I’ve been on the Internet since the time when it was the ARPANET defense network linking universities and the military.
I was emailing people in 1981.
I was at Carnegie Mellon University when the smiley was invented there.
I owned a 300 baud modem.
I watched USENET spring into being, with its rec dots and alt whatevers.
I played in a band with one of the guys who developed the Netscape browser.
I had my own domain name in 1997.
I beta-tested Google.
I was blogging in 2001.
In other words, my cyberspace geek cred is pretty high.
I say all that to say this: Online discourse is only getting worse.
One could say that this is because the intellectual elites have ceded the Web to the great unwashed. Cyberspace is now a commodity. And as with most commodities, anything now goes.
One could argue that the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies even to human conversations, and if the Internet is any reflection, no rebuttal would be forthcoming.
Let’s play a game.
Let’s pretend to be aliens from another dimension who happen to gain access to the Internet. And let’s say that we start reading about this thing called Christianity and the people who adhere to it.
What would our general impression be of Christian people?
If the Internet is the well of information from which we draw, then would it be unfair to characterize Christianity as a religion of anger and dissension?
I’m no alien, but I’ve been around long enough online to answer that question with a reluctant yes.
And it’s not just on the Internet. The general level of anger and dissension among Christians has reached a level that resembles nothing I can recall in my younger Christian days. It’s like we’ve had our skin torn off and we think anyone and everyone is ready to throw salt on us.
I don’t understand the glee with which some Christians tear into others. I don’t understand respected pastors, who should know better, making smug tweets about this person or that. I don’t get it when people use online forums to gather wood for figuratively burning other Christians alive. I don’t get it that no one seems to ask if it’s wise to post that wicked barb before they hit the Enter key.
I don’t get the massive pride among some who feel they are always the best person to administer the corrective beat down. I don’t know where people get their imprimatur to verbally assault incomplete, imperfect brothers and sisters in the faith. And I don’t know why all this must occur online for the world to see.
The bent reed is broken. The smoldering ember snuffed.
Is anyone else grieved? God knows that I am. And if I am, I wonder what the average person who hasn’t been a Christian for almost 35 years thinks. That figurative “alien.”
I’m grieved that when I see Christianity represented on the Web by the ordinary adherents of that faith, so much of the discourse is angry. Angry at politicians. Angry at cultural leaders. Angry at Christian leaders. Angry at other Christians of extreme ordinariness. Angry at every perceived foe. Anger everywhere one turns, and especially on the Web.
Honestly, why would anyone want to be a part of that?
I’ve reached the point where I think we are doing the Lord a great disservice by all this anger. American Christians are now defined by what ticks us off. Or who ticks us off. And there’s not a lot of Jesus at the core of that.
The words of Jesus:
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”