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.”
14 thoughts on “How Would Jesus Blog?”
I’d like to hope Jesus wouldn’t blog (or FB or tweet): “Farewell, Keith Brenton.”
I’d like to hope that He would e-mail privately, “Blessed are you, for even though you understand only a tiny fraction of My nature, you still seek My face.”
And even if He e-mailed it to me through a listserv, I would be content.
I don’t know what we’re doing to ourselves, Keith. It’s very sad to me, and the big brouhaha isn’t even the one that is most firm on my radar. It’s the little ones involving people not on the national level. It’s so many things about the way we treat each other. I sometimes wonder if anyone ever considers being in that other person’s place, even once. We’re far too into our own worlds that it seems like the worlds of other don’t matter at all. I don’t see how Christians can live like that.
I think part of it is due to the fact that while the Internet connects us, it also de-personalizes us. We’re all just names (or pseudonyms) in the comments sections. We don’t see each other as real persons – believers or not.
And that’s the other cause that has to be reckoned with: the ongoing popularity of choosing up sides and smelling armpits (as my colorful uncle Gene used to say). From politics to entertainment (“Survivor” comes to mind) to online polls … everything glorifies what we individuals think. Christianity should have been immune, but we weren’t and aren’t.
Last week a reader on my blog called me the worst thing he could think of (in his subculture of my fellowship’s subculture) and still be thought of as a Christian within his sub-sub-culture: he called me a “change agent.” That’s code for “heretic.”
It gave me cause to remember something I had posted on Facebook not many days before: “When I am tempted to excoriate a brother who disagrees with me, I try to picture myself discovering his place card across from mine at the banquet table in heaven.”
But the question that really haunts me is: Why is there a sub-culture within a sub-culture within Christianity … rather than just Christianity?
I think you’re right about the de-personalizing aspect of the Internet. I notice the same dynamic on the highway, where people do things to one another that they wouldn’t dream of doing to their face. The person in the other car becomes an object, and ceases to be a person at all … simply because we can’t see their face. How much more so over the Internet?
I blog on a website about business topics, and I’ve been writing about B2B cold-calling. People opposed to it have called me a “bottom feeder” for advocating it, and that “I have no soul.” As Christians, we should be different than the world. It’s sad when we’re not.
Thank you for the words that describe what I’ve been feeling for quite some time now.
Dire Dan: “Honestly, why would anyone want to be a part of that?”
Let me refer you to the Bloke Katzbalger Thesis.
Really, things are business as usual. There is nothing new going on. What has happened is that the Internet merely amplified to mega-decibel levels something that was already there, having erased all the previous limitations. With a high speed connection, any Bloke Katzbalger can broadcast to the ends of the earth.
Good post. I agree.
We folks with blogs should not believe our own press. I realized a few years ago how easy it is to get a swelled head about blog stats or the fact that people comment on posts. Fact is, anyone on the Web, no matter what he or she writes, can gather followers. We can’t let that ever be a sign of the profundity of our writings.
I wish more people thought that way. We are all dust. We need a dose of humility every day or else we will turn into monsters.
Thanks , it seems to the the “Christian passion” to prove and defend their point at the expense of ‘Love your neighbor”
A balance exists. A process exists. But we like going in the direction that makes our prideful selves look best. We can’t do that anymore. We have to lead with love. If that love is routinely rejected, then perhaps the harsh response is the only way.
It’s a little bit like being in a meeting at work reviewing the stats for the quarter. On salesperson says the stats are grim, but you say that perhaps there’s another way of understanding them. The other salesperson then pulls out a can of mace and unloads it in your face.
That’s about where we seem to be today. God help us.
What should we do about Gals. 5:12 “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!’ Not very loving words, in fact much of the letter deals very strongly with those who preach false doctrine and are false teachers.
When the gospel is at stake, the means of being loving, edifying, salt-flavored, grace-filled may require harsh words in order to protect the flock, the church for whom Christ died.May God give us much wisdom in how to speak the truth in love, especially when we have to call a spade a spade.
I am honestly tired of so many people immediately running to Gal. 5:12. I think that we are severely unbalanced in that direction. “Harsh words” are the first line of defense for too many. Perhaps going back to the Sermon on the Mount would be good for us.
The Gospel is just as much in peril when the world perceives Christianity as the religion of anger. We are fast getting to that point, if we are not already there.
I knew a man who was an amazing example of love. He perpetually loved people into the Kingdom. I never once saw him get angry at anyone. When he died, his funeral was packed out by people who were amazed how much he loved other people and was used of God in one miraculous way after another. The number of people who were Christians because of that man’s living out the Gospel is startling. I know because I am one of them. If he had been more like the angry Christians that seem to be everywhere today, I believe I would still be on the outside looking in.
Lead with love. Love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us. If they will not respond to love, then get harsh, but only by the Spirit’s direction and only after ensuring that those same sins don’t beset us. Not every Christian is fit to wear Paul’s mantle. We should be more humble when we assume to wear it.
i’m just thinkin’ that our Lord probably does take part in some communication online, through people, in His own way.
POWERFUL post, man. 🙂
GOt me thinking….
“I don’t get it when people use online forums to gather wood for figuratively burning other Christians alive.”
It seems the spirit of persecution is alive and well in the church today. I truly believe that if it were acceptable, Christians would still be burning other Christians at the stake for their “heretical” beliefs. But since it’s not possible, they’ll do it any way they can. So your analogy is a right on the money.
When Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” I didn’t realize he meant that “they” would be fellow believers.