Recently I engaged in a pair of online discussions that illuminated the differences in how people respond to information that contradicts their beliefs.
The first was an exchange on a Facebook group called Suburban Wildlife. A wide variety of users, both expert and novice, shares images of wildlife with an online community hosted by the Daily Herald media company. I post several images a week and noticed that a user named Dennis Houghton had found and photographed an eagle. His initial ID of the bird was Golden Eagle, but I noticed that the bird was actually a second or third-year bald eagle. They can be difficult to identify during stages of transition from juvenile to adult. There aren’t always clear passages between plumage phase. The giveaway in this case was the clearly emerging pattern of white feathers covering the head.
Christopher Cudworth Actually I think that is a third to fourth-year bald eagle
Dennis Houghton Christopher, I’m no expert by any means, but the beak and tail looks like a Golden Eagle to me. BTW 4th grade was my senior year. ✌️ (he posted a link to golden eagle images here)
Christopher Cudworth I’m not a contentious birder…so please note that I could be wrong. It just has the structure and look of a Bald Eagle versus a Golden. The Sibley’s Guide shows some rather structures “years” but not all moults are complete or clean. Just trying to be helpful here. (I posted screen caps of young bald eagles)
Christopher Cudworth The emerging white on the head of the bird you’ve shown is unique to Bald Eagles.
Dennis Houghton I appreciate your knowledge and love learning more about nature. Mother nature likes messing with me sometimes. Thank you Christopher.
Christopher Cudworth Dennis Houghton These are wonderful photographs and honestly I’ve been birding forty years and learn something every day by watching them in each new circumstance. I’m not a great photographer but it’s fascinating when you see new things about birds by doing this.
That was all civil and instructional. I’ve been birding for forty years and have seen both bald and golden eagles in the wild. Bald eagles have become common in our area, and there are young birds up everywhere. Golden eagles are far more rare in our region. Not impossible to find, especially in fall migration.
But we solved that issue fairly easily. I’ve since complimented Dennis on a number of other images he’s posted, all properly identified.
A day after that exchange, a person I did not know made a Friend request on Facebook. We shared 28 Friends, many whom I knew quite well, so I accepted her request. Then I went to her page. The first four images were Pro-Trump pictures with MAGA hats prominently featured. There were also hints of religious triumphalism lurking in the wings.
That told me there might be trouble ahead from this “Friend.” On several occasions, I’ve had people that I either know through associates or other groups that Friend me and then start posting typically ignorant Pro-Trump memes to my wall. It started before the 2016 election with a psychologist associate from a local business networking group who went on the attack through my Facebook Wall and even took it offline to Messenger as a means to spit insults and taunts at me along with the inevitable Go Trump! jargon.
So rather than let the process start all over again, I posted an inquiry why this particular Trump fan wanted to be friends with me. An hour later, one of her friends or followers posted something on the order of, “This is so sad, why can’t we all be friends and just get along.”
Rather than engage in that type of discussion in full view of the world, I chose to respond personally to the person in question.
“In response to your comment on Allison’s page. I have been verbally accosted on repeated occasions by Trump followers. Some have chased me onto Messenger and harassed at length. Others post salacious and false memes on my Wall, then criticize and attack me for questioning their decision. And you ask…”Why can’t we all just get along?” That’s why I questioned her choice to Friend me. I’ll not abide the consistent hypocrisy and angry taunts any longer. If you want to have a real conversation about this to understand the full context, I’ll be glad to provide it. But I’ve written on religion and politics for more than 40 years, and know the measure of moral equivalency. I do not buy straw man arguments that “one side’s as bad as the other” when the direct evidence I’ve encountered proves otherwise.
Yes, that was rather assertive toward the end. I’ll admit that. But I’ve also learned that if you don’t state your case clearly, the folks who follow Trump view it as an opportunity to exploit apparent weakness and take that as an opportunity to preach the brand. And sure enough…this is what she wrote back…
“It just makes me sad when I hear people say we can’t be friends because of xxx beliefs and stuff. But I also understand and have suffered my self as you have, only from the other side as I am a Trump supporter. I was not trying to say anything bad about you personally, it’s just how social media is. The way people attack each other, as a Christian woman, just breaks my heart. I have been chewed up and spit out enough times that I usually don’t even comment. And is also the reason I don’t post anything political on my personal page. Anyway, I apologize if I offended, it was not my intent. I hope you have a very blessed day.”
That was nice enough, I’ll agree. But I’m also concerned about the hypocrisy exhibited by those who claim to be Christian and yet ardently support Trump when there is no apparent signs that Donald Trump is Christian in any form of belief, action or character. So I wrote back:
“I simply don’t know how any serious Christian can support the profane and corrupt man now in office. You may have your reasons, but I have yet to hear one person legitimately provide a single reason why Jesus Christ would abide a man who worships wealth, lusts after women including his own daughter, verbally abuses women and men and the disabled alike and lies so often he cannot even recall his previous lies. To dismiss all that is raw hypocrisy and that is why, as a lifelong Christian committed to social justice, I find friending a supposed Trump supporter to be a compromise in honesty and integrity. If that offends you then you should really search your own heart.”
She was miffed of course.
“My heart is just fine thank you. Its comments like that that are offensive. I did not bash you for your beliefs, and I don’t appreciate you bashing me. This is exactly why I do not discuss politics via social media. Have a blessed life. Good bye.”
First off, I clearly stated that she must have her own reasons for supporting Trump. I also spoke objectively. She plainly refused to make any attempt at answering any of the questions raised in the statements made about what constitutes serious Christian faith.
And by ‘serious,’ I meant honest. Which is what really set her off. She says her “heart” is just fine, and I granted her that in saying “You must have your reasons…”
Instead, she chose to play the role of the persecuted while blaming me for “bashing her beliefs.” She was clearly making the argument that Trump deserves the support of so many religious people. So I elected (pun intended) to call her bluff.
“So-called Christians supporting Trump all behave this way. No accountability or will to account for the hypocrisy…and then you cry persecution. It’s a tragedy of faith not to call yourself to account in Jesus’ name. Don’t you know he fought the Trumps of his day in Herod and the religious authorities who ran the temple like a business? Read the Bible for God’s sake. And repent as John the Baptist told us to. And stop with the “Woe is my poor Christian heart” thing… and tell your friends lending their support to that godless madman to stop. God speaks to you through people like me who care enough to engage in the truth of repentance.
I feel so bad for you going around bashing good Christian people because they don’t agree with YOU. See you are exactly the kind of person I was talking about. You don’t know me, you know nothing about me except that I was trying to respond respectfully, unlike you. Yes, you good Christian man you. Judging me without even knowing me. I think you need to get on your knees and ask God to forgive you for your judgment and condemnation of people. You are not my God, and I do not answer to you. And the fact that you dare to question my love for God because I refuse to bend to your will, please. Take your blinders off hun, you are a hypocritic (sic) And I will pray for you.
Oh and BTW, I will continue to Thank God every day that Hillary Clinton is NOT our president!! Go Trump!! MAGA 2020!!!
So the argument from this Trump supporter seems to be that no one is allowed to question the beliefs of those who choose to abide in a known adulterer, a proven liar, a repeated committer of financial fraud and a sexual abuser––because they only answer to God.
Or is it instead Trump to whom they ultimately answer? That certainly seems to be her closing argument. Go Trump!! MAGA 2020!!!
In the end this Christian evangelical fealty to Trump does not seem to be about the tenets of real faith at all. Instead, it’s about siding with the powerful and lending the credence of religious authority as an unbending juggernaut to a political cause. That pattern of trading on the authority of God to gain status and power directly aligns with the zealous hypocrites whom Jesus challenged for turning the temple into a place of commerce and the Jewish faith into a legalistic, heartless religion.
The parallels with today’s legalistic and politically-motivated Christians are so obvious. Yet the folks whose religion openly persecutes those it judges to be sinners loves to pre-emptively claim persecution for themselves. That is clearly what’s wrong with America.
Do I feel badly for disrupting that woman’s day by challenging her to a discussion about religious honesty? Part of me does feel guilty for that. Yet the call to social justice in the name of Jesus Christ truly does demand that we step outside our comfort zones and be willing to challenge the corruption of religion for political and economic purposes. We see the same pattern of using God’s authority to justify war. At what point do we actually stand up and say “Stop! Enough! This is not God’s way.”
I say it starts with every opportunity we can find. It’s not judging others to challenge them to justify their beliefs when they clearly stand in league with corruption. It is caring enough to be Christian in the most difficult sense. That is following the true example of Jesus as he confronted the false religious authorities of His day.
And when it comes to people weaseling out of defending their beliefs by claiming the need to do so is a form of “persecution,” I call bullshit.
The two exchanges shared in this post were interesting because the photographer and birder “friend” on Facebook welcomed the opportunity to gain perspective and insight that resulted in truth.
Meanwhile, the other “friend” took immediate offense and condescendingly lamented why I should be concerned why a Trump supporter wanted to be friends with me in the first place.
That’s actually an incredibly naive and arrogant question to ask, for it literally assumes that no harm has been done or is being done to our country by those who support Trump under a Christian banner. The man in question exhibits passionately aggressive instincts and attacks everyone he can find with insults and vengeance. That is not the true definition of a “friend,” much less a Christian.
So many Christians seem confused and unable to discern where the truth really lies:
“For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the wholesome teaching, but according to their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers to have their ears tickled. They will turn away from listening to the truth and give attention to false stories.” 2 Timothy 4:3
Compare the trust people seem to place in Trump with the traditional claim that “we have a friend in Jesus.” There is no just parallel. The two beliefs are so contradictory they deserve to be challenged whenever and wherever you find them. That’s the least that any Christian should do.
It’s going to be a tough road finding our way back to truth. Clearly, some people still embrace an opportunity to learn our change while others use any excuse they can to run and hide from truth even when it smacks them in the face.