There are a few things people (including myself) do on Facebook that annoy me  but only one truly makes me angry. That’s getting involved in a debate about divisive issues online.
My problem isn’t with the people who do it because they are usually defending a Christian worldview (a good thing), the problem is it’s usually a huge waste of time.
I used to enjoy having a friendly debate (argument) with a Christian friend over coffee about politics. Invariably after forty-five minutes defending our positions, we would realize the other person was saying basically the same thing. Eventually we decided to focus our time on something more productive than talking in circles for about an hour 🙂
In the same way debating issues online is in my opinion pointless since you’re not going to change the other persons mind.
Those conversations with my friend (while in good-natured fun) featured a very unhealthy form of communication since my mind wasn’t focused on what he was saying but instead proving him wrong.
Whenever he made a statement my mind would immediately start thinking “how can I prove that statements wrong?” and start compiling a list of reasons why I’m right.
So I wasn’t actually listening to him at all.
It’s clear since my focus was on proving him wrong instead of understanding his position (or clarifying mine), there was almost no possibility of the conversation ever being productive, or someones mind being changed.
Online debates using websites like Facebook are like those conversations but have the added aspect of anonymity. Oh I’m aware that your name and pictures are on the screen, but this isn’t a face to face conversation, and often there is little chance of meeting that person in real life.
The idea of never physically meeting the person gives us freedom to be arrogant, antagonistic, and sarcastic among other things. It shouldn’t be surprising then that these online debates become a trading of verbal attacks instead of talking about the issues.
The worst part of about these exchanges is we are too busy throwing verbal punches, to clearly understand WHY they believe that way.
See behind the arguments, statements, and attacks is a worldview (a foundational group of beliefs that the individual uses to live by ) and that’s what should be dealt with in a spirit of love.
So we must put our verbal grenades down and make sure we understand what they believe.
- I hear you saying ________ is that right?
- Can I ask why you believe that?
- Hmm that’s interesting, what proof do you have for that view?
- Now would this mean you believe?
Now let me go ahead and make clear asking questions like this DOES NOT mean we agree with their view.
Instead this ensures we are dealing with the real issue  and starts a CONVERSATION instead of a non-stop verbal attack. Of course the next part of this is defining or clarifying the Christian worldview (more about that tomorrow).
Please understand I’m not saying we shouldn’t contend for the Faith online. But it’s become clear that arguing religious or political issues online does very little for the cause of Christ.
So it’s time for us to step aside from the “how do I prove this person wrong?” mindset, and make sure that we are really listening to what they have to say.