I’m worried. I’ve seen the evidence all over the place. The Church has a problem that is quickly spiraling out of control. If the problem is left unchecked, I feel it may do more damage than we could possibly imagine.
It’s us, we’re the problem.
To be specific, it’s Christians, the Church, and those who call themselves faithful and our ever-growing love of all things social media. Quite frankly, we’re out of control and we’re playing a dangerous game. We’ve taken something innocent, valuable, and full of potential and we’ve missed the point. We’ve fallen in love with social media and we’ve damaged our reputation.
Before we get too far, I want to apologize, you see, I’m part of the problem. I’ve bought into the power of social media as well. For years, I’ve played the game. I’ve created Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts. You name it, I’ve had it. I love them and I see how much value they innately possess. I see the connections, the opportunities, and the ability to reach out and I see vast potential. Then, I look up and down my accounts and (often) find shame, reproach, and the types of things that embarrass me from people I’m ashamed to call my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Far too often I’ve seen behavior on social media I can’t excuse. I’ve seen bullying, I’ve seen threats, I’ve seen gossip, and all of it has made me callous. What used to shock me, doesn’t anymore. I blame the climate of our day for a lot of it. The overriding principle of America in 2018 is submission and self-righteousness. It’s the opposite of grace, humility, and vulnerability. It’s attack-minded, pack-oriented domination – and it makes me sick.
I wish my disgust was only aimed at non-Christians, atheists, and left-wing hypocrites, but sadly, that’s just not the case. You see, I’d fit in then. I’d be just like those I see so often with nothing to say shouting from the top of their Facebook profile. I’d say the things people expect me to say. I’d be the things they assume I am. I’d fit the mold of what my profile says I should think, say, and be. The problem is, I don’t say, do, or think those things.
It bothers me that rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself shocked by what a fellow Christian or (dare I say) even fellow preacher has to say on social media. If it’s not an attack on another faith, it’s an attack on an opposing political party (or politician) or an opposing mindset. It horrifies me that I’ve seen those who spout love, patience, and grace from their pulpits offer very little in return online. I’ve even seen preachers become apocalyptic in their political ramblings and far too often, I’ve seen a discussion escalate into a he-said, she-said knockdown, drag-out, war of words.
I’ve seen it all and it makes me sick. Just recently, I participated in an experiment. I found a tweet I disagreed with and tried to have a civil conversation with the person who wrote it. I actually found two, both written by famous theologians in the broad sense of the Christian faith. Neither of them responded to me personally, however, in both cases, I received a response. The first one, after several people responded to my statement showing support for it and questioning his line of thinking and Biblical interpretation, deleted the tweet without any explanation. There was no follow-up, no validation, he just erased the moment and moved on. Needless to say, I found that very disappointing.
The next tweet was from a famous female teacher who has quite the following. She has written several books and spearheads the movement against compartmentalism in the Church. She made a statement attacking the intentions of people who teach such a doctrine. I asked a question about Ephesians 5:25 and compared a marriage to the Church. I spoke about them being divine institutions with a God-ordained pattern of leadership, headship, and purpose for both roles.
Once again, I received no response from her, but boy did I ever get a response from one of her disciples. I have to admit, it was mostly cordial, yet it still felt confrontational. I tried my best to explain my understanding of Scripture (without any express statement of opinion), only to be called a bad father, a bad husband, and theologically out-of-date. I don’t personally know the lady who responded to my tweets but I know her type. She was someone determined to convince me I’m wrong or prove to the world (or at least those who’d read) that I was uneducated. She was on the attack because my theology offended her. I didn’t think less of her because we disagreed, I just wanted to know why she hated my point-of-view so much.
I wrote to her at the end of the discussion and thanked her for the opportunity to discuss our differences. She responded likewise and we agreed to go our separate ways. Just like that, it was done, and I imagine I’ll never hear from her again. It was like hundreds or thousands of quasi-relationships I’ve had on social media that contain no substance, no accountability, just disagreement. At the end of the day, it accomplished what I thought it would accomplish – very little.
I started those conversations wondering what it would be like to share my faith over social media. I’ve tried to keep it fairly straightforward in the past. Never afraid to highlight what I was doing, never afraid to mention something I wrote about or something I was going to preach about. However, never before had I immersed myself so deeply into a conversation like ours. I had hoped it would be enlightening, instead, it was frustrating. As I tweeted back and forth I found myself spinning an imaginary wheel like a gerbil. I was getting nowhere and after the encounter, I have no intentions of walking back into a moment like that anytime soon and I won’t encourage any of you to start one up either.
I do want to beg every person who reads this to avoid conflict, over-the-top statements, irrational, emotional appeals that raise your blood pressure, and (with the strongest urge I can muster) fights on social media. Christians are called to be a “light of the world,” and a “city that can’t be hidden,” in Matthew 5:14. Let’s make sure that light and that city are seen because of their encouragement, their grace, and their ability to reflect Christ.
Let’s be better on social media because we have to be. Let’s avoid things that cause “disputes rather than Godly edification,” (see 1 Timothy 1:4) and let’s be people across social media who say what needs to be said in a way that brings glory to God and not shame to His Church.
Let’s be better.