Help me out. I’m trying to pinpoint the moment when we went from “I disagree with you” to “Oh my gosh. I can’t even…”
My best guess is this happened circa 2012 when Twitter became a huge part of many of our lives. (Facebook isn’t exempt from guilt, but Twitter is its far angrier cousin).
Outrage is everywhere. In 2014, Slate took it upon themselves to track “what everyone was outraged about every day”. They claimed outrage had “taken over our lives”. I have to agree.
This morning as I flicked through the newspapers to prepare for the paper review on Premier Christian Radio, I noticed how many of the stories were driven by outrage at somebody holding a different opinion.
The implication of The Times’ story that Lord Carey thinks Trump is comparable to The Good Samaritan is that this is an outrageous opinion to hold (that’s why it’s newsworthy).
We should also be angry that the new £20 note might have Palm Oil in it. The ingredient is apparently responsible for the near extinction of orangutans in rainforests and therefore angers conservation groups. Ironically, the reason Palm Oil was suggested in the first place was to replace another ingredient (tallow) which had also caused outrage when added to the new £5 note because it’s a by-product of animal fat. Vegans, Hindus and Sikhs were…you guessed it…outraged.
If neither of those things get your blood boiling, perhaps my third story will? The Guardian is reporting that HSBC will give you ten new options for your title, in order to be inclusive of transgender people. So you’re no longer limited to Mr, Mrs and Ms. You have a raft of options to choose from, including Mx, M, Mre, and Misc.
Are you angry yet?
Well there’s a story which has generated more outrage than the above three put together. Years ago, Billy Graham had a rule that he would never dine alone with a woman – unless that woman was his wife. He wanted to be above reproach in his dealings with members of the opposite sex and honour his wife. Many pastors on both sides of the Atlantic abide by similar principles and it was recently revealed that the Vice President of the USA Mike Pence follows it too.
Some understandably felt this behaviour is a little bit over the top. Fair enough. It may well be. But if it protects a couple’s marriage, perhaps we should let them get on with it? It’s their relationship and their decision, right?
No no no. We cannot stand for this. We must be outraged at how other people protect their marriages. We must take to Twitter and tweet and tweet and tweet.
We all have opinions and we should be allowed to express them freely. But I want to go one step further: We all have opinions and we should be allowed to express them freely, without automatic, knee jerk and intolerant cries of outrage.
You can find a variety of opinions on this blog every day of the week. I agree with some, I disagree with others. It’s no big deal.
I can’t help but feel a dose of self-control might do us good. It’s like Proverbs says: "Pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood and pressing anger produces strife." (30:33)
Twitter is often a strife generator. And I know what you’re thinking – I’m following the wrong people! Perhaps I am. But I’m not the only one. As Sharon Hoddie Miller tweeted: “When it comes to tweeting, I learn a lot from those who avoid passive aggression, & seem to be soaked in prayer & the spiritual disciplines.” True words. But the implication is: there’s plenty of people whose tweets are the exact opposite of this…and they’re Christians!
Often outrage is generated because we’ve failed to understand the opposing point of view. It’s not that we respectfully disagree. It’s that we haven’t done our homework to try and understand why the other person holds that view.
If I ever say “I don’t understand why this person thinks this way”, I’ve failed to do my job. My job as a journalist is to explain points of view (especially points of view which diverge with my own). If I can’t understand why another person thinks like they do, the failing is not theirs. It’s mine.
From trending topics to front pages, much of the media is often trying to make us angry. Let’s not give in! By all means read opinion (including the well thought out and reasoned opinion you’ll find here at Premier Christianity!). But remember at the end of the day, someone will always disagree with your perspective. Someone out there will always object to what you consider normal (and vice versa). And that’s ok.