I realize that social media is an inept form of communication. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for vitriol, divisiveness or exclusion.
A recent posting of one of my “friends” in which they promoted the Christian faith of “one of [their] favorite presidents.” After which they say, “Haters, please don’t comment.”
The posting and use of words, of course, is completely non-shocking. We see this type of comment on social media all the time. (We see it on Obama and on Bush and on everything across the polemical gammut.) It is common, and that is why it should be all the more disturbing.
We could critique the actual statement that affirms the president’s Christianity on the basis of his stated belief in Jesus or his attendance of church or the prayer he has prayed – a statement that may implicitly give the president blanket approval, without evaluating how the particular president’s actions cohere with Christian faith. We could critique that.
We could also critique this form of communication that claims the soapbox or the pulpit for one’s self and for one’s self alone. The exclusive right to speak assures a monolog. Or it assures a dialog only with those who think like you. And that limits any liklihood of learning or change. It says I want to talk but I don’t care about lisenting. It says my voice is important and yours is not. In larger society, this is counter the value of “free speech,” which their favorite president presupposably supports. In the church, this is the equivalent of silencing the prophet, whose contemporaries would have called “hater.”
And that leads to the real problem with this statement. It is easy to throw around words like “hater.” It’s not just that this is simple “name-calling.” It demonizes the other. It’s not that you have a different opinion than I; it’s that because you have an opposing opinion, you are bad. And because you are bad, no one needs listen to you. Worse, your being a “hater” justifies my violence against you, whether that be denying you the right to be heard or by inflcting other harms on you.
So, let’s take a line from The Interview, a film which has become a metonymic image of threatened free speech and violence to another’s point of view. Actually, we’ll take just the second half of James Franco’s character’s line, “Haters gonna hate an ain’ters gonna ain’t.” Let’s be ain’ters, refusing to demonize the other as hater and refusing to shut down those with views contrary to our own.