The Virtue of Being Slow to Speak


Gagged and silencedOne of the ways social media may harm the Church (and society as a whole) occurs when Christians rush to comment on news stories and issues of social importance.

As I noted in my previous post, America’s Greatest Sin—And How It Sets the Stage for the Antichrist, we are obsessed to our detriment with novelty in America. If it’s new, it draws us. For Christians, though, being the first in line or first on the bandwagon is likely not a good thing.

The Ahmed Mohamed story blew up (no pun intended) this past week and incited much commentary on the Web, with people quickly choosing sides.

What disturbed me about this case is that we commented as if we had insider info about conversations that happened between the principals of the story: Ahmed, teachers, and police. We spoke as if we knew what was said that led to this young man’s handcuffing.

Problem is, we didn’t know. As more facts come in, it’s clear that more is going on than was initially known or reported.

I later read a screed that polluted further conversation about this case by examining the boy’s father’s past and drawing negative conclusions from that man’s run for president of Sudan and opposition to a Koran-burning pastor.

The problem there is the genitive fallacy, a logical fallacy that mistakenly draws conclusions based on a person’s past positions or allegiances and not on the facts at hand.

I also question Christians when we accuse someone of a response that if the situation were reversed and the Christian accuser were put in the place of the accused, the Christians would cry, “Persecution!” Could you and I be accused of the same thing we’re accusing someone else of? If so, how would we react to that accusation? Why would it be OK for us to react negatively and not the person we’re accusing? The Golden Rule applies to speech too.

Lastly, it’s September, the most active month for Christians making outlandish (and perpetually wrong) eschatological predictions. Christian obsession with the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that fall in this month means talk of doom, Rapture, more doom, and all manner of end-of-the-world predictions and visions.

Sigh. I am burned out of Christians doing the following:

1. Using logical fallacies to persuade

2. Rushing to promote some new End Times prediction by the latest hot “prophet”

3. Speaking without having all the facts

4. Condemning others using arguments that would cause outrage if the tables were turned

5. Not thinking long and hard before speaking

The Bible states we are ambassadors for Christ. A major characteristics of an ambassador is carefully choosing words so as to promote rational discussion of difficult issues, with a focus on creating peaceful outcomes that benefit all sides.

Can we Christians in America today say this is how we speak?

If we cannot—and I firmly believe we can’t—perhaps we should not be speaking at all. At least not until we have pondered and prayed over all the facts and can then speak in the way that an ambassador for Christ should. Seriously, we know many of the verses with which God chastens us concerning our speech. Are we obeying ANY of them? Do a study on what the Bible says about this topic. It’s a huge undertaking, believe me, because how we communicate with others is of great importance to God

In an age of social media, how must the Church speak and yet not appear uninformed, angry, hasty, or deaf? How do we operate as ambassadors of Christ in what we say, both in person and online?

Something to consider for this week and the days to come.

Free to Be the Person God Is Making Us


A woman known to be her town’s “crazy cat lady” walks into the local pet store and makes a request of the owner.

“You want to buy a bird?” the man asked, shocked. “You have a lot of cats.”

“I know,” said the woman, “but the variety would be nice. A songbird, with a melody in its heart and lovely plumage. I really want a bird.”

“Birds fly. They don’t use a litter box. No ‘nine lives’ with a bird,” the pet shop owner shot back. “They demand attention.”

“Yes, yes,” the woman replied, “I know all that. A bird, please. How about that lovely yellow one.”

“The canary.” The owner gave a baleful look toward the bird on its perch nearby. He really liked that bird.

“It sings, right?”

The owner paused a moment, then he nodded.

A cage later and a few supplies, and the woman left with her bird.

Six weeks later, the woman was back in the store. And the owner could tell something was wrong. When he saw her pull out a paper bag and heard a faint peep, his heart sank.

The woman upended the bag on the pet shop counter and something yellow slid out.

The canary lay there, dazed. Two rubber bands wrapped around its wings and its barely there belly. Feathers were frayed and missing, and the pet shop owner noticed remnants of what might be masking tape on its beak. The bird had a distinct eye twitch and wheeze.

“Heavens!” the man cried. “What happened?”

“Well, for one,” the woman began, “it likes to sing at the crack of dawn and I’m not an early riser, so I had to deal with that. Then I let it out of the cage to exercise, and it got caught in the flypaper, so no more flying.”

She pointed to the rubber bands.

“It’s a terrible mouser and turns up its beak at my tuna,” she added. “Snotty little thing…as if the tuna I give my kitties is not good enough for it. A terrible playmate for them too.”

The pet shop owner could only stare, eyes traveling from the bedraggled bird to the woman.

“In summation, sir, I want my money back, because this is clearly not a cat.”


Free to BeI think it is the scourge of our times that no one is grateful for what he or she has. This extends to how we are perceived by other people, sadly, as it seems also that no one is satisfied with us as we are either.

A spouse who now isn’t good-looking enough or as fit as society demands.

A worker who works differently or doesn’t fit within the culture.

A child with unusual skills or ideas that aren’t like ours.

A church member with a few character flaws and one of those “out there” spiritual gifts.

The truth is, everyone wants us to be something–or someone–else. Too many people have a personal ideal in their heads they want to apply universally, standards and restrictions that while reasonable for them might be totally unreasonable when applied to someone else. The world wants a cat, and yet you and I may be birds.

In short, many of us are forced into being someone we’re not.

Where this proves heartbreaking is when a Christian is not good enough for his or her church.

Every church has some legalistic conformity lurking within it. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Calvinist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Evangelical Free, or whatever. Somewhere in your church is this idea that whomever it is that God has made you, that person you are is not good enough, not right enough, not conformed enough, or not gifted enough. You simply are not the person you should be.

And the only way to get out of that inadequacy is to ___________.

Now you can fill that blank with countless legalistic demands, but the fact remains: None of that is of God.

I can say that with some confidence because this is how God sees you (as written by the Apostle Paul):

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
–Philippians 1:6

If you are a born-again Christian, who began the work of making you to be the best you? God.

Who is currently doing that work in you? God.

Who is responsible for the timing of that work in your life? God.

So who on earth can say that the you you are right now is inadequate, not right, broken, unmanageable, incapable, lacking, ungifted, gifted wrongly, or any of a million other accusatory statements?

No one.

Actually, I’m wrong about that. There is one entity whose sole role is to go around telling you and me all those terrible things. Care to guess who? Hint: Think an entity Jesus vanquished utterly.

Tragically, people aren’t supposed to usurp the job of Satan, yet we do it all the time.

Now we would have to be optimistic fools to think that the world isn’t going to play accuser. The world’s in the grip of Satan.

But what excuses Christians to denigrate another Christian? When we act that way, aren’t we saying to God that He isn’t working so-and-so’s sanctification the right way? Aren’t we putting God on our timetable for His work in another’s life? Aren’t we simultaneously playing the role of both God and Satan? How totally messed up is that?

Folks, there’s wisdom in saying that God is working His way His way in the lives of every Christian on this planet. Sometimes we can help bolster that work when God asks us to, and sometimes He may ask us to be the voice of Truth in another’s life, but more often than not we give too much power to our efforts to remake people in our own image and not allow God the right to better them as He sees fit and in His timetable. We look at Philippians 1:6 and just blow it off, because deep down inside, we don’t believe it. We think we know better.

And that’s the oldest mistake in the Book.

Attack of the Online “Prophets”


Ad hominem abusive.

If you don’t know what that means, here’s the ever-convenient Wikipedia with the answer:

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Fallacious ad hominem reasoning is normally categorized as an informal fallacy, more precisely as a genetic fallacy,  a subcategory of fallacies of irrelevance. Ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact.
Wikipedia entry for ad hominem

I’ve been on the Internet from before it was the Internet. Back in my earlier days at Carnegie Mellon University, I would send emails to a friend at MIT using the old ARPANET defense network, which evolved into the modern Internet. How long ago was this? Well, the smiley emoticon was “invented” at CMU during my tenure as a student.

So, I’ve watched the Internet grow up.

Sad to say, but I think that as the Internet grew up, the people who used it didn’t. And this brings us back to that Latin phrase above and its definition.

I don’t know what has happened in recent years, but I’m seeing an increase in ad hominem attacks online. The worst part of this is the attacks often come from Christians.

A fictional, but true to form, example:

ScourgePerson A : “Yes, you need to love people in Jesus’ name, but you can’t excuse their sin. Love them, but call them to repentance too.”

Person B : “Clearly, you are a legalistic fool who doesn’t know the Lord. Jesus is love. Love is all that matters—and you would know that if you truly know Him. But you don’t. I bet a Pharisee like you has never loved anyone except yourself.”

That’s what passes for discourse and an engagement of ideas, and I’m seeing it more and more on Christian websites.

Beyond the fact of ad hominem‘s status as a logical fallacy unworthy of use in debates and discussions, it’s the faux prophetic attitude of people that bothers me greatly. Too many Christians are presuming to know the spiritual condition of another person with whom they converse online, but without having met that person or read anything else that person may have written. Instead, ad hominem attacks often come out at the first interaction.

At the risk of being accused of an ad hominem attack myself, I must say that this borders on divination. Really. Because the ad hominem user is not only NOT being loving toward a fellow believer, he or she is claiming to scry out the spiritual condition of the other person, as if doing a fortune teller’s “cold reading.”

Folks, we can’t do this. Ever.

Online discourse is in a race to the lowest common denominator. When people who claim to be Christians drop words like unbeliever or heretic almost as a reflex in reference to others online, they run a great risk of sin—and in a public space for lost people to note. We’re the light of the world. If our discourse is filled with negative “prophetic” statements about other people we engage in cyberspace, then that light becomes darkness. Then we scratch our heads when other people say, “No, I don’t want anything to do with your Jesus or your Christian religion.”

If we’re going to be online and discussing difficult topics, engage ideas. Challenge concepts. Dismantle erroneous thinking.

But don’t dismantle people. And for the sake of your own soul, don’t attempt to play diviner into someone else’s spiritual state, especially when that perceived foe states nothing online that would serve as fodder for such pronouncements.