I was on break at work on Thursday when I read about the President’s genuinely atrocious remarks on immigration. Frustration and anger settled over me as I considered the layers of arrogance, callousness, and foolishness reflected by his words. And evidently I wasn’t alone. Everyone from journalists to spiritual leaders leapt onto Twitter to voice their outrage. Included among the many tweets was the following gem:
Today’s Gospel according to Donald: “And Jesus said, whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me…unless they’re from one of those shithole countries!” @StephenAtHome
That’s a brilliant little nugget. It comes in the back door. A tweet tells it slant. It challenges Christians to consider the disconnect between the President’s words and those of Jesus. Followers of Jesus can have good-faith disagreements about policies, but this is a challenge to agree on priorities… that Christians should be valuing and caring for “the least of these.” Including those from countries with poor opportunities or living conditions. All that in a pretty little package.
I’m new to the world of Twitter, and I watched Colbert’s tweet (in real-time) begin getting “liked” and retweeted. (As of writing this, it’s been retweeted 8,455 times and like over 34,000 times).
I want to play. I want to speak something thoughtful or profound or challenging or helpful too. And if it got retweeted or “liked” or went viral in some modest way, so be it. I won’t say “no” to a side dish of social affirmation.
So after work, from my car, I tweeted the following:
Donald Trump’s comments about other countries brought to mind the words that convict me frequently: “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” (Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachmani)
That’s my best in a time-crunch. It’s commentary on something current—something hours old. Those words really did come to my mind, and those words really do live in my soul daily. And it’s clever by being slightly ambiguous… Am I simply challenging the reader of my tweet with the quote prompted by the day’s events? Or am I observing that the shape of the President’s inner life seems to be spilling out through his words? Or am I possibly calling Donald Trump a shithole?
(That’s the way this Twitter game is played, right?)
I deleted my Tweet and its corresponding Facebook post an hour later. Sure, that’s not exactly the best way to build a following, but I was unsettled by my own words. Because—if I got honest—I’m not sure my tweeting was aimed at anything helpful. When I read Colbert’s tweet, the primary reaction stirred in me was envy. I thought, “Man, that’s so simple… I wish I had thought of that.”
I wanted “to play.” There’s something wrong there. Social media often feels like a competition. Perhaps I’m alone in feeling this way, but it feels like race to give commentary on current events. To write something clever. To be profound or insightful. And to do it all quicker than anyone else in real-time. Retweets, followers, and likes—that’s the grand prize. Grand and empty.
This bleak outlook, of course, can be countered. Maybe social media gives voice to the common man. Any intelligent, diligent woman can build “a following” that rivals world leaders. For some, social media isn’t a race but a responsibility. Because your tweets create a “following” and that “following” creates “influence” and “influence” translates into real change in the real world. Perhaps commentary on current events through Twitter is an important responsibility. Perhaps. But it’s not one I feel mature enough to participate in with integrity. (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world of influence but loses his soul?) I want “to play.” At the bottom, I think I want to win.
So I’ve deleted my unhelpful tweet about the President’s heart, and I’ll make confession about my own. After all, someone may label countries “shitholes” in a meeting, but we all struggle with labeling others “shitholes” in our hearts. That’s near the heart of what the Church calls “Sin.” We consider ourselves better than “them,” whether “they” are across the globe or in the Oval Office. We compete to prove ourselves better than “them” in countless, desperate, silly ways, with silly, desperate tweets. And all the while—while I’m busy tweeting—while I eager to join the chorus of screams in the crowded digital marketplace of screaming people—God is inviting me to be still, to put down my smartphone, to pray.
To join Father, Son, and Spirit in his love.
His love for Haiti. His love for African nations.
His love for “them.” His love for Donald.
His furious, righteous love
that burns away prejudice, corruption, and pride,
and fills the hungry with love, justice, and humility.
May I be a person
who prays, bears the cross, and loves,
before I comment, compete, rage, and tweet.
“Join me in my love, child—sit with me, longer, deeper—enter into my painful, suffering, transforming love before I ever consider opening your mouth or tweeting an opinion.
“Stop trying to win, beloved, in all your silly ways. The first will be last and the last will be first. Breathe in my love… because my love breathed in and embodied by people—not your tweets or cleverness or influence— will change the world.”