As expected, the assassination of Osama bin Laden has sparked a range of responses. People poured out into the streets of Washington, some celebrating with American flags while others morosely brought flowers. Christians are no exception to the polarized responses.
Within minutes Christians were preaching at one another on Facebook and Twitter in support of their nanosecond-formed viewpoints on the death of Bin Laden. Opposing Proverbs were cited in support of opposing views, while the non-Christian press focused on reporting events accurately and sympathizing with 9/11 survivors. As I write, news media are plastered with images and announcements regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. Blogs, articles, books, sermons, and movies are sure to follow. How should Christians respond to this significant event in contemporary history? Here are two initial suggestions:
Restrain your desire to be heard with a greater desire to be discerning. Within seconds viewpoints were spouted on social media. These unbaked responses betrayed very little reflection, which is why I appreciated the occasional comic relief via Twitter. Can anyone really sort through the cultural, ethical, and theological issues surrounding Bin Laden’s death within minutes?
Allow me to throw another proverb on the heap: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Adapting James’ wisdom for the 21st century, we might say, in some instances, we should be quick to reflect, slow to tweet, slow to rant. To be sure, the controversy over opposing viewpoints regarding Bin Laden’s death would be present without social media. The difference, however, is that the controversy could be much more profitable, sharpening, and reflective if we were slow to respond publicly. Time has a way of balancing our perspective.
Be quick to reflect, slow to tweet, slow to rant.
Don’t let social media manage you; manage your social media. There’s something compelling about the ability to broadcast my opinions to an instant audience. Is it the dopamine rush of rapid response or something more? Perhaps our instant response betrays our not so instant community, our isolated lives imprisoned by social perspectives of a rather thoughtless Christianity? Let’s be honest. How many people are going to pull out their Bibles in community and have a vigorous, open, winsome discussion about this face-to-face? Not enough.
Or maybe we just let social media do our thinking for us. We are so hooked on instant communication, that we’d rather air opinions and let the chips fall where they may. Could it be that our minds have become content with rapid, regular bits of information–sending or receiving–that we have lost the value of personal, theological reflection? Closer to home, are we content for our minds to be managed by social media because we care more about what others think than what God thinks? Have we become so preoccupied with social media that we fail to be occupied with theological meaning?
The way forward is being slow to speak, quick to listen, and intent to draw near to God. After all, no one cares more about evil and justice than God himself.