Years ago, if you disagreed with something you had just read in the newspaper, you’d fold it up with a “hrrmph.” (You know, like your dad did). Sometimes, people would take time to write (by hand), and then mail letters (by postal service), to the editor to publicly take issue. And, most editorial columns did–and still do–have a policy of refusing to publish anonymous letters. It was a slower, more deliberative process.
But now, through the wonders of technology, you can read an article, disagree, and immediately fire off a comment to an article with an anonymous name. Because you are protected by your anonymity, and fueled by the immediacy of the technology, you can say pretty much whatever you like, however you like. And since you have not identified yourself in any traceable way, you can do so without taking any responsibility for your words.
I have stopped reading comments online for just this very reason. Like always, there are many newspaper articles and opinion essays that make me think, challenge me, and even some with which I strongly disagree. But to see the level of insensitivity we have toward one another makes my heart hurt. Especially when the article is about religion; it seems the comments generated on these topics are some of the most mean-spirited comments of all.
Sunday, June 5th, 2011’s Gospel reading is set up for the reader to eavesdrop on a conversation–in fact, a prayer–between Jesus and God on behalf of Jesus’ followers. In the first part of the prayer, words like glory, truth, knowing, and eternal life figure prominently. In the last part of the prayer (verse 11), it’s all about unity. Jesus prays this: Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
According to the online comments section of the paper, we are sorely dis-unified as Christians. To be fair, many of our online comments clearly reflect our first, very human reactions when we are challenged. We lash out. We separate. We divide. We hide.
But there is another way, too: we can go deeper. We can move toward one another in concern, instead of away from one another in anger.
In Jesus’ prayer, he first prays for our safety. Perhaps Jesus knew that only those who were first confident in God’s protection, God’s love, and God’s provision would then seek to promote unity in his name?
It’s the “so that” in verse 11 that makes all the difference. Reread it carefully, and you will find the protection of God is a given. But the unity part…that is still unfolding.
Protecting God, you have given us your name. May we–fully protected by Christ’s death and resurrection–now seek the unity that Jesus has offered. Amen.