America is as divided as never before, and people are wondering what to make of it or what to do. Polarization is where people divide themselves into sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs, with these political/religious communities sometimes called “tribes.” I am hoping and praying some reflections and suggestions make America a better place, and help Christians have a better witness.
There are multiple reasons why Facebook and social media contribute to this polarization. First, most people have “friends” or followers who believe similarly. These friends reinforce and strengthen what they already believe. This is nothing new. An old saying is, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Facebook and social media make flocking together easier.
Second, people say things online that they would not say face to face. Facebook confrontations are often callous and uncaring.
Third, Facebook does not fact-check political ads. They also do a poor job of monitoring other posts and articles. This results in many newsy-looking posts that are misleading and/or false. What looks and sounds like news is not. Comparing major news outlets to Facebook is comparing apples to oranges.
Fourth, political and religious groups, and even other countries, are using Facebook to influence thinking and believing through deceptive communications. Facebook and social media are great for family photos but poor at helpful confrontation and building a healthy community.
Another factor in polarization is that most people currently trust their political tribe more than their faith’s teachings. America has moved away from its past religious and spiritual moorings. Many people even view God and country as equally important in practice, even though they deny it. There are religious leaders who communicate political positions in conflict with Scripture, and there are people who put their trust in ministers over Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Another factor in polarization is that people view their own tribe with their heart but view others with their mind. When presented with unflattering facts about their tribe, many people immediately think of facts about the other tribe they consider worse.
People are more forgiving of people in their tribe. This disparity only adds to the distance people feel towards those not of their tribe.
So, what are Christians to do?
First, we need to get on our knees and repent! The Christian community is known more for its political leanings than its scriptural teachings. We need to seek the Holy Spirit for direction in our lives instead of trusting other sources or people. Psalm 146:3 states, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” As Christians, we are first and foremost citizens of heaven.
Second, I recommend we spend more time face-to-face and less time online. It’s harder to misunderstand or criticize someone in front of you. Third, it is scriptural to confront people privately and not publicly (Matt. 18:15-17). Fourth, do not use Facebook as a news source. Stop sharing posts that look like they are news even if they contain some true facts. Finally, do not let politics influence your faith, and let your faith become more important than politics.
Mark 12:17 says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’” Christians need to put God first! Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”