I wonder if Jesus had a Facebook page what would he post, what pictures would he share, and what would he like, what would he say “wow” to and what would he shed a tear for? Seeing a picture of Jerusalem, and all the humanity inside it, would he hit the “sad” emoticon as he considered how he wanted to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks to herself and hold them close, keeping them safe from the potential harm of the world around them?
So much has been said with regard to social media use freedom of expression, hate speech and Christianity, as well Israel Folau’s post on behalf of Jesus on Instagram.
And now Brian Tamaki and his wife Hannah have decided to start a political party to combat what his wife called the escalating tide of poor decision making and to stand up for the silent majority.
I had to wonder who this silent majority were as interestingly 79.8 percent of New Zealand’s population actually expressed their voice and voted in the last election in New Zealand and this was up by 6.5 per cent from the 2014 election. It looks like the majority of New Zealand were not silent, although if she is talking about those that didn’t vote then about 21 per cent of the total population that all parties will be fighting for?
Folau’s 16 words posted on Instagram have caused a firestorm of offence, and of support from many corners, both religious, secular and on the sporting field. The debate has raged between what hate speech is and what it isn’t, and what is free speech and what it is not.
Although looking at the 16 words that Folau used, and if this is in fact hate speech then Billy Graham, the great 20th Century evangelist committed hate speech as did Spurgeon, William Bell Booth who started the Salvation army and Paul the Apostle are all guilty.
Acclaimed author Nadine Rossen, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, in her book “Hate, why we should resist it with free speech and not censorship”, said “hate speech” laws are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. She discusses the idea that the only way to combat hate speech is to form a counter narrative to that speech and raise that to the same level. We never should prevent the freedom of speech to ever be illegal, for this is what the Nazis did, as they burned books and forbade thought or writing outside of their nationalist socialist ideologies.
As much as we would enjoy not hearing those that we greatly disagree with and yes freedom comes with a measure of responsibility as Folau has come to realise yet again, what then do we do about the freedom to express our views? Personally, I enjoy it when people disagree with me and when they take a position different to my own because I can’t know all things and can’t see all perspectives.
Maybe it’s not so much the message but the way it was delivered, and maybe Instagram is not the best place to deliver a message on eternity at all.
And for those reasons if Jesus had an Instagram account, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have any posts on it, and his Facebook posts would be nothing at all. Because he understood the value of meeting people face to face, to meet them where they were, at their level, and spoke to them in a way that opened doors and did not close them.
He was the master at reading the intentions of people’s hearts and to know words that opened up the heart to truth and to freedom. I doubt that Instagram or Facebook could ever deliver the divine in a way that was meaningful and that could bring the change and new life that he offered.
So whether you agree or disagree with Folau’s comments is almost secondary to the greater threat to free speech and our definition of what free speech is, what hate speech is and how we deal with the freedom to express our ideas, our thoughts and our faith.
What should be crystal clear is that we must show a real degree of responsibility with what we post on social media or to a public platform because the public, whether they agree with what we post or not, will have their say. That public includes those that agree with us and disagree with us and we need to be mindful of the response from either on a public platform.
Nonetheless our freedom to express our opinions, our thoughts and faith in my view should never ever be hindered by legislation or public opinion and should instead by met with the counter argument, and to allow people to come to make their own decisions based on the examination and study of both.
That is our solemn responsibility and that will always make way for dialogue and understanding, something we all could do a little more with.