Why Did the Monk Unfriend the Deacon?

A number of years ago, I received a very unexpected friend request on Facebook. It was from someone I’ll call Stephen Nash, OFM. The name is made up, but the OFM is legit. Puzzled, I looked into Stephen and discovered that this acronym stands for “Order of Friars Minor.” Stephen, it seemed, was a Franciscan–specifically a Capuchin–monk. Let’s be clear: that’s Capuchin monk rather than monkey.

Not this!
This!

Discovering the Monk

Having no reason not to accept the request, I clicked the appropriate button, wondering all along why this guy would be reaching out to me. I had every intention of asking him, but I never got around to it. Then, a couple of weeks later, seeing the name again, I thought, “There was that guy named ‘Stephen Nash’ in high school.” That’s when it hit me. Stephen had been the most religiously inclined person in our small class. He moved from evangelical circles to the Anglican communion at some point. As memory serves, I saw him a few years out of high school and he had crossed the Tiber to become a Catholic priest.

Honestly, Stephen and I weren’t best buds in high school, although we talked a fair bit. Thirty-plus years later, we had even less in common, but I always enjoyed seeing his posts. He thought about things in ways I never would.

The Monk Disappears

Facebook has a weird way about whose things it shows you. At times, I feel as if their algorithms are designed to annoy users, but surely that isn’t correct. You might have 500 friends and see posts from only 25 or 30 of them regularly. So when somebody disappears from the feed, you don’t necessarily notice it immediately.

Yesterday, after writing about how it is important for Christians of different opinions and backgrounds to carefully think about each other’s words, I thought about Stephen. I hadn’t seen one of his posts for a very long time–perhaps a year or more.

I searched for him in my friends. He’s still on Facebook, but he’s not among that rarefied group. I know I didn’t remove him from my list. Presumably he removed me from his.

The Deacon Questions His Self-Worth

What did I do to run afoul of Stephen’s sense of Facebook propriety? You don’t have to look very hard at his current postings to see that he is not a supporter of our current president. He posts a lot of editorial cartoons and comments upon them as if they were somehow fact rather than opinion. That’s fine, although I try not to do that sort of thing. I’m probably more apt to question my conservative friends when they say something not well thought out.

Having said that, I will confess that I tip my conservative tendencies sometimes. I’ll question the apparent self-contradictions of those on the social and political left, including my own children at times. I try to do that in a kind manner, but I’m sure that sometimes my snarky attitudes come through.

Did I somehow offend Stephen? Did I say something that led him to consider me persona non grata? Was it my excessive celebrating when the Royals won the World Series. I’ll probably never know.

The Deacon Opines

In the end, this whole episode just makes me sad. Yeah, I’ll miss the thinking that Stephen caused me to do, but I know that this sort of siloing–is that a word?–is going on all around the country. People on the left are cutting themselves off from people on the right. People on the right are cutting themselves off from people on the left. People in the middle increasingly find themselves forced to choose teams. And God forbid that we are confronted with some sort of reasoned opinion that causes genuine reflection.

Take good care of your like-minded friends, but take just as good of care with those who make you uncomfortable from time to time. And if I made Stephen too uncomfortable, I wish he’d have spoken to me about it.

Maybe This Shouldn’t Have Survived, Netflix

As an occasional binge-watcher of various shows, I enjoyed the first season of Designated Survivor from its ABC days. The second season certainly declined in quality, but kept me watching. Then ABC killed the show and Netflix picked it up.

Netflix didn’t ruin Longmire when they did the same thing. If anything, the final seasons of that show were better than the A&E seasons. But these days, the streaming juggernaut has determined to make everything as coarse and as politically skewed as possible. Let me give a few examples.

Let’s start with some of the easy pickings. In Season 3, it feels as if DS had a quota of f-bombs to drop. At least twice in the first five episodes, characters have actually commented on their foul language: “Can I talk like that in the White House?” My reply is, “Yes, you can, but you can’t do it in my living room.”

Then there’s the sex. Did we really need the somewhat graphic and decidedly casual gay sex scene between a social-media aide and a Secret Service agent? And what ever happened to Dante’s boyfriend from earlier? I’ve resigned myself to the idea that every show needs a gay character if the executive producers want to be invited to all the right parties, but this scene was excessive and pointless. It was as pointless as the scene with Kiefer on the toilet. I know everybody poops, but I don’t want to watch. We also were treated to the campaign manager Lorraine Zimmer (Julie White) dismissing a bare-butted male prostitute. Did this advance the plot or significantly develop her character? Not hardly.

All of this is enough for me to stop watching, but I did get far enough along to recognize that the politics is just what we’ve come to expect from Netflix’s offerings. There are some nice jabs taken at the press, but that’s about the only redeeming thing. Instead, we’re treated to a series–at least one per episode–of standard 2019 SJW fare. We’ve got your transgender story line to go with immigration, American hypocrisy, racism, sexism, and much, much more.

The producers love to insert brief videos that we’re told were shot unscripted from real people. I don’t doubt that they were, but the shots are obviously cherry-picked, not just for quality but for content. If these videos and the attitudes of Designated Survivor were to be believed, then everybody in America is a libertarian eagerly waiting for the government to fix all the same things. (And yes, I’m aware that my last sentence, just like much of the worldview of DS doesn’t exactly make sense.)

I’ve watched The West Wing twice through. While Aaron Sorkin and I do not share much in the way of political outlook, I respected the nuance and complexity of that show. Yes, it had its bias, but everyone and everything has a bias. At least The West Wing represented the complexity of human interactions and didn’t portray every conservative as a knuckle-dragger.

The closest thing that Designated Survivor gets to nuance is when President Kirkman has a hissy fit about “child marriage” in Saudi Arabia only to discover that many American states allow marriage below the magical age of 18. This plot line–and really, it’s generous to call this a plot line rather than an excuse for polemics–allows for a Saudi diplomat to walk into the Oval Office and lecture the president on all manner of ways that the United States is not measuring up. Frankly, this entire sequence is the strongest argument for why Tom Kirkman really is unfitted for high office.

I would like to believe that the average American is smart enough to see when they’re being manipulated. However, we might be mistaken, if the writers of the show are indicative. In one episode, teacher strikes spread ominously across the land as educators demand “a living wage.” The solution is so simple that we wonder how nobody thought of it before.

President Kirkman gets a bunch of rich foundations to pony up $3 billion, leaving the strikes ended and the stars aligned. Did nobody in the writer’s room do the math? Take that $3 billion and divide it among the nation’s 3.8 million teachers and you can give them a life-changing $833 this year (and nothing next year), leaving no money for the class supplies also demanded. If these supposedly educated writers think that striking teachers can be bought off for a one-time $833 or if American teachers are really that short-sighted, then I worry about the future.

Weeping with Christchurch

I’ll weep for the Muslims in New Zealand. I’ll weep with the people of that nation, Muslim or otherwise, who had their world shattered when some maniac decided that the way to effect change in his world was to go shoot up a mosque.

I will weep, remembering that, in Romans 12:15, Paul advised

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

Scrolling through the Twitter thread on this topic, we see that, among the genuine outpourings of sympathy, far too many people are using this event to mount their hobby horses. “Trump didn’t say ‘terrorist.'” “If it had been a Muslim shooter in a church . . .” One tweet said the problem isn’t Muslims but Jews, while somebody blamed “immigration.”

This is not the time for gun advocates to gloat over this action which happened despite restrictive gun laws in New Zealand. It’s hard to weep while gloating.

This is not the time for gun opponents to make political hay or blame the NRA for the carnage. It’s hard to weep while politicking.

This is the time to recognize that the solutions proposed by humanity, whether they be politics or direct action, will not solve our problems, be they real or imagined. In Peter’s writings, we read words that seem utterly fitting:

Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.  –1 Peter 3:8-9

Can I be like-minded with a Muslim? Yes, I can agree that it is better to live peaceably than to descend into violence. I can feel sympathy and love and compassion for that person. Such feelings do not require me to agree with them on their theology. They don’t even require me to wish that more and more of those people were living in my backyard. What they require is that I look at whoever is in my backyard and to live in peace with them for as long as I can.

One Tweet stood out to me:

I disagree. Terrorism does have a religion, a religion that goes beyond Islam, Christianity, or any other. Regardless of the professions of the terrorist, their religion is a manifestation of evil and their god is–well, you can connect the dots.