Some thoughts running through my head today...
There was a time when I think I was much more balanced, much less likely to anger others with my opinions, much more thoughtful of how my words would land with certain people.
And then Facebook happened.
I should say at the outset, the blame for thoughtless words lies squarely on my shoulders. The one who says them is responsible for the damage they do. But...
Facebook and Twitter have brought a real change for me, and not a positive one.
In the beginning, there was the blog. And though things would get heated at times, and though I certainly have blogged things I wish I hadn't, the medium of the blog essay demanded a certain amount of circumspection and self-editing.
Status updates, with their 140 character constraints, may demand pithiness, but self-editing? For length, maybe. But there's something about the medium of Twitter/Facebook updates that encourages a certain stream-of-consciousness, write-whatever-comes-into-your-head kind of thing.
And while authenticity is a great value to pursue, for me, the unintended side effect of unedited authenticity has been a less pastoral presence, more arguing over issues (whether they be important or not, arguing on Facebook solves nothing), and more interpersonal strife. And frankly, it's just not worth it.
I think when it comes to many issues, the pastor is best left a blank slate. Unless your goal is to have a community/church full of people who think just like you, there isn't a whole lot of upside to arguing one side or the other of most (not all) of the current things people get spun out over.
Yes, I recognize it matters whether McCain or Obama gets elected, whether Health Care Reform passes or we start down the slippery slope to socialism (whoops- there I go), but as a pastor, I'm coming to realize that others will debate those issues, and better. I have a certain amount of capital/good will in people's lives, and I'm coming to see that I can choose to spend it on arguing about politics and current events, or encouraging them to believe the Gospel and trust Jesus.
I know that there are people who feel called to do both. God bless both Jim Wallis and James Dobson. That's their thing. Mine is to pastor a community full of Republicans AND Democrats, independents and Libertarians (and even a few Socialists and Greens!). Our political and ideological diversity is one of our strengths, and it's a part of the crucifixion of ministry to understand that my job is to love them all, challenge them all, and do as little needless antagonizing as possible. I still have opinions- but my freedom to get uppity about them is something I need to learn to lay down.
To the extent that I've failed at that over the last few months (and I HAVE failed at that over the last few months), I'm sorry.