Media in this year’s Presidential Campaign.  Truth be told, I’ve not read any official articles about.  I’ve not seen CNN headlines.  I’ve heard of no studies commissioned by any candidate.  Still, I’ve seen plenty of back and forth among my friends and followers regarding the amount of political posts as well as their tenor.  The folks over at someecards.com seem to be the real winners in this election cycle.

I’ve been guilty of getting pretty upset about both the amount and tenor of political tweets and status updates, especially over the past few weeks as each party held their Nominating Conventions.  One night, while killing time during a US Open commercial break, I even used the hashtag #StopCloggingUpMyNewsFeed.  Later in the week, I replied to a friend who leaned more toward the first picture than the second and argued, “I appreciate intelligent political discourse in which both sides understand that thinking human beings hold opinions contrary to their own. Blind faith in a monolithic ideal that cannot possibly be enacted in a country that is much more purple than it is red or blue and vitriol at the notion that one’s opinions on the best way forward for Medicare might not be the only way, I can do without. On Facebook, in the bar, and everywhere else, for that matter.”

All of this to say that starting with General Convention this summer and running through the election cycle, I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about the way in which we communicate with one another, especially via Social Media.  Based on my experience, it seems as though we are more likely to speak frankly online than we would ever be face-to-face or even over the phone.  Unlike the olden days of chat rooms, many of us are no longer anonymous online beings.  Social Media, especially Facebook, has changed the game, so that when we interact online, virtually anywhere online from ESPN to CNN to AL.com and even here on WordPress, our name and picture follow us where ever we go.  Still, it seems many folks find it safer to be polemical via an online presence and will often say things via a keyboard or iphone that they would never imagine saying out loud in mixed company.

Which leads me to James.  In Sunday’s New Testament lesson, James admonishes his audience to tame their tongues of fire.  “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  It seems to me, however, that after 2,000 years, James needs a bit of an upgrade.  Many of us have found ways to keep our tongues in check.  In fact, those who don’t we watch with horror on Jerry Springer and the Jersey Shore, but as the tongue has evolved, the ten digits at the ends of our arms have become the new weapon of choice.

As the conversations heat up over the next 60 days during an election season that my friend Rocky calls, “the most divisive and decisive of [her] lifetime,” I hope that we’ll work on keeping our fingers in check.  I pray that we’ll call on the Spirit to guide our conversations and debates.  I suggest that we all take a moment each day to remember that those sitting across the aisle are thinking human beings (and for this blog’s purpose, often faithful Christians).  I sincerely hope that we won’t let the red and blue narrative have the best of us, and instead focus on the places where we agree, where our hope is founded, and where our future rests.  Let’s work on having tongues and fingers of blessings, rather than tongues and fingers of curses.

We are, after all, residents of a nation that is much less red and blue than it is purple.

2008 Election Results on a scale from red to blue.

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