We live in an age when one piece of information can spark a fire across the globe. In our Lutheran circles, we have just seen this. Someone noticed that one of the local chapters of Thrivent had approved a Planned Parenthood organization as a possible recipient of Thrivent Choice dollars. That revelation was placed onto the internet.
Soon, the accusations were flying at the speed of a Facebook share or Twitter retweet across the internet. Within hours, the average person’s impression was that the next Thrivent event in your community would be a Thrivent Kills event complete with a abortion clinic on wheels. This despite the fact that not even one dollar had been funneled through the program to Planned Parenthood.
Some talked of cancelling policies and others spoke about using their pastoral authority to urge others to do the same. I am sure some actually did make policy changes in the last 24 hours.
Don’t get my wrong. The thought of my dollars funding abortions is stomach churning. And I think everyone was no doubt justified in contacting Thrivent to inquire about this and make clear their displeasure with it. But maybe our tone should have been more “Did you know?” rather than “How dare you!” After all, most of the people contacted surely had no culpability in this at all.
Surely it is not proper to impugn the whole organization before the facts of the case are really known. All of the conspiracies contrived and the certainies spoken without knowledge were not helpful. Statements like, “Of course, Thrivent (meaning at the top levels) knew what was going on with this” are simply not possible to make with integrity before further information is available.
Today Thrivent took action just 12 hours or so after I saw everything blow up on Facebook. Here is their statement. Granted the situation is not fully resolved and some will be equally outraged that pro-life groups have been temporarily suspended while a review happens. But let’s not jump to conclusions. I suspect this was done in an attempt to not have a similar outcry from other members so that the review can happen without the distractions of replying to every email and blog post.
Here is what I say: let’s give them some time to review everything and then when they make a final decision, we can all make our decisions about how we want to proceed in partnership with Thrivent. It is of course possible that that outcome will means that Lutheran congregations and individuals will need to make choices as the Word of God and their consciences direct them. But let’s wait and see what the final outcome is.
As people of God, we must be careful not to harm the reputation of our neighbor by spreading rumors, gossip, and conspiracy theories. We should be concerned for life and speak out for it. But we must not do so in a way in which our speech becomes tainted with rumor and gossip. If you allow that, our whole speech can be cast into question and our neighbor will suffer harm.
Are my hands clean? No, I suppose not. I used the uproar to throw out some ideas about insurance in general I thought worthy of discussion. But in doing so, I may well have added to the instant outrage.
We must be careful how we act in this world of viral sharing. A reputation is always just a click or two away from being destroyed.