Be nice, for God’s sake!

Sometimes I fear that the advent of social networking (Twit, FB) and new media (blogging, etc) is making us less civil as a species (the species I refer to us genus Christianus).  And this is sad, because Christians have a long history of harnessing new technologies for good purposes.  We used Roman roads and Koine Greek to spread the news about the kingdom in the 1st century, and centuries later made good use of the printing press to facilitate the Protestant Reformation.  So we have a track record of doing well.

But lately we’ve been doing poorly.  Recently one well known evangelical pastor was quoted on Twitter as saying that Christians don’t necessarily need to learn more about Scripture, they merely need to practice what they already know.  This pastor has a track record of faithful service in the church and a clear devotion to the Scriptures as a final authority in matters of faith and conduct.  Could be modified I think, but not bad advice overall.  Not long after that, another (also well known) evangelical pastor, seeing the quote, proceeded to accuse the first pastor of having “a classic low view of Scripture” and then went on to lampoon him in several later Tweets.

Now there are a lot of things I could say about this, but in the spirit of fairness I will just say the following:

  1. Obviously 164 characters is not sufficient space to articulate a thorough view of any given subject
  2. Obviously the 2nd pastor was smart enough to realize that; he’s not a dumb guy
  3. So I can only conclude that social networking is a vice to be avoided for him

It seems to me that social networking is a lot like booze – it doesn’t “create” behavior; it merely removes a person’s inhibitions so that whatever’s in their hearts comes out.  Am I wrong about this?  Then show me.  I’ve seen more Christians act like jack-you-know-what’s on FB and Twitter than I care to admit, and I can only conclude that they’re simply acting out the impulses in their souls – impulses that they do a halfway decent job of covering up in more “controlled” settings.

Charity, the Scriptures teach us, is the central Christian virtue.  That, at a minimum, means that we’re just, fair, and generous in our assessment of others, even, and I would say especially in places where’s its all-too-easy not to be.  And the reality is that the more we act out a lack of charity in this powerful but dangerous medium, the more we create a polarized and mistrustful atmosphere.

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”  We sow unfairness, we reap unfairness.  We sow love, we reap brotherhood.

So, in my judgment, when it comes to social networking – BE NICE! (For God’s sake)

Shalom.

6 thoughts on “Be nice, for God’s sake!

  1. Very good thoughts. I totally agree. It’s so easy to blast someone publicly from the privacy of our homes (or churches?), especially with the sad motivation to get others on an attack bandwagon. If we outta retreat from something, it’s attacking others, not limited to, but certain including other Christians! Eh?

  2. Pastor Andrew:

    I don’t disagree with what you have written. But when someone says something foolish (and this was foolish), it is okay to say so. That is not attacking the person, and I hope you see the difference. Hence, my tweet was from “J*** O******’s Logic.”

    It’s ironic to blog about the vices of social networking, eh? “Social Networking is a vice to be avoided for him.” Yikes. Isn’t that the sort of attack that your post is warning us against?

    Plank in my own eye,
    Matthew.

  3. Matt –

    Thanks for chiming in. If we can’t be charitable in social networking, it may be a vice to be avoided (for whomever). True or not true? I thought the comments were less than fair.

    And I agree that it’s fine to call out foolish comments, but I think it needs to be done with the same spirit of fairness that we would treat our closest friends. I doubt seriously if PJ would accuse one of his elders of having a “classic low view of Scripture” for saying something less-than-thorough. I think he would ask and probe before calling the person out publicly. Why would we not extend that same charity to those that are not quite as close to us? The whole spirit of the thing was sour to me. Felt like mud-slinging rather than a sincere attempt to understand, educate, and edify. Am I off base here?

    (Btw, my wife and I attended HBC during my sem years at TEDS, so we’re BIG fans of you guys and the ministry there. Just thought it was worth pushing back a bit.)

    Peace.

    Andrew

  4. Thanks for the clarification. A few thoughts, then in the spirit of your original post we can continue the discussion via email (if you’d like), or here at your admirable blog. mwesterholm’aht’gmail’dot’com.

    – “It may be a vice” is different than “I can only conclude.”
    – Calling someone out publicly should only be done for public errors.
    – The original quote wasn’t “less than thorough.” It was wrong.
    – My take is that PJ did this . . . meh, so your discussion about the inherent dangers of social media stand.
    – The whole universe is weird when something I wrote got retweeted by the punter for the Cleveland Browns.

    Andrew, I’m glad we blessed you and your wife. My family has relocated to Grand Rapids in the past two years. Something tells me this discussion would be a lot better in my kitchen, so here’s me agreeing with the substance of what you’ve written.

  5. Hey Matt – thanks for your gracious words. To respond quickly:

    – You’re probably right. Thanks for pointing out my own unfairness.
    – Agreed, however I think there’s a difference between pointing out error in public in order to help correct and/or lead others to the truth and picking a fight. IMHO, PJ seems to do the latter more than I think is wise and/or necessary. May simply be a personal thing with me, but I tend to think he would have MUCH more influence if he remembered that “pleasant words make a man persuasive, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.”
    – You may be right. I’d love to see the quote in context though. 164 characters and all… just aint enough space, and things can get skewed.
    – That would be my hope
    – You have a good sense of humor (punter for the Browns). I laughed out loud when I read this.

    Anyhow, thanks again for chiming in. And forgive me if my own comments here and there didn’t reflect the spirit of what I was trying to say.

    Grace and peace to you.

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