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Facebook Prophets

Excerpt

The following story by Fred Schmidt, SMU theology professor, appeared on Patheos.com on Jan. Jan. 24, 2012.

January 26, 2012

By Fred Schmidt

In the space of just a few hours, I have seen Christian leaders on Facebook compare members of the GOP to herds of wild animals. I have read the assertion that every Republican cheats on his wife and exploits the poor. And I've read that all Republicans are morons and hate-mongers. (Those aren't exact quotations, but they are certainly fair to the spirit of what was said.)

I have also read about a publishing company that produces religious bumper stickers calling for the president's days to be shortened by appealing to the words of Psalm 109:2-3. And one Christian political figure is in hot water for emailing the same sentiment around to others, appealing to his readers, "Let us bow our heads and pray."

Inevitably, every one of those posts enlists cheers and jeers—and a fresh round of similar observations from still other Christians, lay and ordained alike.

This is not a private conversation with an individual, like-minded neighbor over the backyard fence. It's sharp elbows and political commentary offered up in the defense of the Gospel in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of readers— maybe more. And for many, it's prophetic speech.

That's not what I hear. What I hear is name-calling, sweeping generalization, and slander. What I hear are good, thoughtful people saying cruel, thoughtless things. I hear people saying those things not just about one person, but about millions of people, known and unknown, in a few lines of text. I hear people implying that if they are not prepared to do violence to another human being, they are willing to pray for another person's misfortune....