I’m tired of Facebook debates. This past week, I intentionally held back my gut reaction to blast social media with my opinions about the Hobby Lobby ruling (although, it’s no secret that I was happy about the outcome). I was hoping that the ruling would spark a greater understanding and conversation around religious liberty. It pains me to see this issue, which deserves true discourse, get condensed into a few sound bites instead.

Think about it… when was the last time you read a comment thread that was well-intentioned and had well-formed arguments–true dialogue on the web?

It’s ridiculous that there is a Facebook page called “Debating Religion”. Pages like this are created under the guise of being “an open forum for everyone to debate religion, faith, or the lack of either.” The fact is that anyone who has any sense of logic knows that Facebook (well, social media in general) is clearly not the right venue for a true and respectful conversation on topics like religious freedom or gay marriage.

As someone who works in the digital arena, I find it quite disappointing to see how media convergence has diminished our societies ability to reason. This trend gives us shorter attention spans and less capacity for real dialogue. This is why I echo the thoughts of others when I suggest we are given great responsibility in our use of digital media (especially if you are Christian).

What does that responsibility look like?

When I say “responsibility,” I do not mean imposing rules. What I mean is that I believe we can articulate some intrinsic ethic to social media on the basis of its potential for good. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it best when he called us to “give a soul to the internet”. By providing a virtual witness through the things we say, the links we post, the community we build, we draw people toward us and, by extension, a greater dialogue on the faith that sustains us.

Here are some basic principles when engaging with social media in this perspective:

  • Social media is, well, social. If you are active on these channels, I suggest there has to be a mutual sense of respect (you should act as if you were talking to the other user in person).
  • Openness, honesty, humility, objectivity and reasonableness are all values that must be present.
  • When discussing important matters (especially issues of morality) it’s the quality of conversation that’s important, not the number of pointed remarks or arguments.
  • Listening. True dialogue requires listening with the desire to understand the other persons concerns or arguments. Only then can you share your own position meaningfully because you have listened.
  • To know when to take the conversation offline. Social media is only a means to connect, it is not meant to replace the deeper conversations.

It is good to show vulnerability online and to engage in a more intimate level. Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, says:

It is “absolutely necessary that the Church should seek to establish a presence in the digital world.” He stresses that we should not be “presumptors imposing our truth” on others via social media but rather friends encouraging dialogue and questions. “If we allow people to probe further, we help give a soul to the Internet.”

“Convergence” must be our hallmark—creating bonds, and speaking the truth with love. (via the Catholic New York)

All this being said, if anyone would like to meet for coffee and discuss the outcome of this recent Supreme Court ruling in person I’m happy to do so. I guess I would just say that whether you believe in the use of contraception or not, that is not the issue. It is #ReligiousFreedom. And please, stop debating it on Facebook!

Lastly, I wanted to make note that our blog does not exist for political reasons or to act as a venue for online debates. This site simply exists as a place for us to share our story. On the blog we talk about how we strive to live an intentional Christian life and we don’t candy coat any struggles or joys that come along with it.

[Photo Credit via the Next Web]