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On Finding One's Place in the Online World
I have mentioned before on this blog that I am hopelessly addicted to political blogs. I tend to read conservative political/economic blogs, and find them very interesting. I've learned a lot. It buoys me to know that there are others that feel the same way that I do about so many things.

And then something remarkable happened to me on Tuesday night of this week. A Canadian blog, a big one, that I've been reading constantly for eight years, posted a tongue in cheek comment on an article saying that the rate of obesity in African urban areas is increasing.

Not really a big deal, except that the comments quickly devolved into what I thought was racist.

I feel very strongly about Africa. I've been to Kenya twice to work at an orphanage, and we're heading out again this year leading a medical team. I'm passionate about micro-finance and the potential for helping lift people out of poverty. I don't believe in government aid, since it tends to enable corruption and keep the population oppressed, but I believe providing clean water in conjunction with NGOs, and using micro-finance, can work wonders, along with providing a culture that is more in line with what God wants.

My heart breaks when I think of the small children on their own in the world, searching for food in garbage bins, having nowhere to sleep, and being raped. I have met some, and it pierces your soul.

So I commented on that post and told the people that they were being heartless. Conservatives should be compassionate, and stand for real-life, common sense solutions to problems. Instead I was told by many other commenters that by working in Africa I was part of the problem. It was a hopeless mess there, the IQ is low anyway, if you rescue orphans, they'll grow up to have too many babies and likely start wars, and we should leave it to its own devices.

I fought on valiantly through several more comments, but then gave up. A few others defended me, but most said that by helping I was prolonging the problem. Better to let the whole place sink into a hellhole.

Honestly, there are few times in my life where I have felt more shame. I didn't feel shame for being attacked; I honestly don't care about that.

What I felt shame for was that for 8 years I had identified with these people. I had agreed with them on almost every issue. But when it came down to it, our values our fundamentally different.

For almost a decade, especially since 9/11, I have thought of myself as a conservative. That really hasn't changed. But what I've realized is that the big gulf in values is not necessarily between conservative and liberal; it is really between Christian and non-Christian. It is a compassion gulf.

Without compassion, we are nothing. Even if helping Africa did no objective good, I would rather spend my dying breath helping some girl who is in danger of being raped than valiantly ignoring her pleas because "what good is it anyway?" I don't want to be a person who ever turns my back on people in need, or who dismisses people as "not worthy" of our compassion. That, to me, is evil.

And so, after a nine year battle of trying to break my addiction to blogs, I think I have just done it. I don't want to be associated with that, even if we agree on so many policy issues. We may agree on politics, but we don't agree on heart issues. And it is those heart issues that matter most.

I realized then that my real community online is not my political one. It is this one. I get such encouragement from you, my readers, as I look through my comments and emails and Tweets and Facebook. I love having debates in the comments! I thought yesterday was particularly productive, as we wrestled through a difficult issue to try to help a reader, and we did so with gentleness and grace and compassion, rather than blaming each other or calling names. We didn't agree on every issue, but it was a time when people could at least make their thoughts known.

I'd like to get to know more of you, but I think we agree far more fundamentally on the important stuff than all these other blogs I've been reading! So leave me some comments. I'm going to try to make it a point to visit more of your blogs. Ask me questions, and give me some ideas for posts. Let's make this a place where we can come for "real" answers to problems, and not only platitudes. Let's let this be a thinking and encouraging place.

I'm glad you're along for the journey, and I'm glad I finally figured out my place in the world.



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15 Comments:

At 9:03 AM , Blogger LAURA said…

Isn't it funny how one incident can completely turn us off from something that we thought we loved. It's happened to me many times.

and I think the work you are doing in Africa is important! We are to love and that is what you do.

 

At 10:36 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

Have you visited RedState.com? It's a conservative political community--albeit an American-focused one--that has people with all sorts of backgrounds. Many of the regular posters are unabashedly Christian, others not so much. If you want to maintain the political blog addiction in a forum where many also share your religious values, that may be a good place to visit.

 

At 11:10 AM , Anonymous Kiva @ Farmstead Lady said…

Kudos to you for sharing your heart. Politics is often one of those subjects that I try to stay away from just because oftentimes people do lack compassion and also sometimes their own train of thought/common sense.

I grew up loving politics and even obtained a degree in Political Science. After grad school, I worked in local and state government and that is where my disenchantment began and unfortunately after working on Capitol Hill, my eyes were opened and all illusions were gone. There is a lot of racism and hate in this world and it can be wrapped in all kinds of packages. It is my hope that more that claim to be Christian would seek to put on the skin of Jesus but sometimes ideology prevents that from happening.

Keep doing your good works and following your heart.

 

At 3:37 PM , Blogger Casandra said…

Compassion should know no political boundaries. Good for you in standing up for what you believe in. If everyone would do that instead of blindly following along, the world would be a much better place.

 

At 3:38 PM , Blogger Growing in God's Grace said…

That has to be hard. Unfortunately that's why I read blogs more than comment. Even on your blog, I don't comment a whole lot, though I read every entry. I guess I just don't want to get caught up in debates (I'm not a debate person). I am thankful that your blog isn't a debate type blog, probably why I keep reading it. :)

JoAnn

 

At 4:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I like that you said you want to make your blog a place where people can come for real answers. It is so hard to know who to turn to when you need answers. (aside from God, of course) My husband and I have been discussing this recently as we both go to secular counselors. I think we have decided to end the counseling but don't know exactly where to go from there???? I have often found answers on your blog and feel that we do have much in common. I am looking forward to learning more!
Jessica

 

At 4:24 PM , Blogger Bobble said…

My jaw dropped as I read your post; I just couldn't believe (well, I guess I could, really) that people would be so heartless. America/Canada reminds me of Revelation 3:17, "You say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

The poor need our help! Africa needs us! God wants us to remember the poor and we are so rich. (I used to think of myself as not-too-well-off, then I thought about what people in most of the world have, and realized that I was really rich in material things even though most Canadians wouldn't think so.)

My brother-in-law and his wife moved to Zambia as missionaries almost a year ago, so this topic means a lot to me.

 

At 4:27 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

Thanks for the comment. And I personally tend to avoid political debates altogether. Well.... that's not true. I guess that we all have our passions. And isn't it funny that we may be more informed in an area of interest than some other people but that doesn't mean they don't have their opinions? We can just chalk it up to lack of education. I would never debate with a vegan about nutrition because although I don't necessarily agree (I'm a dairy farmer lol) she/he has probably done more research into it than I have because it's more important to him/her.
I'll bet if those people that were counter-commenting to you on that blog had ever been to Africa they would have a harder time defending their position.
But every cloud has it's silver lining right? More time for other things!

 

At 5:28 PM , Blogger Alex Headrick said…

I'm American, not Canadian, but I find that some of the same things happen here in conservative circles. I'm a conservative myself but I find alot of them are ignorant when it comes to compassion and serving others becasue that's a more "liberal" thing to do. To me, it's neither liberal, or conservative, it's about having compassion and mercy or not. Christ called us to have compassion.

Two guys are talking to each other and one of them says he has a question for God. He wants to ask why God allows all of this poverty and war and suffering to exist in the world. And his friend says "Well, why don't you ask?" The fellow shakes his head and says he is scared. When his friend asks why, he mutters, "I'm scared God will ask me the same question."

~Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution:Life as an ordinary radical

 

At 5:29 PM , Blogger Alex Headrick said…

Also since you love africa...below is a blog about a woman serving on mercy ships. I think you'll love it.

http://alirae.net/blog/

 

At 5:42 PM , Blogger LauraLee Shaw said…

WHAT?!?! They did NOT say that. Really?

Oh Sheila, good for you for running the other direction and FAST.

Our pastor was talking about the older son and the younger son in the Prodigal story this past Sunday. It wasn't just the younger son who sinned...the older brother did too when he chose his response to the younger brother's return. If anything, so many times, we conservatives can be a lot like the older brother.

If we truly believe in a free society, then we must be one that meets the needs of others...at home and abroad. That's what Jesus did when He reached out to Gentiles & Jews alike, sinners & religious types. He made no discrimination...He came to seek and save the lost of ALL nations.

Love your heart, dear Sheila.

 

At 5:50 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hello all you dear ladies!

Glad to hear your comments, and to know that at least here the idea of helping girls who have been gangraped in a refugee camp is a sign of something good, and not "prolonging the problem". Honestly.

I think I have to get over my bitterness. :)

Anyway, what a great quotation, Alex! I'm going to have to read that to my husband when he gets home.

Deborah, I have been to Redstate, but I find the health care debate just a little wearying. I think I'm going to try to quit all political blogs for a while. I know there are some where my religious and political views would intersect, but I still wonder about the value of it sometimes!

Thanks all of you for being here!

 

At 8:45 PM , Blogger Marian said…

I didn't hear bitterness. I read passion. You go girl.

 

At 9:33 PM , Anonymous Quiet Mom said…

Amen!

 

At 12:51 AM , Blogger Clever Colleen said…

Just wanted to let you know, Sheila, that I am frequently blessed by your blog posts. You wear your heart on your sleeve and I find it refreshingly encouraging! Thanks for being so passionate, and don't let them get you discouraged!

 
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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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