Today I was on Twitter, as I am most days (okay, every day).
I follow a fairly prominent news reporter in Denver who I believe does a very good job of unbiased (loaded word alert!) distribution of information to the public for the benefit of the public, which is what is – as I understand – a journalist’s job.
Unfortunately, this reporter takes a lot of flak for doing his job. That’s putting it lightly. His Twitter mentions get UGLY. One in particular struck my eye today.
The reporter had tweeted about the practice of wearing masks to protect yourself and your neighbors from COVID-19, noting that a quick eye test makes it pretty obvious which of your neighbors care and which don’t. Regardless of your perspective on the pandemic, I’d like to think that’s a pretty fair assessment. Wearing a mask in public is a very simple way to say “I’m taking this seriously for my sake and for yours” to those around you.
One reply to this tweet was particularly disturbing. A keyboard warrior posted an image of a man lying on his back in the middle of a street, half-covered by a blanket, with his body in a contorted position. His head is lifted slightly above the ground, his dirtied left arm stretched out. His skin is weathered from what one can only assume is many long, hard years on the streets.
He almost appears to be crying for help. A man frozen in desperation. A man at the end of his rope.
The photo of this man, taken from behind the safety of a fence and a couple trees, was accompanied by this text:
“Average downtown Denver sidewalk. I don’t see a mask on this resident. [Name of reporter], does he not care? Or does Denver not care? [Name of reporter], the arbiter of caring.”
I normally don’t get caught in the weeds of Twitter trolls, but I was struck by the response of the reporter.
“Your reaction to seeing a fellow human in dire distress was to take a photo and use it to mock a journalist you don’t like. What you imagine is your ideology is just cruelty.”
My next step was one I’d normally advise against – visiting the profile of the author of the insult. Almost predictably, I was grieved at what I found.
In the profile description were references to a Bible passage and a link to another account that apparently takes prayer requests.
At that point, it got personal.
This was one of my own, a person who appears to claim to follow Christ as I do, using the desperate state of a stranger to fire insults at someone “on the other side.”
The heart of Jesus was (and is) to care for the distressed and marginalized, and this man was rather used as ammunition for an absolutely worthless attack on someone who is trying to help.
Jesus loves that man. He loves all involved in this frankly ridiculous scenario. But He specifically called His people to care for those in a state of need, and He did not mince words on those who ignored them.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:41-45 (NIV)
It should frighten us that Jesus didn’t even go to the next stage – that of using the downtrodden as pawns for our hatred – in his address.
I was filled with a righteous rage as the audience to this online interaction, which is a dangerous thing when you’re sitting behind on a keyboard. That’s why I find myself here right now, writing this – probably a better outlet than an unnecessary Twitter argument.
And that’s exactly my point. This spectacle was the epitome of another invisible enemy, one equally as daunting as the physical pandemic we’re facing, one that’s quietly threatening to take not the humanity of our physical bodies but the humanity of our souls.
He is the great and dangerous devil of our days. He does not belong to one “side.” He doesn’t care what your opinions are; he doesn’t care how far to one “wing” you may go. He frankly doesn’t even care who you are or where you find your identity.
He has one goal – that you reduce those who think differently than you to a subhuman state, that they’d become the subject of your hatred, your rage, your anger, your insecurity.
His name is demonization, and he’s using the tragedy of physical sickness to extend his dominion in the hearts of men.
He goes by plenty of pseudonyms: disparagement, deprecation, and vilification to name a few.
And he wants you. Yes, you. He’s pointing his finger at YOU.
He’ll stop at nothing to gain the territory of your heart.
First, he’ll get you just obsessed enough with your own opinions to make you believe you’re incapable of being wrong.
Then he’ll send you out, pointing fingers, starting arguments and demeaning those who don’t share those opinions.
At this point, he’s already won. But he’ll go a step further by seeping just far enough into your mind to get you to believe that this work you’re doing is righteous.
“You’re on the right team, and they aren’t,” he’ll whisper. “How could they be so small-minded? How stupid can they possibly be?”
These voices will quickly become your own thoughts, then they’ll turn from thoughts into real words that exit your mouth… or your fingertips. All the while, you’ll think you’re fighting a righteous war.
Really, you’re the captive.
And there is no joy in the captivity of demonization. With each of those flaming arrows you righteously launch at “the other side,” there’s a silent, invisible, and twice as deadly arrow penetrating your back.
Your obsessive attention with the supposed incorrectness of others leaves you defenseless as the poison of demonization silently seeps into your heart.
You may be launching the attack, but you’re the one dying.
Demonization is the dangerous devil of our days, and it would love to add your heart and soul to its dominion.
Did you know that person on the other side was once the same as you? You were formed by the hands of the same Creator, shaped with the divine touch of love.
When your weapons are aimed at Imago Dei, they’re actually aimed right back at you.
So drop your weapons. Disarming demonization, the dangerous devil of our days, starts with disarming yourself.