Mark Radcliffe ponders the right way to respond to a Facebook friend whose politics he finds offensive.
If you’re on Facebook long enough, sooner or later it happens:
You post something perhaps to make a point about an issue you feel strongly about, and suddenly a friend you thought you knew turns out to completely disagree with you.
And not just that, but reveals what seems to be a frighteningly provincial perspective on the matter.
Suddenly you’ve got a dilemma on your hands:
Do you engage? Do you challenge this person’s argument to stand your moral ground and risk upsetting your friendship? Is taking a stand worth losing a friend over?
Perhaps, it occurred to me. Especially when the “friend’s” viewpoint is tantamount to discrimination.
Now, posting political subject matter on Facebook is something I generally steer clear of, since I’m aware it’s divisive territory. I’m not a terribly political person, though I am liberal. But on this issue, I felt I had to say something.
What was the issue, you ask? I almost hesitate to say, because in a sense, it’s somewhat incidental to my overall point: we all have certain views we hold sacred, that if someone were to not also embrace them, we might have to part ways. Especially if their differing view is akin to discrimination.
But, for the sake of clarity, the issue was over gay-rights. I posted a video of Kirk Cameron’s where he uses his religious beliefs to prop up his denouncement of homosexuals. I’m a straight man, but work in the arts, and have hundreds of gay friends I admire and love (who often live much more honest and virtuous lives than many of my hetero friends), and I believe you’re free to love whomever you want, so long as you’re not interfering with the happiness of others. As a musician and writer, I have a lot of Facebook friends now. But the vast majority are in the arts, too, and live in cities like LA, NYC, Boston, SF, Seattle and Portland. And big cities are liberal, generally supporting gay rights. I figured there weren’t a whole lot of my friends who’d differ. I knew there’d be some, but wasn’t sure any would publicly take issue with me. I was clearly wrong. The differing person in this case—we’ll call her “Laura” (not her real name)—vehemently disagreed with me, pointing to scripture condemning homosexuality and going on at length about the path “God our creator” has intended for us all to live. I found it objectionable on about five thousand levels.
As you can imagine, it set off a firestorm of responses from my like-minded friends.
Again, my issue here is not set up another debate about gay rights or religion or interpretations of the bible. It’s about how a simple question: how does someone who’s trying to live a virtuous life person react when they are confronted with a friend’s belief system that they find offensive? The line’s different for all of us, but we all cross it.
The dilemma here was in part due to the fact that “Laura” was a huge fan of my music. She had supported it with all her heart. Though we’d never met, she’d been a “good friend” on Facebook, always friendly, supportive. I only knew her because she happened to recently marry a guy I’d known for years. I wanted to stand my ground, I also knew I could also be picking a fight with her husband, too, whom I would be surprised to know was anti-gay, but you never know. Tricky territory, but hey, I got myself into it.
The “safe” thing to do would be to just pull down the entire post and video, and pretend it all never even happened. It’s a move I’ve done before a few times.
But I didn’t want to here.
And before I even had time to respond, a number of my friends came out swinging—poking holes in her selective use of scripture to prop up certain views while ignoring others, and they verged on outright insulting her for even believing in God.
It all went a little further than I’d intended. But she came right back swinging, insisting how “lost” we all clearly were. So I let the fight go on since she wasn’t backing down.
Eventually I added my own retort, supporting her right to believe whatever she wants to, but added a few points about how the bible also treats women as second-class citizens (not to “speak in church”) and frowns on other behaviors that she probably engages in every day, and that people should be judged on character, not sexual orientation.
Did I succeed in changing her mind? Of course not.
She perhaps even now thinks less of me as a friend for knowing that I don’t share her views that homosexuality is a sin.
Maybe she won’t buy my next album. I can live with that.
But the question remains: do I “stay friends” with this person?
For now, I am, surprisingly. The old me would have un-friended her instantly. I would have tried to “teach her a lesson”—that espousing certain discriminatory beliefs will cost you the friendship of others.
But I think now perhaps more good might come of it by me keeping her in my life. My feeling is: there probably aren’t many people in her life who confront her belief system, who might persuade her to adopt a more modern and respectful view of lifestyles that don’t completely mirror her own. I’m erring on the side of open discussion for now.
Maybe some good can come of it, maybe I’m just being a fool.
But I’m willing to try.
How about you? What do you do?
Photo courtesy of Baddog_