This post will combine all three of my major blog topics: politics, religion, and personal reflection. :-)
Yesterday, no more than five minutes after I got home, I got a news alert on my iPad reporting a school shooting in Oregon. I thought, "Here we go again," with a mental yawn, thinking that this might be another false alarm.
Within minutes, after going on Twitter, I learned that this was not the case. One tweet said, "Early reports say it's bad." And then I saw CNN: ten dead, 20 wounded.
I followed reports throughout the day with this sense of, "Again. Again? How many more?" I fear I am becoming desensitized to reports of mass shootings, and I don't like it. This is something that should never be "normal" for any society. I don't care if you live in Roseburg, Oregon, Norcross, Georgia, or Haifa, Israel.
When the news announced that President Obama would be speaking about this shooting, I decided not to watch. I had a feeling of what he would say, and I was right--a call for more gun control. I did agree with him when he said "we've become numb to this". He was angry. And I didn't blame him.
Over the next several hours, a report surfaced that the gunman had lined people up, asked them if they were a Christian, and shot them if they said yes. Now, a trending hashtag is #YesIAmAChristian.
I'm bothered by these reports. First of all, they remind me of the Columbine shooting and Cassie Bernall. She was the young woman who reportedly said "yes" when asked if she believed in God, and was shot for it. It turned out that she wasn't the one who said "yes", it was another young woman, Valeen Schurr. Due to the confusion of the day, I can understand why that remark could have been attributed to someone who didn't say it. I don't want this narrative of "he shot people who said they were Christians" to be shared if it's not true. Although, an article in the Washington Post did have the headline of "Oregon shooter said to have singled out Christians for killing in 'horrific act of cowardice'". That's frightening, if true.
But second: Do I really need to hashtag #YesIAmAChristian in order to prove that I am a Christian?
I've heard criticism of "hashtag diplomacy". When #bringbackourgirls was a trending hashtag, I heard comments such as, "How is a hashtag going to help bring them back?" While Twitter and other social media sites are helpful in spreading news and spreading awareness, if that's all you're going to do, what's a hashtag worth?
Could #YesIAmAChristian be a form of "hashtag evangelism"?
Several months after the Columbine murders, Family Christian Bookstores began selling T-Shirts, key chains, and other items with the slogan, "Yes I Believe In God". That was the moment when I started being turned off by Christian merchandising. To me, that was a shameless, crass attempt to cash in on a family's grief and a horrific tragedy.
This campaign, #YesIAmAChristian, reminds me of the Facebook memes that say, "Repost if you're not ashamed of Jesus." So, if I choose not to hit "share", does this mean I'm ashamed of Jesus and that he will be ashamed of me when he comes back?
If I decide not to tweet #YesIAmAChristian, does this somehow mean I'm not one? Or that I'm ashamed to say so?
For the record, yes, I am a Christian. I would hope that, if someone ever pointed a weapon at me and demanded an answer to that question, I would say, "Yes," and not worry about the consequences. I would also hope that if I were forced to choose between confessing God or having my family killed . . . I'd confess God. It would rip my heart out to do it, and I hope I'd never, ever have to make that choice.
But anyone can hashtag "yes, I am a Christian". I can sit here at my keyboard and type #YesIAmAChristian as much as I want to--I could tweet it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, over and over and over again--and it wouldn't make me one.
What makes me a Christian, first of all, is that God loved first. "We love because he first loved us." Next, what makes me a Christian is my (albeit imperfect) acceptance and response to that love. And I carry out my response in how I live, which includes how I treat others.
Perhaps the shooter really did target Christians in his rampage. He will have to answer to Christ for his actions.
Perhaps there were those who did say, "Yes, I am a Christian," and who were murdered for it. I admire their courage, and I believe God will give them a special welcome.
And I'm sure that many who are hashtagging #YesIAmAChristian are very, very sincere, and they want to stand by those who were murdered yesterday. They want to share their faith. They want to
announce their faith because they don't want to be ashamed of God, ashamed of Jesus.
But do I really need to hashtag that I am a Christian?
I don't think so.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.