Heartbeat International Facebook's page linked up an article this morning about "pro-life" students singing Amazing Grace in the face of "pro-choice" protestors in Texas. My logical self warned immediately: "Don't read the comments! Don't read the comments! Don't read the comments!"
I read the comments.
First comment: "What a lot of hate those pro-baby murderers have!" (Bill C.)
My normally on-the-low-side-of-normal blood pressure shot through the roof. My face flushed. My heart raced. My lips pursed. And my fingers hovered over the keys, desparate to nail this self-righteous, judgemental numbskull to the wall! The wise adage rang in my head:
IF YOU'RE NOT KIND ONLINE, YOU'RE NOT KIND. Period. Our virtual selves reflect our actual selves. Be mean online, chances are you are zinging people somehow in real time.
Count backwards from 10.
Ask of myself: 1) Is what I want to say true?… 2) Is what I want to say kind?… and 3) Is what I want to say necessary?
I maybe gave myself partial marks on #1, but the other 2 failed the test. I bit my lip, lowered my hands, but remained tense for a long time watching the disgusting comments roll in about how evil ALL pro-choice folks were, how we ALL love abortion, etc, etc.
For all that, this post isn't about abortion.
An atheist friend posted something snarky and cruel about faith, and those who choose faith and the comments he received escalated in meanness and mockery from there. Beautiful examples of Richard Dawkins worshippers here (the Pat Boone of morally superior logic and reason)… did I say that out loud?
"Freedom of speech, Erin. Freedom of speech…" Some days, I think I can have decent conversations with philosophical atheists, believing there are valid points to be understood. Militant atheists crying for the destruction of Christians… I just walk away and listen from a distance.
Once again, however, the anger rose up in me: How DARE they! They claim to accept and tolerate, but justify using vitriol because another group used it first??? How juvenile!!!
Breathe, Erin, breathe…
Then a conservative Christian group posted something about how ALL forms of feminism are destroying the family unit, and marriage, and how progressive Christians don't really know Jesus or love him, blah, blah, blah. Most times, now, when posts like this are sent around I'm able to ignore the really ignorant ones, but sometimes the content is so infectiously stupid that I'm sent running to down a bottle of "Stupid-FX".
Not that I've EVER said anything stupid in my own life before.
And all of this in midst of being thoroughly outraged at the buying and selling of human beings around the world — something WORTH being outraged about.
I am, my friends, struggling with outrage fatigue.
The Urban Dictionary defines outrage fatigue as follows: the exhaustion and entropy that occurs from too much outrage. Occurs in waves, often during peak election cycles. Outrage fatigue tends to afflict politically active people, and can be worse when your party is not in power, or has a power deficit. It escalates during environmental catastrophes, especially ones that are caused by human negligence. It also develops during troublesome economic times like corporate bailouts and high unemployment. Outrage fatigue may threaten close friendships.
It can also occur in social justice, spiritual and religious circles.
Us social justice types have a core and calling of standing up for the underdog, whether the underdog is ourselves or someone else. The reasons are varied and many. Here's a catch: sometimes we start seeing EVERTHING as a fight. Someone makes an ignorant comment, and the entire world MUST know the injustice of that comment! RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!!!
Did I like being lumped as a baby killer this morning?
No, but chances are Bill C. has no idea who I am, nor does he care. An online fight with him would produce precisely 0% fruit.
Repeat that production value: 0. Zee-row. Nil. None. Nada.
In fact, it could even produce a nice amount of poison.
My struggle right now is the amount of division without the body of Christ, and I know I'm not alone in saying this. Yet even in saying this, some of you are saying "Agreed! People need to REPENT more!"
Others are saying: "Agreed! People need to tolerate LGBTQ communities more!"
Others are saying: "Agreed! People need to understand God's love more!"
Others are saying: "Agreed! People need to be CHURCH more!"
… and out come the snarky, mean comments… out comes the moral superiority… out comes the Bible verses used every which way to prove a point. One lady told me she didn't care about me one bit. The facts (on abortion in this case) spoke for themselves, and if I didn't care for the unborn I was obviously not of God.
Some days, I am so filled with other people's toxicity that I wonder if it's worth sticking it out with the church. We're just that busted up. And we like taking sharp jabs at each other. My own toxicity has helped me on my way, I'm sure, but how to get it out…
… I have no idea.
When I think I do, there's always someone there to pounce on me. And I know I'm not alone in this experience. We're all on this journey, but when someone else takes a few hesistant steps towards something different from someone else, we pounce. We lie in wait. We lick our chops.
("I'm just saying the truth in love, you know"… puh-leeze!) This is one of the most passive-aggressive ways believers can be thoroughly mean to each other without being called out for what they've said.
I'm tired of outraging against every little thing, justified or not.
I'm tired of being angry at how we treat each other.
I'm tired of having been sucked into a rotten pattern of ranting over petty things; so tired, in fact, that the real issues of human trafficking receive less attention and action.
Anyone else here feel like a still hot wrung out dish rag? Maybe a worn out rag soaked in gasoline — limp for now, but if someone strikes just.one.match.
People are going to be mean. People are going to say stuff we feel morally superior to say and hurt the rest of us. People are going to run off at the mouth. People are going to sit at their computers, waiting for comments to roll in, and troll.
Yes… there be trolls.
Good rule of thumb?… don't feed the trolls. But even that doesn't work sometimes because there are those who genuinely believe hateful things.
I don't know how to overcome Outrage Fatigue.
But I do know I have to.
Step #1 for Erin: get all the other voices out of my head. Doesn't matter if I agree with you or disagree with you… I need you OUT! Whether you're raving about Deepak Chopra or Mark Driscoll, Beth Moore or Rachel Held-Evans, I.don't.care.
At least for a time.
I never want to stop learning about other people's perspectives, but when the church is so delightedly hurting herself, I need to fast from the self-harm voices and return focused on the things Jesus would have me focus on.
Not a big start…
… but a start nonetheless.
Stupid online comments aren't worth wasting kingdom time.