7 Essential Checks for Christian Interaction Online


I think that 2016 will go down as the year that American Christianity jumped the shark.

And I say that as a Christian.

We have as a right in this country the ability to speak our minds. Fact is, some people shouldn’t. Not because of any totalitarian government silencing them, but because they have no wise filter ensuring that what they say should actually be said.

I think that 2016 is headed toward the nadir because Christian people cannot tone down the rhetoric on social media. Too much of what is said out there by supposed representatives of Christ not only has no Christ in it, but that vacuum gets filled by the Enemy. It’s rage-filled, hateful, denigrating, factious, and in many cases, known lies (which get a shrug when called out).

Blasting our opinionI understand that much of this comes from a place of fear caused by loss of power and control. But are any of those attributes associated with the Kingdom of God? No. In fact, in the Kingdom of God, loss of earthly power is a good thing, and fear gives way to love.

One of the realities that bothers me more and more is that while many Christians can recite chapter and verse from memory, scant few actually take it to heart and live it. There’s a huge disconnect between Christian knowledge and Christian praxis, and the praxis only come through wisdom, which seems in increasingly short supply. I am continually disheartened by Christians who can quote a bunch of verses on peace and love and then go out and attack others with distasteful words.

I do not want to add to the freedom of the Gospel by laying a weight of “do this…” activities on anyone’s list. I offer the following simply as questions that Christians should ask themselves when interacting with others, especially online:

  1. Am I being an ambassador for Christ? (In that role, am I working toward unity and toward finding common ground?)
  2. Or am I actually a fomenter? (Should I really join in an argument that will only further rile me and everyone else here, causing further divisions rather than unity?)
  3. Am I a safe person? (When I wade into a conversation, am I the person who helps tone down the rhetoric and earns the respect of both sides?)
  4. Am I sharing the truth in a winsome way? (Am I actively avoiding trying to score points for myself or my “team”?)
  5. Am I keeping the proper kingdom in view? (Are my eyes set on the Kingdom of God or on earthly kingdoms instead?)
  6. Am I displaying the proper citizenship? (Am I approaching this as a citizen of heaven or as an earthbound, sectarian nationalist?)
  7. Am I advancing the cause of Christ? (Is my speech here bringing people closer to Jesus or driving them away?)

There are too many Christians who believe that because Jesus said He came to bring a sword that divides (Matthew 10:34-36), even between family members, that this is to be their role as well.

Wrong. The role of the Christian is to be an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5: 18-21). Present Christ. Work toward reconciliation. It is not our job to be a divider. If there is to be any divisiveness, let Christ be the one who does it. Dividing is not our job and never has been.

If Christians want to know why our voice is less heeded in the marketplace of ideas today, it’s not because of conspiratorial machinations of shadow governments and their minions. It’s because our speech is no longer infused with the unique aroma of heaven. Instead, it takes on the same stench as the rest of the spewed vitriol the world dishes out. We have become indistinct, and we have done so because we have adopted the world’s speech and not the Lord’s.

Next time we feel compelled to press the Enter key on that Facebook or Twitter post, let’s run the seven checks first. We may find that what we have to say may not pass the tests and should be better left unsaid. Then let’s find a response that does and be those ambassadors we were charged by God to be.

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.