Priest Card #1: Not Funny

Today was a heated day for debate on the internet. What else is new?

This is a bit of a screed – so forgive me – I usually don’t write like this.  I don’t like playing the priest card, but sometimes its necessary, I guess.

I won’t be arguing a position today on current events… yet. I’m also not talking to people who hold differing views and can express them (even robustly) in a civil fashion. I’m probably not talking to most of you. So, whats the point? To feel justified? To feel superior?

Uh oh… better check my own Social Media Checklist… I hope it’s not about any of those attitudes I know I need to avoid. I think its motivated from some things I saw, on a politically hot day like today in Indiana, and on other days, that cause a great temptation to either Resent, React, or Lose Inner Stillness – which stands at odds with a very good teaching from Metropolitan Kallistos of Xelon and taught by Metropolitan Jonah “Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness” This Resentment, Reaction, and Loss of Inner Stillness usually manifest itself in a hastily penned “comment”. Problem is, this just keeps the fire going, and usually causes someone else embarrassment (perhaps their words should embarrass them, there are words and attitudes that should embarrass and lead us to repentance from those embarrassing words and attitudes) but it should not be done directly, instantly, publicly like that.

Sadly, we don’t seem interested in thinking about the potential embarrassment to others our public comments might cause. I’ve messed up with this many times, so, this post is an attempt to step away from the desire to throw more fuel in the fire, to step away, but to attempt to speak to what I do see as a problem – a spiritual problem – thus the priest card. Speaking of the ‘priest card’ – that means this is one of those ‘in house’ kind of posts. Not that anyone is excluded from reading or gaining something from my meager offering, but, its specifically for people who declare themselves Christians – and, its pointing right back at myself, as a priest in the Orthodox Christian faith. Thing about the priest card, is it plays both ways, it can’t ever be played on someone without it applying right back to the dealer.

So…. here goes… deal.

Oh, one more disclaimer: This post isn’t about embracing moral relativism or throwing out traditional values. Quite the contrary, I would say.

I am offering this word to Christians who take the opportunity of the perceived “echo chamber” of social media (hey, everybody here agrees with me anyway and if not, well sorry if you’re offended) on a day of particular political heat (or on off days too)  to make clearly crass and offensive comments. I’ve seen the justification made  ’cause hey its ‘hilarious AND true!’ These comments are often aimed at certain groups of people, the perceived ‘losers’ of the political and moral debate – the ‘enemy’ the ‘other’. Cool how we can at once stand for our moral values AND make fun of people not like us.

My word (unworthy though I be) for this is:

That’s not how it works.

Its not hilarious.

It’s not true. (in the Phil. 4:8 definition of what we as Christians should dwell upon, read it).

It’s not appropriate.

It’s just sad and crude.

Forgive me, but please try to think about real people before saying or sharing such things. Think about people who are loved by God and who need God, and who will find God only by knowing the love of God, and will only know the love of God when they are shown it by poor sinners like us who bear His name and are charged with being Christ to others. We are commanded by Christ to bear witness to His love. Commanded.

Think about people who might just read that comment and never want to hear anything about Christ again.

The only victory, ever, is the Cross and the Resurrection. No political ‘victory’, no level of ‘rightness’ ever eclipses the Cross of Christ, which calls us all first to humility, repentance, and then self-sacrificial love. Even if we call these political events ‘victories’ (and I would argue otherwise) then consider the ultimate victory of Our Lord. Did He use the opportunity to make fun of those, to mock those who ‘lost’? Only death, hell, sin, and the devil are mocked by His victory, but no persons, for His victory was for the healing of all, including those who opposed Him. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12;32). He did not mock for He wished for all to receive His love and mercy. Man can still refuse it, but woe to those whom put stumbling blocks in the way of others, who hasten that refusal, for it is not the desire of God that any should perish.

We must be careful with our words. I have been the chief of sinners in this regard. The false dichotomy of our age says that we must choose sides and win at any cost. It tells us that the ends justify the means, and that we can glory over our so called ‘enemies’ because we stand for ‘truth’! But who are our enemies? Who were Christ’s enemies? With whom did He do battle and overcome? For what purpose? To be right? To be secure? To be comfortable in an echo chamber of ‘rightness’? Or to save… sinners like me?

I do not claim to be an expert on Scripture or the Fathers, but I’ve learned a few things time to time from others wiser than I am. And I’d venture to suggest that to consider and love people, like Christ did, first and foremost,  is actually the most Traditional, Christian, (and for my fellow Orthodox folks) Patristic thing you can do.

That’s all.

Carry on.

But please be kind today. I will try to be as well. Pray for me, a sinner.