Okay, so I go away for the weekend only to come back to what appears to be a collective nervous breakdown in the Christian Blogosphere.
Folks, I know that no one cares to read us out there in the secular world, but still. If we're going to act like imbeciles, then our witness is destroyed, toasted, racked on a spit, and baked to a crackly crunch. Is that what we're about? Does it lift up the name of Jesus for us to go postal on each other?
I understand that even now a horde of Slice of Laodicea commenters, brows knit in consternation, is marching up to the Great White North, torches in readiness, to roast Tim Challies' backbacon. Ingrid's already apologized for the unintentional outcome of the post that created this stir, but when you can't tell the trolls from the real commenters on your blog, you've got deep blogging issues.
James White is ranting that some Baptist Web site won't answer his e-mails from almost three years ago. The way things are going over at his blog, I expect to see him drop the term "semipelagian poopyhead" on some minor heretic any day now. Loved his take on KJV-only and his book The Forgotten Trinity, but anymore I leave his site feeling drained.
A number of Christian blogs (I'm not even going to name because I'm tired of it) are leveling the boom on Rob Bell of this advice first.) I knew Rob from Wheaton College, and yes, he was "unique." But I can't tell you anything about him based on a sound bite. Before we publicly lambaste someone who claims to be a brother in Christ, we better have our facts straight. A couple quotes from a secular newspaper doth not a lynching make.based on quotes from a secular newspaper. Do I have to remind the owners of those blogs of the last three years of MSM implosions based on lousy reporting? There's a little thing called "context" that can turn quotes 180 degrees. My advice? Go to his church and see for yourself—then you can desecrate him all you want (as long as you follow
I feel sad writing this post. About four times I nearly threw the whole thing away because I don't want to be accused of perpetuating the same problem I'm complaining about.
I've long contended that the Internet is not real life. It's a lousy community when you get right down to it. And for that reason I want to tell a story from my own life that I hope you all will read and consider.
When I was at Carnegie Mellon University studying AI & Robotics in the early 1980s, CMU was on the cutting edge of the pre-Internet world. Every dorm had networked computers, IBM was opening up a networking research center on campus, and there was so much stinking CPU horsepower at the school that they ran their HVAC systems through the mainframe cooling systems in order to heat their academic buildings. In short, only MIT was even close in computing power.
One of the cool things about the school was that it was on ARPANET. I could e-mail a friend at MIT. Back then that was something. We also had a college online community that existed only in cyberspace. We talked about every subject imaginable. Everyone had cool handles, so it was easy to hide behind our anonymity and be "free."
I liked to hang out in an area discussing Christianity. Needless to say, it got contentious considering that the (self-identified) "heathen" to Christian ratio was about 500:1. One day a "heathen" posted something really sick and the worst flame war I've ever seen in my life erupted. I tried with all my might to keep it civil, but things got out of control. I've never seen such hateful things said in my life from people with handles like Blasphemer, Bot, Mr. Wizard, and Grue.
Yet behind each of those handles was a person—someone I could be sitting next to in class and not even know it. So I proposed something radical. I asked that the most vocal people—about forty altogether—meet up at a local Italian restaurant for dinner. We could talk face-to-face, drop the anonymity, and be real people. Maybe then we could come to a better understanding. Everyone in the flame war agreed, all forty.
I reserved a room at the Italian place, set up carpools with the forty, arranged a rendezous on campus so we could drive down in the carpools, and had the whole thing worked out. I was really looking forward to this.
Day comes, my watch shows 4:30 PM. I'm in the meeting spot for the carpools and no one shows. Around 4:40, my laid-back, barefoot Christian buddy, Tom (AKA "Captain Zodiac"), arrives and says, "Hey, where is everybody?" Tom and I sat there until 5:15 before we finally called the restaurant, canceled, and went upstairs to grab a burger in the lounge cafeteria.
Two days later, most everyone was at it again on the BBS system, flaming away. When I asked where everyone had been, there was a vast silence. I never got a response. As for me, I gradually bowed out of the "conversation" having learned a great lesson about human nature.
Folks, a name and a postage stamp-sized pic on the Web is not a person. You don't know me and I really don't know you, either. It's easy to tear out someone's heart on the Web through our pseudo-anonymity. It is far harder to tear out someone's heart in person. But when we get right down to it, the Lord would not have us savage each other on the Web anymore than He would condone us savaging each other in person.
Can we all just take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds? Can we count to ten before we post the latest flame bait or character assassination. I'm tired of the hunt for heretics. Cerulean Sanctum gets more combined hits from people looking for heretics than any other kind of Google search. That's really sad.
Is this all we are about? I've blogged many times about this, but it's getting stupid now and I'm questioning why we Christians even blog if this is all we can do.
If the picture that some of us are presenting to the world at large looks like a bunch of fussbudget, life-haters on a perpetual witch hunt, well let me tell you we're excelling at that.
Can we stop for a while? Please? I'm pleading now. Let's stop slaying each other remotely via words. Just last week I proposed that we spend a month in prayer for anyone we disagree with before we write them up on our blogs as "Enemies of Christ." Is that an impossible request?
August is a new month. Yes, it's a hot hazy one in much of the nation, but we can bring down the temperature if we try. Can we attempt this month to write something better on our blogs than one spiritual smackdown after another?
I have an idea. Why don't we try to reach out to some secular blogs and see if we can reciprocate some blogrolling. Better yet, why don't we try to reach out to some secular bloggers who may never have had a good relationship with anyone who takes the name of Christ and show them the love of Jesus any way we can? Can we try to turn the "dog days" of August into the "God Days" of August?
Isn't that ultimately the heart of the Lord for all of us God-bloggers?