It is very rare that I dip my pinky toe into the online political debate. Occasionally I'll say a little tid bit here and there, but those who follow me range from a (mostly) pretty far right view point and a (still substantial) lefty view point as well.
While I am very, uh, opinionated in my own beliefs and have no issue discussing them in a kind, rational matter, broadcasting my viewpoints online does very little GOOD to anyone except to rile up those who disagree and get a thumbs up from those who agree... so I'm either making people mad or preaching to the choir.
There is a fine line between not instigating political fighting and to being fearful of expressing one's opinion to the point that it looks like you have no opinion at all.
I've been mulling over the topic in my head for the last week. This pertains to a LOT of social/political/religious issues that are emotionally charged in each of us. How do we discuss these intelligently without things blowing up? How do we actually encourage CHANGE instead of DISCORD? Can we state our opinion without having everyone who disagrees hate us?
I don't claim to have an answer.
But here are a few suggestions that I'm going to throw out there, some based on what I've seen done that does NOT work. And please know that I don't say this in a place of arrogance and do not mean to be a hypocrite. I know 100% sure I've probably done all of these myself at times. I'm learning too.
1.) DON'T BE MEAN! Name calling. Party bashing. Rudeness. Mean jokes. All uncalled for and if you are a believer in Jesus, are quite honestly a sin. There. I said it. You can dislike a person's politics or disagree with their social stance on issues like abortion/immigration/gay marriage/etc, without being mean. Meanness only sparks the other side to be defensive and mean back. It's like a kid who calls someone stupid, then the other toddler slugs him to retaliate, and then the teacher steps in and they both get detention. I think we need to put ourselves in detention and learn how to play nice in the sandbox!
2.) STAY ON THE OFFENSIVE. In football, you can only make a point when you are on offensive, correct? When you have your defense out there, the object is to take the ball away and keep THEM from making points. Which, in the end, gives you most points and wins the game? Yup. Offensive. THE ONLY way to make a point in politics is if you stay on the OFFENSIVE. Stop telling everyone why the other people are wrong. Tell them why you think your "view" is RIGHT. Others will try to take your ball and make you go on the defensive, but don't do it. That's where people start getting mean. Rise above, stand your offensive ground, and be kind while you do it!
3.) PICK YOUR BATTLES. Not all battles are worth the cost of fighting. This is especially true when you have a marriage or a close friendship where opinions are opposite. I am blessed that for the most part, my hubby and I agree on most issues. But I know some don't. And I have some close friends who are very opposite from me in their beliefs. There is a fine art in agreeing to disagree in order to keep a healthy marriage/friendship.
4.) LESS IS MORE. Are you the person... or have you seen the person... who every five minutes updates their Facebook or Twitter status with something political or divisive? There is this fantastic feature called "BLOCK" or "UNFRIEND" or "UNFOLLOW" that you will probably get hit with, thus making your posts ineffective. Choose your words and posts wisely. Overdoing it will only harm your case, not help it.
5.) JUST SAY NO TO CRAZY LOGIC or untruths. If you have an opinion, by all means, state it. But don't use lies, half-truths, or crazy logic to prove your point. The Internet is filled with slippery slope logic that, except for those who agree with you already, won't change any body's mind. There is great value in sound logic vs. crazy logic.
My above suggestions refer to EVERYONE.
My last suggestion pertains to those who love and follow Jesus.
If you're going to broadcast your opinion to the world about such important issues as health care reform, government size, abortion, your religious views, or a host of other topics, I suggest you spend a great amount of time on your knees in prayer about it first.
Pray that GOD gives you the words to say. That you don't spout what makes sense to YOU, but what will invoke CHANGE, not discord. That you will always do so in love, and not hate. That God will give you wisdom, and maybe, even, that he will enlighten you? We all live in a limited point of view, and our opinions and passions are formed by our own experiences. Let's pray that God helps us to go beyond our own point of view and gain a little heavenly perspective. That we can know what is worth fighting for, not in our own eyes, but in God's eyes. Sometimes, as hard as it is, there are battles that are not ours to fight. And other times, there are battles we should fight that we'd rather stay on the sidelines for.
What guidelines do you have for yourself in online (or even in person) discussions on sticky topics? Do you pray about it first? Or do you follow the no-politics-or-religion discussion online?