Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
So, if you follow me on Twitter (and if you do: hi, Mom!), you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been kind of cranky lately.
Hello, friend! I thought perhaps your opinion might be swayed by a lame graphic that restates my canned opinion in a really sarcastic tone!
— Luke T. Harrington (@luketharrington) September 25, 2015
I realize that taking to Twitter to vent my frustration over Facebook is only a notch or two above complaining about pumpkin spice everything, but what can I say? I’m human (unlike people who enjoy pumpkin spice everything). These political image macros clog my Facebook newsfeed every election season (for non-American readers: election seasons here occur every two years; each one lasts approximately two years), and they’re always filled with ad hominems, nonsensical syllogisms, and made-up quotes.
There’s no way to win. You can’t ignore all of them; you can’t unfriend everyone who posts them; and as for arguing with them, well—I tried that the other day, and you can see how much of a difference that made:
Don’t let me act like I’m in anything other than a glass house on this, either. I’ve mellowed some in recent years—or at least I hope I have—but I spent far too long as a political-meme-sharing firebrand. Back in the early days of the Obama administration, I was a pretty big Occupy supporter and was following the movement’s various affiliated Facebook pages, many of which posted pithy, sarcastic graphics on a daily basis. And each graphic featured a tantalizing “share” button underneath.
It was so easy to push that button. So hard to resist.
Watch out, Facebook. Luke is about to drop some TRUTH BOMBS and BLOW SOME MUTHAJUNKIN’ MINDS up in here.
Each time I clicked, it was an instant rush, the emotional high of expressing an opinion plus the anticipation of a fistfight in the comments, the sort of narcissism and social manipulation that in retrospect only a sociopath ought to enjoy. The fantasy of changing the world one meme at a time was irresistible.
But a fantasy was all it was.
It took only a few of these shares before people stopped bothering to comment on them (why waste time arguing with someone belligerent and morally certain?), and the “likes” petered out soon afterward (why encourage him?). My timeline, once a vibrant community, turned into a ghost town.
Where did everyone go? Were they scared of THE TRUTH???
The funny thing was, the whole time I had plenty of other friends, on both sides of the aisle, sharing memes just as sarcastic and belligerent as mine, and each time I saw them I would roll my eyes and scroll quickly by.
Yeesh, I get it, you’re a Democrat. Go outside and get some fresh air, or something.
Those people were annoying. But I was doing a public service.
I sing with my church’s choir every Sunday, and this week we sang these words:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
It’s a well-known prayer, commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and it breaks my heart every time I pray it. It’s a reminder of how enormous the gulf is between “succeeding” on human terms and faithfully following Christ. Between seeking power and seeking servanthood.
Inescapably, to engage in politics is nothing more than to seek power over others. (Even anarcho-libertarians and power-to-the-people far-leftists are looking to impose their own preferred order on the world, even if they seem a little confused about how to do it.) And the thing about power is it always ends up in the hands of whoever is most desperate for it. If you think your political goals are what the world really needs, you’d better be willing to annoy, harass, lie, cheat, steal, and/or kill for them—because I promise you, someone with the opposite goals will be more than happy to do the same.
Protestantism doesn’t have much of a monastic tradition, but I can understand the impulse behind it: the desire to step away from the world’s never-ending war for power—not to surrender to existing power structures, but to abandon them in search of something better.
Last week, after meeting with Pope Francis (who took the name of the saint!), John Boehner—the Speaker of the House, and arguably one of the most powerful men in the world—stepped down from his position and away from his seat in Congress, leaving many stunned and confused. In his resignation speech, he quoted the St. Francis prayer in its entirety.
I’m not here to compare the Pope to Jesus (I’d probably lose my Lutheran card if I did that), but he does seem to have a similar effect on people—inspiring them to abandon their nets in their boats, their plows in their fields, and even their crowns and their kingdoms, all to follow the Fool who kisses lepers.
To lose their lives in order to gain them.
I won’t pretend to have arrived on this. I’m still a selfish bastard as likely as not to ignore the needs of those around him, thinking that holding the right opinions is enough. But I am repenting. Daily. Hourly. I am kneeling every week at the altar of the only One who’s ever changed a selfish bastard into something better. I’m still praying that the world will be remade—not according to my will, but to His.
Come, Lord Jesus.