The first political meme I remember sharing on my Facebook feed was one of former President Barack Obama, before he was elected, holding a My Little Pony character. I’m pretty sure he was holding Twilight Sparkle, the book-loving pony on a journey to study the magic of friendship (which also carries a little bit of irony as I reflect on it now). The meme said, “With this I will fix America.” I thought it was funny, and I even printed it out for my desk at work.
When I shared it with one of my younger co-workers, who was an Obama supporter and someone I had a great deal of respect for, she didn’t seem to laugh at it as much as I did. I got the feeling I actually offended her. And that really bothered my spirit. It still does whenever I think about it.
Fast-forward to today’s political climate, and my meme pales in comparison to what I see posted on Facebook today. Many of them are dishonest, and some of them are outright vile. But the tragedy of these memes are that they are even being posted on pages of fellow Christians.
I ask myself often, should, we, as Christians feed this cycle of lies and ugliness in our world just for the sake of proving a point? How does this reflect our Lord, when the world sees us doing that? How are we His witnesses unto the ends of the earth when we recycle these memes, day in and day out?
I can understand why Christians get caught up in this activity. I think it has to do with the word “post-truth,” which aptly describes the age we live in. This term was voted 2016 Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary, and they define it as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Add politics after that word and you have a “tendency of political and social discussions to be dominated by emotions instead of facts,” according to John Keane, author of an article about post-truth politics on theconversation.com.
In other words, emotions are leading us to our truth, instead of facts, and my Christian brothers and sisters are not immune to this trend, especially when posting political memes. But we should be. Our testimony and witness in the world should be winsome and not off-putting (for the wrong reasons), and we should do those things that reflect our Savior well.
So, I came up with three questions—based on Biblical wisdom—that explain the kind of political memes Jesus would post, if any, and by default, which ones His followers should.
Does this political meme tear down or build up?
Christians are called to live in the world, but not to be of the world. This means we are to live in the current cultural climate—even the political one—but not be a part of it. The reason is so the world can get to know the greatness of our God, by our examples. If His followers are spreading political memes that tear others down, how does that look to the world?
In fact, the Bible tells us to, “let no corrupting talk come out of (our) mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV). This is to be applied toward not only those individuals with whom we agree, but especially toward those with whom we disagree. If a political meme tears down, minimizes, criticizes, etc., and does not edify or encourage others, then that meme ought not to be posted.
Does this political meme promote fear or love?
I have made several poor decisions out of fear. It is only recently that I’ve understood this truth. If something happens in my life that promotes fear (and not the godly kind of fear that means reverence to my Savior but a fear that produces anxiety that is not easily assuaged), I can safely assume this emotion does not come from God.
The Bible explains that if we fear, we are not loving; but that love is what casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Applying this idea to posting a political meme is also viable because most of them promote fear as their main goal. And, if we are led by fear, we start down a road toward a very narrow and simplistic understanding of the big picture and may miss the finer points of the debate.
Does this political meme promote confusion or peace?
The Bible declares, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). This verse specifically relates to a church meeting and how order and not confusion should describe it. However, I think there is an application to whether or not we should post political memes, especially when added to God calling His children to “live at peace with all men,” as much as they are responsible for (Romans 12:18).
In general, political memes don’t promote peace but rather confusion. For example, if my takeaway from a political meme is to distrust the news or be confused as to which source(s) tell the truth, this is not something that promotes peace.
Instead of automatically reposting it because it feels right, we should research the meme’s info (find out from a fact-checking site as to its veracity or go to various middle-of-the-road news resources to read up on the topic) in order to guard against an unbalanced opinion, and, by default, an ineffective witness.
Because of the post-truth world we live in, it’s the better part of wisdom (biblical or otherwise) if we choose not to follow highly emotional and verbally caustic sources whereby we shape and form our values and beliefs.
As Christians, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard when receiving and sharing information.
And if we take the time to ask these questions before we share a political meme, perhaps we can be vessels Jesus will use to fix America.
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