I am literally writing these words as the Snowbirds scream over our house practicing for their performance at the waterfront tomorrow. When they’re exceptionally loud we run (yes, run) out onto the deck to see them flying south to north in tight formation. I love planes and their participation in Canada Day enhances the celebration exponentially.
This is Canada Day weekend and when July 1 rotates into our calendars each year we remind ourselves proudly that our land is a good, good place to live. Canada regularly ranks in the very top of most categories including regular first place rankings for quality of life.
It seems that we have a root system that is very different than many other countries in the world. We were born into a rugged, majestic environment yet feel no need to dominate it. We have defeated aggressive enemies but have never trampled on them. Somehow we came to agree on a shared heritage of loyalty, hard work and the fundamental value of each and every person. We serendipitously stirred together a recipe of peace-keeping, social programs, safety, kindness and freedom. We may not be perfect but nevertheless we’re working better than most.
Shortly after we moved to the Toronto area a couple of decades ago, I saw a memorable thing one day while driving past a strip mall on Kennedy Road near the 401. Four young teenage boys were walking, side by side through a parking lot – laughing, poking each other awkwardly and talking about whatever fourteen year old boys talk about.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until they trotted limply across the crosswalk in front of me and I had opportunity to watch them with more amusement. That’s when I realized what was unique about the four-wide picture before me: one was asian, one black, one brown, one white. Four awkward, goofy, teenage guys who were good-natured friends. A snapshot of Canada. Cool.
I’m not suggesting that Canada has no racism, disagreements, dangers or that it is perfect everywhere you go. Nevertheless we seem to have wrapped hope and good will into our make-up and the world needs lots more of whatever this is.
We live in a time unlike any other because of the internet and social media. Sadly, in our world today anyone with a computer or smart phone can say anything and see it passed around as though it is fact. No matter where you situate yourself politically, the information you are looking at and forwarding to others can be a truth or a lie and you have no way of knowing.
So I am concerned for Canada when I learn that Russians interfere in elections or bots manipulate stories on the internet or hackers create animations that are indiscernible from real people. What concerns me even more is how citizens like you and me are drawn into believing what we see and then participate in the hate by spreading it.
With an election coming up in Canada, followed by the election in the U.S. next year, it is more important than ever that we advocate for the truth and reproduce it over and over so we can all be wise.
Here are some thoughts for people of truth. You’re welcome to add to the list.
- Immediately stop reading one-sided web sites, tweets and forwards from individuals or groups with a single agenda. If it is always 100% against a party or person or position, then it will obviously use half-truth, twisted truth and lies. Sites that contain extreme views are usually about manipulation.
- Conspiracy theories are, by their nature, outrageous and unbelievable. Yes, conspiracies happen but if it looks like an outrageous theory, smells like an outrageous theory, acts like an outrageous theory, it probably is an outrageous theory.
- ‘Us versus them’ attitudes lead us away from healthy, common sense solutions for the greater good.
- I humbly suggest that you not follow or resend anything that:
- inflames your anger, prejudices or confirms your self-righteousness;
- calls someone a ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’ or has a diagonal red strike through them;
- has narrow, one-sided opinions;
- contains prominent negative words like ‘never’ or ‘against’;
- loves rolling in the mud. Don’t be like them.
- If you want the best information go to a variety of classic sources: CBC, NBC, NPR, traditional papers and magazines, etc.
If you can’t stop polluting your mind with biased information, consider why that is the case; why do you prefer untruth and negativity? Do you hate those who disagree with you so much that you delight in the attacks on them?
Social media has allowed each of you to hold a blunt instrument in your hand. When you copy or forward or repeat information that makes blanket judgements or targets a group or vilifies a person you are wielding a tool of violence that can’t be undone. Be afraid of the fact that everyone is trying to sell you on their brand.
Don’t be manipulated. And don’t be a tool.
And anyway, if you are a Christian you care about higher things, nobler things, more beautiful things.
Do this for yourself but more importantly do it for truth. Simple, life-giving truth. That is a great way to love your country and an even better way to love God.
Carefully read these classic insights from the writer of Galatians:
‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…
‘. . . You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
‘So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ – Galatians 5:1, 13-25 (NIV)
Do you see it? The Fruit of the Spirit – those elements that are in opposition to anger, discord, lies, partisanship. They are the things that matter most to Jesus people.
Do they matter to you?