This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two
I am a big social media fan, and as an Enneagram 8, I love an argument. I have been reading a lot of Richard Rohr recently, which has allowed me to realise that that online argument is probably not as important as I like to think it is!
But one thing I have tried not to do, is argue with people of no faith. Most of my responses are to Christians who, in my opinion, are talking nonsense (I am also prone to talking nonsense sometimes). I genuinely believe that we cannot argue people into the Kingdom of God, and that ridiculing or baiting people of no faith is counter-productive and an unbelievably bad witness.
But I have seen two examples recently, one was a Facebook friend who posted a rather trite Christian Meme (you probably know the type I mean), one of her clearly not-yet-believing friends commented with a facetious comment about fairies, and within a few minutes another (this time Christian) friend piled-on, there was an attempt to “prove” God existed. Luckily, the argument was defused, but I wondered if there might have been a better way to handle this.
I recently had an article published in a local paper, about why our church had opted to move online during Lockdown 3.0. I tried to avoid the comments section as my local paper’s online edition can get rather toxic. But my wife did look and saw an ex-church member had commented. The comments section contained a few comments by the “usual” commentators, mostly saying that religion was a nonsense, and “you may as well stay closed”. But this ex-member, who is theologically in a different place to me (probably why he is an ex-member) weighed in with a proof text Bible verse and with a few comments aimed at “the atheists”, which probably didn’t help things!
But it made me think, how could we be better at using social media when we face opposition. Sadly throwing proof-texts at people will never work (they won’t read them for a start) nor will trying to “prove” them wrong. The answer to me comes back to when Jesus faced opposition, he very rarely tried to win the argument, but often found better ways of engaging with people. He would often meet a question with a question, and let his opponent find the answer!
My advice is, next time someone replies to you with “you may as well believe in fairies” or “Jesus wasn’t real”, rather than trying to prove or to win, maybe the offer should be to further dialogue, to meet face to face for a coffee, to listen and learn about why they feel so hurt by Christians, let down by faith or so angry at church, maybe there is story here that needs to be heard?