Christians Should Be the Most Gracious and Edifying People on Social Media

I like Alastair Roberts. Here’s some wisdom for you (emphasis mine):

Progressive versus conservative evangelical spats are one of the very worst things about Twitter, which is really saying something. Such arguments illustrate just how poor a medium Twitter can be for productive conversation, not least on account of its tendency to foreground some of the shrillest and most antagonistic voices on both sides and privilege reactive instinct over considered response. What results is generally more of a predictably polarizing exercise in group psychology than an illuminating exchange. The issues get lost behind the personalities, the party politics, the outrage-mongering, and the emotionality and, rather than making progress, we all end up that bit more alienated from and frustrated by each other.

This is extremely unfortunate, not merely because of the animosity it excites, but also because issues of no small importance become snarled up in the instinctive antagonisms and alignments of a crowd of people who really shouldn’t be in the same room. The form of historic communications media meant that participation in theological discourse was generally heavily restricted to people with extensive learning or significant qualifications, to people who were expected to be able to defend their claims without erecting human shields around them, and to people who were subject to a code of discourse. By contrast, the Internet gives prominence to people who lack either the learning, the self-mastery, or the character to engage in a calm and effective conversation. It gives the young, the popular, and the polarizing an unhealthily high profile. It also has the unfortunate tendency to bring out the worst in people who actually have something to say that is worth hearing.

Now this is awfully convenient. Guys with PhDs telling other people they shouldn’t speak because they don’t have the qualifications; they don’t have the right to express an opinion. But, no, it’s not like that. Alastair is bookoo smart, so there are many, many, many topics he can speak on with authority and profit. The list of topics I can speak to edifyingly is radically shorter than his. But I know I, and I am certain he, backs off of certain issues. I’m just not going to write an article about climate change or medicine or pretty much anything in the field of economics. I don’t really have a right to a publicly expressed opinion on those things. I wouldn’t want to dilute people’s trust in me by spouting off on them and putting my ignorance on display. It would be a folly and shame to me (Prov 18:13).

Proverbs 18:13 should, in fact, be a lens through which all Christians view social media. If you give an answer before you really hear the question, before you really grasp the issues, before you’ve listened to both or all sides, before you’ve taken time to drill down through your dirty prejudices (we’ve all got ’em) and come back out with some clean truth, God says it’s shameful.

If you or I do need to discuss an issue we don’t have great facility in, maybe just maybe we ought to be tentative and humble. Not that knowledge gives one the right to be proud, of course. But Christians, who of all people should know humility—because you can’t get into the club without admitting your depravity—should ideally be the most gracious and edifying people on social media.

Sigh.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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