The other day my husband and I were out for a drive, listening to a news station on the car radio.
“How did we get here?” I asked, not talking about our geographical location, but the state of society and culture.
How did we become so hatefully divided and divisive? So anti-everything?
So polarized and tribal, so demanding to be heard yet so unwilling to listen to others, especially to those whose views we don’t share?
How did we become so filled with vitriol and fury?
Umbrage — we take umbrage at one another. We are indignant and outraged.
I’m talking about our society as a whole, which includes us Christians.
In 2013, a pastor went into a Costco store and saw a Bible in the fiction section.
He thought it was funny, figured it was just a shelving error and not intentional, took a photo and put it out on Twitter.
In lightning speed it was retweeted hundreds of times.
Fox News picked it up, giving it the headline: “Costco — The Bible is Fiction” and then ran with the idea that the pastor had uncovered a Costco conspiracy against Christians and the Bible.
Outraged Christians across the nation immediately clamored for a boycott of Costco.
In a November 2013 Christianity Today article, “Another Day, Another Faux Christian Outrage: Costco’s Fiction Bible,” Ed Stetzer interviewed the pastor, Caleb Kaltenbach, and reported that Kaltenbach was, indeed, not outraged.
“It was a labeling error, not a theological statement. It’s like when the sticker for corn is accidentally put on the beans,” Stetzer wrote. “If you get outraged over a labeling mistake, maybe it’s time to ask if you need to be more discerning, less gullible and need some new sources of information beyond constantly-outraged websites and social media outlets.
“Let me add,” he said, “when Christians are constantly outraged by fake controversies, we look foolish and have no credibility to speak to real issues.”
He also wrote that people are drawn to outrage and often they don’t care if it’s based on misinformation.
“Who cares about facts when you can have outrage?” Stetzer wrote. “We are addicted to outrage — we like the fire.”
Unfortunately, outrage for the sport of being outraged too often leads to people’s reputations or character being ruined, businesses and families being hurt, churches and communities being torn apart.
Jesus told his followers, “You are the light of the world...Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The gospel calls us to reconciliation, to “soft answers” that “turn away wrath,” to speaking the truth in love, not hate.
“Outrage forgets or ignores the grace of Jesus,” Stetzer wrote. “It seeks to drown out the possibility of mercy or grace, demanding retribution instead. It’s unapologetic, quick and severe.
“It’s a shame Christians often follow this cultural pattern of reacting vengefully instead of mercifully.”
These words from 2013 are even more relevant in 2021, when the entire world is a tinderbox.
We Christians need to be water for people dying of thirst, salve for those who are hurting.
If we stop contributing to the outrage du jour, stop flaming people on Twitter and Facebook and start showing the same mercy and kindness that Christ has shown us, maybe then they’ll see Jesus in us.
That’s what we are called to do.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at email@example.com.