I have a confession to make, I”m a Facebook sharer about politics & religion…..

I know what your thinking, this is the type of stuff that only turns people off, makes them mad, causes division, and is certainly ineffective in any type of Christian witness. While in the past I’ve been a badgering, flippant, crass Facebook debater – I’ve felt my heart change over the last couple of years.

First off,  I’m a principled person, and my ideology concerning anything is driven from factual, rigorously scrutinized, principles and frameworks.

I think that politics are important, but not the core thing of life. I think much differently about politics and governing strategy than I do about the principles of my life and my faith.  While my faith in Jesus and my discipleship of Him impacts my entire life, I’m not an advocate for a theocracy, eliminating the separation of Church and State, or trying to force people to be Christians through any government tinkering.  I DO, however, think that capitalism, free markets, and a constitutional approach to government with a focus on liberty, is the noblest and most virtuous governance out there.

The facts are this: progressivism, socialism, communism, atheism, elitism, bureaucracy, and the desire for power are at odds with liberty.  Leftist policies sound good at first, till you judge them for their results which are death, decay, loss, and an overall languishing of a country and the destruction of liberty.

Therefore, I am usually trying to make a case to people that they should dismantle the progressive, leftist mindset and pursue liberty.  I also present ideas that support Christianity, but they are separate.

I present ideas and arguments for liberty & Christianity, but they are separate.

My beliefs are placed soundly in Jesus, and the testimony about God in the Bible, but my approach has become more nuanced and matured. While my biblical beliefs have not changed at all, my political beliefs have evolved from a war-hawk Bush-pushing republican, to a conservative Christian Libertarian (I know, they appear to contradict themselves).

my political beliefs have evolved from a war-hawk Bush-pushing republican, to a conservative Christian Libertarian

I’ve always been a person who wanted to nudge people closer to a relationship with God, and how operational wisdom and excellence is rooted in the principles of the bible and liberty. Because of that, I tend share things on Facebook both to stimulate thought and to serve up ideas in the form of advertising for the principles of liberty.

I’ve posted two things recently on Facebook that got a tremendous reaction from some of my friends more resistant to what they probably associate as “evangelical dogma”. The articles included principles such as “The man is the master of His home” and “the optimal environment for a child is a christ-centered, traditional family. I’ve posted more nuanced versions of these statements to Facebook over the last couple of years and have experienced what I’ve termed “due process” in my conversations: I post something filled with biblical or principled truth, liberals and atheists respond with challenge, scorn, and belittlement, we converse until there is a common ground, we amicably agree to disagree.

The due process of my facebook engagements:

I post something filled with biblical or principled truth, liberals and atheists respond with challenge, scorn, and belittlement, we converse until there is a common ground, we amicably agree to disagree.

As I type this, my first response was to conclude the “due process” with “nobody changes their mind”, and yet that’s not a statement that accurately describes my outcomes. The outcomes seem to be a mutual respect from almost all players (of course except for the most flippant, abusive, and careless ones). It’s come to pass that the majority of those that engage with me have actually become my friends in an odd way, so much so that their profiles are more prominent in my Facebook feed than others.

What’s interesting about this is that I now have an opportunity to peer even deeper into their lives and can seize the opportunity to exercise what Peter called “brotherly affection” to them. Because their posts are prominent in my feed, it’s much easier to actually take an interest in their life, to authentically encourage them, “like” the pictures of their kids, and give them kudos when applicable. What’s ironic is that our deep, penetrating conversations from quite polarized positions, are able to cultivate a very mutual respect. Why is this happening to me rather than the typical response of polarization and eye-rolling?

Well first off, I’d like to acknowledge that I’m absolutely positive that my posts have been shut off, un-subscribed to, ignored to the point of oblivion, and have induced many eye-rolls from many of my 1700 Facebook “friends”; an argument might be made that I’ve done more harm than good. Yet, I had some of the coolest responses lately from people that stereotypically feel badgered, polarized, and offended when “confronted with” a worldview like mine.

The way I’ve engaged some of my former friends, classmates, and acquaintances has lead them to make statements like “where was this Robby back in 2002” “We’ve all noticed a great change in you Rob, and I thank your Jesus for that”, “I want you to know that while I disagree with nearly everything you say, I like engaging with you because it’s always respectful”.

11 Steps for winsome social media debate:

1. Start with the goal of thoughtful engagement and mutual respect.

We all know that adults don’t really change their world-view easily or often, usually because they’re not on a hot pursuit to acquire new operating models for their lives.

That point requires a whole other post, but we must realize that true life-change or adaptation of new beliefs, usually happen within the context of relationship and through self-discovery. We also know that Facebook “debates” seldom do anything but stir the pot and upset people, particularly tenderhearted people ( which we all should become). Therefore, our first goal is simply to have civil, yet rigorous discussion and an exchange our “why” around an issue.

What good is the free market enterprises of liberty if our only attempts to bolster their virtues is through discussion rather than proper stewardship of what we’re blessed with?

The second goal ought to be to earn respect through civility because when you meet this person in Target someday, it’s pretty cool to add integrity, character, wisdom, care, joy, love, and friendliness atop your case. Nothing speaks more for your case than unmatched understanding of the subject AND the personal character that proves your point is beneficial. Principles and thoughts that are both helpful and true, gain a following no matter what, which is why Jesus’ Way of life not only gives us eternal life, but abundant life now. What good are free market enterprises if our only attempt to bolster it’s virtue is through online discussion and not proper stewardship of what we’re blessed with? What good is the second amendment if we aren’t the type of people who show love, respect, and care for those we claim we’d defend with our H&K VP9 or our AR-15? What good is it to espouse the benefits of a biblically functioning family and community if the aroma of our own lives is not sweet and attractive?

Nothing speaks more for your case than unmatched understanding of the subject AND the personal character that proves your point is beneficial.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t stand on truth and clearly condemn wicked or even foolish behavior; I’m saying that we ought to embrace the verse that says “and this is the will of God, that by doing good we should put to silence the ignorance of fools” because we make the greatest impact on people’s lives within the context of relationship, respect, and modeling.

2. Separate the person from the topic

When you’re debating, usually  you’re both entrenched in living a life committed to the topic or the principles at hand which means that things have the opportunity to become very personal.  If you’re a Christian, Jesus told us that we must prove our election through our love for one another, and John wrote letters telling us that if we do not abide in, extend, and abound with love, we are simply useless.

as Christians, if we do not abide in, extend, and abound with love, we are simply useless.

The foundation of this point is Christ’s call to love, but there are two more important examples that have lead me to engage winsomely; scripture compels us and the American way does as well.
I could dive really deep into the words of Jesus’ disciples and Church planters that tell us to “walk in wisdom towards outsiders, let our speech always be gracious”, and how to despise sin yet love people; lets do that in another article though.

Hate sin, love the sinner, and “walk in wisdom” to those outside the faith.

Enabling life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is ultimately about valuing people who are “embeud by their creator certain inalienable rights”. This means that despite our pluralistic society, atheistic undertones, and separation of Church and state, we are called to value people. I think that our American way is noble, and valuing human life is at it’s core. In other writing I would argue that this is a uniquely Christian perspective when rendered down to it’s foundations, and I’d add that the two most destructive forces opposed to our value of people is abortion and the worship of the planet.

To conclude, we need to separate the person from the topic.

3 – Facts are squishy for all sides of a debate.

One of the things that you will realize when you embark on the journey to find solid references and sources for information, is that everyone has a narrative they want to advance. In academia, we are told that you should examine the data first in order to develop a hypothesis which can then be tested, repeated, and continuously honed. But what I’ve found is that hypothesis are created first according to narrative and dogma, then the data is crammed into the mold to support the narrative.

In academia, you ought to cite and reference material which has been published in a journal, or is peer reviewed, credentialed, and written by someone deemed competent. The problem is that even these types sources are tremendously biased with narrative and are intellectually dishonest about the tensions at play. Not only is finding un-biased, credible academic sources difficult, but journalism is quite worse.

Most of the “journalism” you’ll read out there is absolute trash. I love what Joe Soucherey emphasizes on His radio show, “what passes for journalism these days is not good”. If you pay attention to the citations and reference material, you’ll find that 90% of everything produced by journalism is just glorified “click-bait”, types stories meant to sensationalize and make your look at the screen, share the article, or in Fred Flinstone’s case – buy the newspaper.

4 – Seek to understand why someone holds a view.

Most people would argue that they’ve been intellectually honest, or at least compassionate when they’ve developed their position or belief. When you ask people to help you understand, you’ll actually be equipped with a greater knowledge of people, and you’ll be more experienced in your influence.

One great thing to do is to embark on the journey to understand how people developed their own theory, and to understand why it was “sticky” enough for them to keep it. You may confirm your suspicions of cynicism, or you might find out that there is a truly advanced, developed, and educated process behind the position.

There is nothing more disarming than when you invite someone to communicate what they think, why they think it, and more so HOW they came to their conclusion.

5 – propose ideas rather than spew ideology

There is an elegant art that I’m trying to learn which helps pull people along rather push an idea on them. It helps your reader go along your own journey when reading, but requires a sophistication in order to do well.

Here is a long – and purposeful example:

“Taking God out of America has plunged us into darkness”

VS.

“Looking at the trends since the mid 60’s around divorce, mental health, government spending, crime, and other societal problems, there seems to be a problem. I find it interesting that many of our up-ticks in these problems took on a hockey-stick growth curve right around the period when prayer and the bible were finally taken out of schools, the war on poverty and drugs started, the hippie revolution started with their free sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and when the new age moment raised itself to prominent display. Could it be that we’ve lost something by denying the eternal truths of the Bible and replacing them with shaky principles?

Doesn’t a society flourish when it fully embraces rules like: “thou shalt not covet, murder, lie, steal, blaspheme, or commit adultery. Thou shalt Love God with all your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself. Thou shalt seek humility, forgive each other, uplift each other in word and spirit, be a good parents and spouses”?

I’m not very sophisticated, and my English is quite rudimentary; but I’ve noticed that when I propose something in a manner that appeals to the common ground in our Human psyche, I’m able to get heads nodding together on part of it and then my proposal is much more effective.

Proposing a hypothesis is much more effective than making blanket statements and it helps your debate be much more winsome.

6 – Never call names or slander someone.

Calling names is useless in your argument on the level of integrity, even though it’s the primary tool of demagogues worldwide. Donald Trump is always attackign people and calling names, the media on television and in the liberal “journalist” world, consistently apply labels to people which is the equivalent of name calling somethings. Remember that the goals are two fold, some-sort of mutual respect and engagement.

7 – Acknowledge & remember that most people hold their positions because they think it’s the best way to help people.

Liberals are liberal OFTEN because they want to help people. Republicans are republicans because they think they know best how to help people.

8 – Identify the tactics of chastisement & never engage with it.

Remember that there are entire groups of people out there who’s sport is to rile people up and be official “internet trolls” – particularly certain internet communities “who must not be named” :). They are usually easy to spot, but not always; keep your wits about you for people who seem to purposefully push your buttons.

Remember that the Saul Alinsky folks and revolutionaries use the tactics of beratement, chastisement, lies, and propaganda extremely well. Some of the most cunning political movements are done by “tar and feathering” people through underhanded tactics. While the case could be made that these tactics are the only way to win, I’m compelled to simply identify the tactics and remove them from my repitoire.

9 Recap with “that’s fair, good discussion!”

This is not a flippant dismissal of any opposition, it’s simply a way to come back after rigorous debate with respect. In fact, I think that the better debater, teacher, or leader a person is, their rhetoric alone will raise the quality of the discussion around them. These statements ought not to be a flippant verbatim tool, but also an attitude that you embed into your heart.

Remember that the goal is mutual respect, and engagement. The Bible says that “faith comes from hearing, that is hearing the word of God” and that we are “transformed by the renewing of our mind”; this seems to indicate that engaging with content by either hearing or reading is helpful for a cause. True opposition comes in the form of censorship, demagoguery, chastisement, teasing, and a commitment to never actually engage about the issues. For example, if the media is giving air time to a subject or narrative that they typically deplore or oppose, that’s only because it’s risen to such prominence that they feel they can make money through talking about it and they feel the need to try and spin it. When you truly oppose something, you nuke it with belittlement, labeling it as fringe lunacy, and NEVER engage on their territory or answer ANY of the questions they might propose. Therefore, engagement and mutual respect should be your goals when conducting discussion on the internet.

10 Use your words to lift up, not tear down.

I believe in people’s ability to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, make wise choices, and flourish through wisdom. I also saw on 9/12/01, a resolve among our nation that was uniquely American. I think one of the key things that Christians and Liberty minded folks ought to do is authentically build up the virtues of people’s potential goodness.

That’s not to say that I believe in some mambie-pambie unicorn land where reality is totally distorted. I know that there are absolutely vile political systems that need to be fought against, I know that babies are being killed, I know that corporations are benefiting from cronyism, and I know there is good and evil. But I believe that Christians and Liberty loving folks need to SPEAK LIFE into the world!

It sounds super corny, but we owe it to our causes to use the majority of our words to build up the virtues within each other and within our society.

11 Do some rigorous homework & identify the tensions at play.

Here is the final and most important way to debate winsomely. I wish that everyone would quite filling their time with entertainment and frivolity and pursue engagement, knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and peace. We are a nation of people who too easily accept the status quo, because we are becoming a people who are frivolous and uninterested in wisdom and knowledge.

We don’t read books, we don’t look at data, we don’t try to solve problems, and we’ve quit doing it amidst an era where we can easily obtain such a lifestyle through technology.

My most basic encouragement to be a winsome debater is to READ and do RESEARCH around subjects you are interested in. If it’s family, then study sociology, psychology, parenting, and teaching. If it’s politics, economics, marketing, WHATEVER! Just engage in the subject.

Here is the key, identify the tensions at play. When you start to form an idea, position, approach, or opinion, play a little game where you say “what would the biggest, most accurate critic say about this, even if I don’t think it’s true”. The idea is to find out the most legitimate criticism or opposition to your newfound enlightenment.

It’s glorious to dive deep into understanding the different positions available for subject matter. The more you care about it, the deeper you ought to pursue the driving factors behind it’s most accurate and effective critic. There is nothing dumber than simply sitting in an echo-chamber and never engaging with other ideas.

All that to say, it’s also perfectly acceptable in my book, to be vigorously biased against what you deem to be lifeless, immoral, and ill-premised ideas. For example, I study what the biggest and most profound atheists are saying, and what’s informing their decision making.

The idea is to ask “how do we know that’s true?” “How did we get that data?” “Who went and got that data?” “who paid for the data?”

To conclude,

I’m sure I’ve done nothing but make some good points to myself here, but I really hope that other Christians, and conservative-Christian-libertarians will embark on a journey to engage the world around us to help move society towards a growing relationship with Christ and a country where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is preserved.

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