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.

Media Clickbait and the Rise of the Hostile Pseudo-Christian


This past week, I read news stories that included the following:

  • Passengers applaud the removal of a sick Hispanic boy from a plane
  • Illinois debates a bill that forces women to legally name the father of their children, even in the case of rape

Enough to raise your hackles, right? What an uncaring mob on that plane! What an abrogation of good ol’ American right to privacy!

What in the hell is wrong with the world today?!

Well, maybe it has something to do with this acronym:


In case you haven’t read enough to encounter it before (oh, the wicked irony!), TL;DR stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read.

In what may be the most spotlight a semicolon ever received, this phrase expresses the go-go, harried nature of life today. A whole lot of data and words, and not enough time to properly ponder any of it. In fact, some news sources now include a TL;DR sidebar that summarizes the whole article. With Google claiming that 2,200 words is the SEO sweet spot for authoritative articles, it seems in an age of TL;DR, we now have even more content we’re reading even less.

And the less we’re reading is cheesing us off to no end.

AngryReally, is it just me, or is everyone in a pissy mood?

Maybe this will make you more angry than you already are, but the headlines on those two articles up top are both lies. Sort of.

Clickbait is a term used to describe any headline or story phrased in such a way to suck people in. Given the overflow of info available, crafting a headline that grabs people is the difference between read-filed and dead-filed. No point in writing what people don’t read, no matter how stupendous the content might be. In an age of social media, some people read no further than that grabby headline.

The problem: Too many clickbaity headlines get written to purposefully rile. Write something that appeals to anger, and voila! Click, click, click.

About those two articles above…

Anyone who followed up on the awful, discriminatory, uncaring crowd aboard that plane later found that almost no one on the plane knew the boy was having a medical emergency. All they knew is that they were sitting on the tarmac for hours, missing connections and generally not getting where they needed to go. It wasn’t about the boy, his emergency, or his ethnicity at all. People didn’t applaud the boy’s exit; they applauded because an unknown delay finally got resolved and they could take off.

But a plane finally departing after a couple hours doesn’t make a story. Decrying fellow humans for prejudice and heartlessness–real or imagined–does.

Likewise, after castigating the bill proposer in the Illinois “name the father or else” story, a paragraph near the end states that the bill had been sponsored in an effort to help single mothers collect on deadbeat and absent fathers. It wasn’t a Nazi-like effort to embarass women but a means to help curtail the epidemic of fathers who inseminate, bolt, and let their partners and kids fend for themselves.

But that’s not at all what the headline implies.

What’s even more galling than these twisted headlines that hint at a different truth than the actuality just to entice people? That online news today enables instant editing and retraction. News organizations may alter headlines repeatedly to test which ones draw more people. Increasingly, articles also receive edits in real time, which means the story you read an hour ago may not have the same content an hour later.

The upshot: Media sources play emotional games with us, fostering anger where little or no anger should exist.

What does this mean for Christians?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Those are the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in Jesus. The Lord Himself said that these traits distinguish someone who knows God from someone who does not. Their presence marks regenerated and saved believers, while their absence proves who is unregenerated and damned.

Right now in America, a lot of angry, hostile “Christians” are changing the future of this country for the worse. We see them online fighting, cursing, and calling others names. They throw support behind people who show no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, and in their own dealings with others, they show evidence for all the traits opposite that fruit. They weep and gnash their teeth. Their general horribleness toward their fellow man makes the Baby Jesus cry.

And they may be you and me.

Media clickbait, purposefully twisted news headlines, and stories written to highlight the worst lies rather than the best truths are contributing to the social decrepitude of many. We’re all becoming worse people because we have a permanent chip on our shoulders and a stoked need to lash out at evil and enemies.

But are we adding to evil and becoming enemies of God as a result?

What does it mean when someone who claims to be Christian instead maintains an angry, hostile, permanently livid persona, especially online or in dealing with other people? Where are the fruits of the Spirit by which genuine believers must be known?

I can’t tell anyone how to live. Yet when I see what this suspect news fosters and note what it’s doing to people, I wonder if it’s best for Christians to start pulling back from media consumption.

Because what does it all profit us to engage information if we lose our souls in the process?

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.