If you haven’t noticed by now, some of your friends on Facebook have changed their profile pictures to a rainbow, or a Confederate flag, or an American flag overlay. A couple years before that it was an equals sign or a cross.

I just can’t take part in those types of things, because by jumping on the bandwagon, you lose complete control over your own branding.

If you’re the gay couple trying to get married, or you’re non-religious, or you’re the head of your local KKK chapter, or you’re Pat Robertson, you don’t have to worry too much about nuance when it comes to these issues. These symbols just mean what they mean and you’re on board. Ride or die.

For the rest of us, there is a great risk of being misunderstood.

Knee-jerk reactions and demagoguery

“A demagogue or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness.” Wikipedia

You can’t stop something from going viral, we all know this. So in the age of social media the strategy is to piggyback off the viral.

If you have a protest, we have a counter-protest. If you have a gay flag overlay, we have an American flag overlay. If you have a Confederate flag, we turn it into a gay flag. If you have an equals sign we turn it into a cross.

The “Facebook meme war” as some people might call it, started in in 2013, as the California Supreme Court began hearings on the constitutionality of Prop 8. In preparation for a big public relations push, 1 the human rights organization modified their original logo into a pink and red equals sign to rally support for the struggle to overturn Prop 8 in California. They won, and Prop 8 was overturned.

Even back then a few people on my news feed changed their profile pic to the equals sign, and then the cross “in response.” I actually agreed with aspects of both groups. For the equals sign, I agreed that gays should have the right to marry, but that’s where the agreement ended. For the cross, I agreed that Jesus is the Messiah, and unrepentant practicing homosexuality is a sin2, but that’s where the agreement ended.

I don’t judge the people with the equals sign or those with the cross, because I’m both self aware and empathetic enough to know that people have their qualifications, and might not agree with all the baggage their “flag” comes with.

But don’t be oblivious to the fact that your symbol does come with baggage that will make the less empathetic among us judge the hell out of you. They’ll often times even judge you for trying to stay out of it. Just ask Kramer.

You shouldn’t care what people think

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

You shouldn’t be oppressed by other people’s image of you. Fly the Confederate flag; wear the rainbow.

Someone who is supremely self-confidant can shrug off unreasonable criticism. They can even tolerate being ostracized. Of course, that is an idealized state. No one is that sure of himself or herself. Fredric Neuman M.D., Caring What Other People Think

The very existence of this website shows I’m willing to stand up for what I believe in despite the cares, interpretations, and wishes of the people surrounding me, but that’s because it’s made up of words carefully selected and thought about by “meine Person.” 3

You should care what people think

“How you dress tells the rest of the world how you expect to be treated.” Michel Martin

I don’t like advocating for symbols I didn’t create. It doesn’t allow for nuance, and you get lumped in with groups of people you disagree with.

There is the way the world should be, and the way the world is. In this real world, not everyone makes judgments from a rational posture. Further, all people make split second judgements advised by their reptile brain.

This website allows me to explain my thought process in a way that often allows me to separate myself from people that I believe have no awareness of their own mind, and and no awareness of the mind of others.

People are watching you and making quick and often very harsh judgements based on your actions. To be clear, that’s unavoidable no matter what, but there are ways to have some control over it. Viral profile pictures offer no such control.

Christian Qualifications

As I watch all of you, my Christian brothers and sisters, collectively loose your minds on Facebook, and judge one another by what color your profile picture is, please keep these few things in mind:

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. Romans 14:20-22

I went over this concept a little bit when I wrote: Is it ok for Christians to practice Yoga? I gave my complete exegesis over there, but allow me to add a small addendum.

The idea is that human beings are human beings, and people will take things personally that they shouldn’t take personally, so in light of that, be as courteous as you can with your Christian brothers and sisters regarding their closely held beliefs. They only espouse those beliefs because they’re trying to serve God as best as they know how.

There are those that would take exception to “the faith that you have, keep between yourself and God”, but it’s there, regardless of the version of the bible you’re reading. The context is not “don’t tell people about Jesus” the context is that there are certain freedoms you have in Christ, that so long as your conscience isn’t bothered, you’re under no obligation to tell others about. That your faith in God is between you and God, and on judgement day, you cannot say, “But my pastor said…but the Pope said…but the Westminster Confession of Faith said…but Ovienmhada.com said…” It’s your job to figure out what you believe and believe it, and even when you screw some things up (and you will), the grace of God is able to cover you.

If we just go just a few verses back we see this:

“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:3-4

This doesn’t mean that churches can’t and shouldn’t excommunicate. Because they can, and they should (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5), or that groups of believers shouldn’t choose their own fellowship.

Rather, it’s the idea that when you go around saying, “You’re not a Christian! You’re going to Hell! You’re a goat! You’re a tare! You hate the word of God!” to people who believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, that he died and rose on the third day, that he is the Son of God, and that he is God, and that they are sinners – just because you and they disagree about drinking alcohol, or evolution, or the legality of gay marriage, you’re really just blowing hot air. This is a perfect example of when you shouldn’t care what other people think.

And I get it. You don’t believe you are saying that. You believe “the bible is saying that” or “Jesus is saying that”. The problem is that’s what everybody says to justify their interpretations.

“Ya, but the difference between me and them is that I’m right!” Yes, your Holiness, of course.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13

Maybe an ideology is heresy, but there are likely people in that ideology that are believers anyway. Some might eventually come out of that ideology, some might stay in, but have personal beliefs or actions that restrain them from personal apostasy.

Even though I’m for marriage equality, as I’ve explained in many previous writings, I’m not for celebrating unrighteousness, or I should say what I “perceive to be unrighteousness.” So there’s this balancing act where I’m for human rights, and the Golden Rule, and loving our neighbors, but at the same time, I don’t wish to sear the consciences of my brothers and sisters in Christ by turning my profile pic into a rainbow.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

I’m for the rights of Hindus to worship freely, and I’m for their right to adopt children. It doesn’t mean I’d pray to Vishnu or recommend anyone else go pray to Vishnu. I recognize the need for human dignity, where we give people the benefit of the doubt that they know their own minds and bodies.

There’s also a parallel balancing act, where I believe that the New Testament definition of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6) is the correct definition, and for the sake of Christ we choose to abstain from any other definition, but the connotations of turning the equals sign into a cross, can similarly sear the consciences of my brothers and sisters in Christ, who associate that with bigotry and hate, and I think they have good reason to think that way.

Seriously, who responds to a campaign for equality by saying “sorry, not equal”—except without the “sorry”? It seems to me that most people are more, I don’t know, tactful about it … I mean, I get the idea. Clever, right? Just take the pink equal sign lines and cross them! … And besides, responding to a message in favor of equality with a religious symbol is a bit odd. Like, “I know you want equal rights and all, but sorry, my religion says NO.” Libby Anne, Image Counter Image: The Facebook Meme War

Follow your convictions, and cast yourself upon the mercy of God. Just know that in 2015, depending on who you are, and depending on your social circle, Facebook memes can be interpreted as the modern equivalent of the middle finger; good old non-verbal communication!

Take control of your branding.

  1. This later included Michael Sam, Tim Cook, all the celebrities that “came out”, and Bruce Jenner, in order to build a narrative and rally public support.

  2. The same way sex before marriage is a sin.

  3. It’s how you say “myself” in German, and I like that it sounds so much more dramatic.