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Facebook, Dick Cheney, and the Imago Dei

2009 February 8

So I started this post a few days ago, and then I had to laugh when Rick spoke on this topic at church today. Life works like that a lot – repeated reminders to drive ideas home. So anyway…

If you’re networked online at all I am sure at some point in recent weeks you have been tagged with the Facebook “25 Things” list. And I’m sure you’ve also heard your fair share of people complaining about it. Now I understand the “I just don’t have time to participate” complaints, but then there are those that are slightly more disturbing. Some asked why anyone would bother reading such spam from their imaginary playgroup. Others asked why they should care about boring random facts about their “friends.” Finding out the details of others’ lives and sharing the details of their own just seemed like too much of a waste of time. I found it interesting that people were willing to network with others, but not interested in actually getting to know them. But sometimes it is hard to get beyond our self. We want people to know us (love us, respect us…), but we aren’t willing to deal with the spam of their thoughts, struggles, and mundane life details.

It reminded me of what former Vice-President Dick Cheney said in an interview this past week –

“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business,” he said. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

Ignoring Facebook friends and promoting terrorism might seem like a strange connection, but hear me out. Both attitudes are based on the same self-centered attitude. It is our status and our sphere that we are trying to protect. With Facebook we can simple decide to keep the Other as Other – view their input as spam to be ignored, their lives inconsequential to our existence. On the national scale that “me and mine” focus moves beyond simple brushing others aside to a stance that encourages the destruction of that which is different. Either way the idea of loving our neighbor (or enemy) is ignored in favor of protecting our own interests.

As Cheney pointed out, following the Christian principles of turning the other cheek and respecting the image of God in others cannot be adhered to if we place our own interests first. He of course sees that as a good thing and continues to call for the preemptive destruction of those different than himself. I agree with Cheney that national self-centeredness and Christian principles by nature contradict each other, but I prefer to go with the Christian principle side. Instead of our self-centeredness insisting that others love and respect us while we either ignore or destroy them, we can perhaps start to respond with that very love and respect. Not in a passive way that destroys our own self, but with strong active engagement that preserves the image of God in both ourself and the Other.

And even if we aren’t quite ready to obey Christ and love the terrorist, we can maybe reach out and actually connect with Facebook friends.


18 Responses leave one →
  1. Don permalink
    February 8, 2009

    You’re right, Julie. Cheney also forgets that there’s another side to “evil.” Not only do we all share in God’s image, but we also share in the same sin nature. We are all just as capable of evil as the terrorists. Cheney’s first and biggest mistake is assuming that we are “good” and refusing to recognize that “there is none good but God alone.”

  2. February 8, 2009

    Hi Julie!

    I think the Facebook facts would be less boring and random if they had more of a context. I would rather read a blog entry or have a conversation than read a bullet point list. Maybe that’s what’s behind some people’s responses. Of course, one could view the random facts list as a conversation starter.

  3. February 8, 2009

    Hmmm… I only decided to do the 25 Things after I realized how much I was enjoying reading other people’s. These lists that came from people I’ve lost touch it allowed me to catch up with some of the mundane details of their lives that it wouldn’t occur to them to share in a typical e-mail or phone call but that I would have known about if we were still living in the same community.

  4. February 8, 2009

    the Cheney quote has really troubled me. it underscores just how much we’ve separated civic faith, spiritual faith and secuirity

  5. Karl permalink
    February 9, 2009

    The Cheney quote deserves criticism from a Christian point of view. Still I’m not sure it’s quite covered by : “On the national scale that “me and mine” focus moves beyond simple brushing others aside to a stance that encourages the destruction of that which is different.”

    Cheney isn’t advocating destroying al Queda because they are different. He’s advocating destroying them because they are actively trying to perpetrate more 9/11’s. There may be (probably is) a more appropriate response than Cheney’s to the threat posed by international terrorism. But let’s be accurate in analyzing his motivation.

  6. February 9, 2009

    karl – I was using differences in the broadest sense of the term. They hate who we are and try to attack that – we hate them and try to attack them. It come down to the fact that we are different and can’t cope with each others differences.

  7. February 10, 2009

    Hello again. I second Karl’s comment. I think difference is too innocent of a term to be used that broadly. Cheney’s response might be un-Christian, but we’re not attacking the terrorists because we think they’re strange or immoral. We’re doing it because they’ve been attacking us. The way you put it in the comment above makes it sound like they’re just an obnoxious relative we can’t stand being in the same room with. To me that tones down the situation to an unhelpful degree.

    But anyway, I agree with your main point about treating the terrorists as people rather than some inhuman Other. Who knows? There just might be some creative and constructive way to relate to them that could avoid more bloodshed.

  8. February 10, 2009

    Andy – yes we are hitting some people back because they hit us first. With others we are simply hitting first because we don’t like the things they say or how they run their country. my point was to simplify this to get under the gut reactions and all that.

  9. February 10, 2009

    I was reluctant to respond the the 25 things because I didn’t want to push myself on others in that way… I didn’t think they needed to be that interested in me. In a way, my reluctance was an attempt not to be self-centered.

    As far as the enemy issue goes, loving neighbors is a complicated thing. Loving my neighbor may mean being willing to do harm to the enemy who is threatening to harm my neighbor. That’s why police officers carry guns.

    Peace to you.

  10. Karl permalink
    February 10, 2009

    Jullie, I don’t think that kind of over-generalization is helpful to dialogue about this issue. Simpliification is good, but not at the expense of truth or fairness. There are lots of people the US finds strange, or different, or doesn’t like the way they run their country – yet does not attack. I think I largely agree with your primary point, and would second Andy’s final paragraph in #7.

  11. February 10, 2009

    Chris – I’ll all for stopping injustice as a means of loving one’s neighbor – but I have to disagree that that should necessarily involve harming them. Are they not our neighbors too – worthy of love?

    karl – I think it all starts with our heart focus. I think that’s what people have the hardest time accepting (or call preposterous…). Of course there are levels and varying responses, but there are some basic underlying issues that must be dealt with as well. It is easy to talk about some of them but not others, but they are all related.

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