5 Reasons Christians Need to “Stifle It” (and #6 Will Change Your Life)


I’ve come to the point that I no longer care about what happens in cultural evangelicalism. I walked away from evangelicalism years ago, frustrated with the direction of the movement. I guess this is the natural end point of that walking away.

My leaving, however, is not even a blip on the radar. No one cares. And why should they?

Since I’m pushing rapidly toward geezerdom, I remember the ’70s-era TV show All in the Family. Opinionated loudmouth Archie Bunker would shoot down wife Edith’s insights by telling her to “stifle it.” And people would laugh.

Archie BunkerBut as I look around the Internet, I see plenty of indicators that evangelicals need to take Archie’s advice and stifle it lest they become Archie Bunkers themselves. The Internet has become a gossip-fest, where too many Christians feel compelled to blather on about the latest scandal in the Christian community, whether it’s a real scandal or not. We must let others know just how a mature Christian views such goings on. We must.

I’ve been casually noticing the neo-Calvs cannibalize each other this past summer, culminating in one of their most famous members torn to pieces recently by former friends and supporters. The talk and speculation are crazed. It’s a nonstop train wreck, all of it, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think it makes us stronger.

We’ve become obsessed with celebrity Christians on the national stage, especially pastors, and their rightness or wrongness. We jump into cultural and racial conversations to inject supposedly Christian ideals, only they’re not all that Christian, and their lack of winsomeness makes us look horrible. We comment without facts. We talk without sense. We go on and on spouting myths. half-truths, and outright stupidity. We spew words about situations we know absolutely nothing about, and yet we think we’re worthy of enshrining on a panel for Meet the Press, Christian Edition, because we are so “wise.”

It’s foolishness writ large and in public. And nearly all of it does nothing but dishonor the Lord.

More than at any time in recent memory, I think we American Christians need a real self-check about how opinionated we’ve become. I know that’s an opinion in itself, but nonetheless, I think we would all be better off if we pulled out of all the online discourse and took a couple months off from making sure everyone knows what we think about _______.

One of the reasons that Cerulean Sanctum has been quiet goes beyond just my change in work. A good chunk of it is because I’m disgusted by online discourse. Everyone talks past everyone else, and there is little reasoned discussion. Worse, we seem to be investing huge amounts of emotional energy into conversations that have no Kingdom benefit—none. It’s just windbagdom, and it’s cruel, without love, and pompous to the nth degree.

Did you catch the title of this post? It’s SEO gold—at least the theory of it is. We’re sucked into this kind of thing on the Web, and it doesn’t help the situation. We feel we must comment. If a celebrity Christian’s name is attached, all the better.

Can we stifle it? Please? Does anyone else see how pathetic our discourse has become? Is my expressing my golden words the reason Jesus died? Is it critical to for everyone to know what you or I think about Pastor ________? Or about our government? Or about race relations in some town we’ve never visited? Or who is liberal and who is not? Or our thoughts on the sex lives of celebrities? Or why some actor killed himself? Or? Or? Or…?


Honestly, I’m at a point where I’ve stopped caring. We’re becoming blowhards talking our own smack. Time for all of us to wake up and get a life.

Your Church and the Facebook Friend Ignore


Facebook friend ignoreCommunity has been a buzzword in contemporary Church circles for the last dozen years, but I have yet to hear of a local church that does it well. Too many churches are lucky if they can find a way to get together once a week, much less three or four. I don’t hear of enough churches where the church members meet in each other’s homes regularly, outside of  the occasional small group.

In fact, my conversations lately have centered around how more and more of us are realizing our primary means of fellowship with other Christians outside of Sunday mornings is through Facebook. Which is why a recent discussion troubled me.

A friend mentioned that she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from others at her church. Evidently, she shared something with her carefully selected group of friends and it got back to an elder at her church with whom she was not Facebook friends yet. (I suspect another of her Facebook friends passed it along.) That elder then told the pastor of the church, and my friend ended up getting a pointed little “chat of correction” from the pastor the following Sunday morning.

The upshot is she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from everyone at her church.

I could identify. Something similar happened to me. While I haven’t ignored everyone in that circle of fellowship, I’m much more selective of Facebook friend requests as a result. Truthfully, that disappoints me greatly.

Only a fool would think the 21st century Church is immune to gossip. Still, that said, by their nature social networks tend to foster gossip, and I suspect some of you reading this who have been on Facebook for a couple years have been burned by something you wrote in an update. If fellow Christians precipitated the scorching, especially those at your own church, it hurts all the more. No one wants to share an update that they enjoyed a certain book and end up having to defend themselves on Sunday because someone at church found out through the gossip grapevine and took issue with their choice of reading material.

Given how much of our sense of social connection now exists through online means, I wonder if social networks such as Facebook are ultimately damaging our shot at real community. It’s something I’ve pondered for years, and when I get a friend request from someone I’ll chat with in church on Sunday but with whom I’m leery of sharing my Facebook updates outside of church, it makes me wonder if something vital is going unaddressed in our Christian community.

I truly believe a more fully realized community within the Body of Christ exists, but we certainly are not nurturing it as well as we should. And Facebook may not be helping, especially when Facebook friends talk about us in inappropriate ways and to the “wrong” people.

What do you think?

Cheep Cheep Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More


Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
—”Pick a Little” from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man

The image from my favorite musical is a crowd of well-to-do women in a circle squawking endlessly about this person and that, but mostly about River City’s librarian and the questionable relationship she had with the deceased owner of the local library. To drive home the point concerning their activity, the director of the film version of The Music Man juxtaposed the image of the bobbing, feather-hatted heads of the townswomen with hens pecking for grain.

Save for being carriers of bird flu, a hen is not considered a ferocious beast capable of inflicting great damage. Despite this, I suspect that few of us would want to be at the center of a flock of crazed chickens intent on driving us off. A peck is a peck, but multiplied a hundred times over, blood might very well be shed.

I know a couple driven off from a church recently by the relentless pecking of chicken-hearted people who love to hear themselves talk. Their talk is “cheep,” but it still hurts. The Bible says this:

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
—Proverbs 16:28 ESV

Loose lips sink ships, or so the old war caution went. I would contend that gossip sinks people and churches, too. Again, the Bible sets down a clear-cut case:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
—James 1:26 ESV

Isn’t it frightening how often the people who think of themselves as the pillars of our churches are all too often the ones flapping their jaws about this person or that, proving with the tongue how worthless their profession of faith is?

In the last few months I’ve witnessed some of the worst outcomes imaginable because of what one supposed Christian said about another. GossipNo matter if what was said is true or not, if the end result is that people are devastated by what was said, then we know the true origin of what the tongues wagged.

This is not about godly conviction —speaking the truth in love to people who are in sin—but about slander, backbiting, and pride. It’s about circulating gossip in the form of prayer requests, the infamous “Did you hear about Sister So-and-so’s sin? Let me tell you all about it, then we can pray for her more appropriately.”

We’ve all been on the receiving end of gossip. After a particularly difficult break-up with a girl, I was asked by a friend to come to a Christian singles group. I’d never been to one before. What I did not expect when I showed up that first night was to find that everyone there knew the intimate details of my break-up. My friend plead ignorance, and I believed him. He wasn’t the type. But I knew some other people in the group who weren’t so careful. How they knew this all, I could not know, but what I did know was that I was never coming back to this little group of gossips

I’d been a Christian for several years before that incident. While it was sickening, I’d built up some resistance to the poison. But what about those visitors who show up one Sunday in our pews and by the next Sunday everyone knows their particular issues? Worse yet is the ubiquitous telephone game that occurs when our oral tradition is lacking and what started out as “She entered her baked goods at the fair” transmogrifies into “She entered into an affair with the baker.” Your first week of considering a church and you’re trying to figure out which Sunday School room is your child’s. Next Sunday everyone is staring at you because you’re “that woman.”

I mentioned a couple days ago that the growth of the Church in America is stagnant at best and going downhill slowly at worst. And this despite being purpose-driven and seeker-sensitive! It seems to me, though, that at the root of our lack of growth is not just our evangelistic compromises, but the fact that we’ve somehow loused up simple human interaction. Perhaps we’ve become so self-centered and self-righteous that we can no longer look at another human being and put ourselves in his or her shoes. What else can explain how badly we treat other people?

I may have gone to a secular elementary school, but they drilled this one into us:

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
—Luke 6:31 ESV

Remember that one, The Golden Rule? How easily it’s consigned to a dusty trunk in the basement of our childhood. How many of us want to be on the wrong end of someone else’s gossip? Doesn’t it just tear your heart out to have it make the rounds for so long that it finally gets back to you? I hate to think that being on the receiving end of hurtful words is the only way to remember the Golden Rule.

I don’t care how great each of us will say our churches are, too many of them are filled with gossip. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that this might be the most prevalent corporate sin in our churches. (“Corporate” because no one person can be an effective gossip without another to willfully listen.) The amount of this will vary from church to church, but I doubt that it drops to zero anywhere.

What an incalculable human toll, though! If true love does not keep a record of wrongs, then our churches should be gossip-free zones 24/7/365. The mere thought of the Gospel and gossip spewing out of the same mouth together should keep us tongue-tied whenever the opportunity arises to scald someone with our words. Better to say nothing at all than to tear down our brother. Or better yet, how about this precious metal standard:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
—Proverbs 25:11 ESV

If we’re to be people of grace, then we have to be able to dispense it. Rather than speak ill of others, why not turn that around and find something edifying to say about them, instead? If we can’t find anything nice to say no matter how hard we try, then we’d better say something to the folks who run the discipleship programs at our church because they’re not doing their jobs very well!

Don’t spread gossip. Don’t listen to gossip.

The tongue is a fire. Keep the extinguisher handy.