By Gabriella Martay
While many may see the death of Fred Phelps as another opportunity to air their personal opinions regarding the Westboro pastor, the Christian on social media should see Phelps’ passing as an opportunity knocking at their doorstep. If you’re anything like me, you might want to believe that your social media presence is hardly significant. You may be even tempted to just post your personal opinions no matter how harsh their sting or critical their nature, but no matter how much I try to persuade myself that my presence on social media is not important, I am reminded that this thought is simply not true. Each of us has a responsibility to uphold when it comes to our presence on social media.
You and I may not have hundreds of thousands following our tweets, or five thousand friends on Facebook (or maybe you do), but we do have a sphere of influence. Key word: “influence”. Within my followers and friends list there are people that know me well and have only met me a few times. There are people that believe the same things I do and many more who don’t. There are young and there are older. No matter whom my friends or followers are the unquestioned fact remains that many of them will be influenced by and might even be awaiting my reaction to Fred Phelps’ death. Why? Because they all know I am a Christian.
When controversial world events happen, especially those of a religious nature, people are looking to see how followers of Jesus are going to react. There’s something inside of all of us that wants to see the proof of whether something is credible and legitimate. And just like I test drive a car at the dealership to see if it runs as well as the guy selling it has tried to convince me it does, people who hear someone proclaim they are Christian are usually awaiting the proof that backs that monumental statement.
Therefore, it is deceiving to think that social media posts are just for us to say whatever may come to mind at the moment. Despite how much one might hate hearing it, our social media is the proving ground of every title or cause we’ve ever attributed to ourselves. So, how does a Christian on social media stay credible and take hold of their influence during an event such as the death of Westboro’s founder? Here are 3 suggestions to start the conversation:
- 1. Avoid the three D’s: Disrespect, Disdain and Deriding
Thinking about avoiding the three D’s makes me feel like a kid again. My mom would always tell us, “I don’t allow disrespect in my household. Either learn to be kind with your words or be quiet.” As time has gone on, I have come to realize that this statement was not something that my mom just conjured up, it was something God constantly says. He says, “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” (Proverbs 11:12) It’s a hard truth, but there is much to be gained when it is upheld.
- 2. Love Wins
It’s easy to think that we love others, but the judge of that will be the essence of our Tweets and posts. I think we’ve all had a moment or two where we go to post that fiery Tweet and then something (or someone) says, “Put down your weapon”. Even more, nothing drives this point home better than remembering that “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
- 3. Be Creative. Conform Not
If you go onto Twitter and read the posts regarding Phelps’ death, you will see a tremendous amount of hate and pain from people using this social media outlet. I’m sure you could imagine the harsh words that people are throwing around for all to see in their social bubbles. With such an abundance of these responses, it is an absolute delight to think that a response that goes against this pattern can be a breath of fresh air and inspire people to think positive. We can enjoy the creativity that goes into the fact that as Christians we get to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). Why not take this chance to commission your followers to be game-changers? Why not challenge people to think about the situation from another angle? It takes a bit more effort to create these kinds of posts, but it’s satisfying when we do! Let’s create!
Those are just a few of my thoughts and suggestions as to how a Christian can stay credible and take hold of their influence on social media during controversial events. What are yours?
Editor’s Note: This display of love, grace and mercy is unbelievable. Check it out:
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were perplexed Friday evening after they were met by counter protesters with a sign that expressed condolences for the recent loss of their church’s leader, Fred Phelps.
“Sorry for you loss,” the sign read.
Image source: Screen grab via KSHB-TV