I'm confused, honestly.
When people post their lewd pictures, comments or other items that I find morally offensive on social networking sites (on the rare occasion when I believe a comment is necessary or worth my energy), I always try to approach it with charity, keeping my comments concise and kind.
Why don't those opposed to my beliefs afford me the same level of respect?
Why is vitriol the first weapon drawn instead of intelligent and cogent debate?
Here's what I have had to contend with lately:
"Anyone who thinks that way is a right wing, conservative, religious whacko!"
"[T]he church also believes that people shouldnt use alt methods to get pregnant (hypocrital much?) so i guess with that rational my two daughters wouldnt be here. sorry but i will take the church seriously when they allow the prosecution of all the pedophiles they call priests. and as for the medical aspect there are millions of women myself included who benefit from using birth control. god gave us free will for a reason. not to mention not everyone shares the belief in God so who is the church to tell grown women what they can or cannot do with their bodies." [copied as written]
I couldn't make this up, and I'm not alone. Catholics are being persecuted for believing and witnessing to the Truth every minute of every day, and with more venom it seems, as of late.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his papal message for World Communications Day said this about communication:
When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.In other words, it's not advisable to respond in haste. Time and reflection will help keep discourse civil and virtuous; "thoughtful and relevant", as the Holy Father, puts it.
Emotional responses can be our worst enemy, especially in a society focused on immediate gratification for the sake of pleasure or pride. Self control is significantly lacking. And, the idea of an interior life, a life that seeks out God in the silence of one's heart, is foreign to so many.
I am reminded of St. Peter's warning in his letter to Jews in the diaspora:
Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For:We must keep the tongue from evil. Pope Benedict states clearly, silence is of great necessity to civil communication. Silence helps us to hear others, assess what they are saying, discern in our hearts what should or shouldn't be said in response, and ask for heavenly assistance in sharing our opinions and perspectives.
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. (1 Peter 3: 8-11)
Perhaps we don't want to hear what other people have to say because we disagree with them. If no one shared contrary opinions, nothing would get done. No one would explore beyond their own shallow knowledge base, and mankind would stagnate. Conflicting opinions often spur the human mind to create, explore and seek out new information. It is good to share them, it is also good to listen to them. God can inspire us in many ways -- and we can learn a great deal, about God, the world, ourselves, if only we would take the time to be silent.
I am certain we would respond to each other with a more charitable tone, if only we assessed first in our hearts and minds what is to come forth from our lips.