For those of you who’ve been following along with my series, 10 Things I Hate About Facebook, I’ve been addressing the things we as Christians tend to to do with our social networking spaces that aren’t edifying or beneficial for others. We point to ourselves when we should be pointing to Jesus, we drown our brothers and sisters with our own extra-biblical convictions, and we expend an excessive amount of energy making others feel inferior for diverging from us.
Essentially what I’ve been talking about is creating unnecessary divisions in the body over issues that should never drive wedges in our relationships. We should be lining up along kingdom lines, seeking to build unity with our siblings, but instead we draw our own lines of inclusion and exclusion—a thousand different food preferences, birth control methods, educational convictions, and so on. It’s not bad that we have personal convictions on these topics; the problem is the way we treat others who legitimately disagree with us on them.
When the only thing we think about is our own selfish agenda, we tend to use Facebook either as a never ending stream of self-glorifying PR content or as a beat stick. We just don’t see the ways we’re being offensive.
6. There are those who make sport out of saying controversial, incendiary things, just for the sake of agitating others.
No matter what the scenario is—whether it’s the latest political fiasco or religious hubbub—there are those within the Christian community who take it upon themselves to say something incendiary or controversial. Certainly there is an appropriate time to say hard things that cut against the grain and offend.
But what I’m talking about are the people who always seem to have something radioactive to say, even when it’s not necessary to be offensive. It’s like they actually enjoy being the thorn in everyone’s flesh, regardless of the setting or timing. It’s no different than the shock jock ESPN “analysts” or local sportswriters who’ll say anything to cause a stir, to be the center of attention.
A few recent tweets from a popular reformed personality make this point clear. The first set came following Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster in opposition to drone use in the U.S.:
Conservatives who argued for attacking a hostile nation possessing WMD shouldn’t object to drone attacks in America. That’s us.
Look on the bright side. Maybe if our leader starts killing our citizens Iraq will invade us.
And about a month ago on birth control:
Birth control, like abortion, is sexual bulimia.
Politics and birth control—two issues on which the spectrum of legitimate, biblical Christian opinion and conviction could not be broader. Many within the Reformed community disagree on issues like these, and that’s not even talking about Christendom as a whole.
So like any good shock jock, what does this influential teacher do? He essentially equates America with a dictator-led Iraq and takes a pot shot at every other conservative who doesn’t agree with him in the process. He has some legitimate points, but the wild exaggeration and inflammatory nature of the comments make you want to reject everything he just tweeted. There’s something to be said about tactfulness and winsomeness, and many don’t get that.
The birth control comment is about as careless, offensive and idiotic as a person can get. It is willfully divisive, aimed not at abortionists but those within the Christian community who don’t hold a “God will determine my family size” position. Like the dodgeball teammate who’s started throwing rubber balls at your head, you feel like yelling back, “Hey man, same team!”
Here’s what’s happening: You’re taking a particular issue that can be biblically defended on both sides of the aisle from an orthodox position, and you’re using extreme exaggeration to compare your brother who uses birth control to the kind of person who murders their children or induces vomiting after meals. This takes an in-house family matter and turns it into an “us vs. them” divide.
Let’s turn the tables: “Limitless family size, like radical Islam, is a jihad against the infidel world.”
You see what I did there? I said everyone who wants a large family is about the same as radical Islamic terrorists who want to take over the world by force and number. Incendiary, inflammatory and completely careless. Compare that to a small sampling of biblical instruction we’re given about the use of our words:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1)
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (15:7)
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (25:11)
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
There is a time and place for giving offense and saying controversial things. When Paul recounts how he corrected Peter in Galatians, he tells us the gospel was at stake, so he was warranted in doing an offensive thing—he called Peter out publicly, in front of everyone. But you don’t do that every time, and you certainly don’t do it over mere preference issues.
When it comes to issues of conscience—especially the ones that have been historically difficult to deal with and which many sound Christians have disagreed on—we need to be extremely careful not to offend our brothers in Christ. We have freedom in Christ so that we can love our brothers, not so we can rip them apart over our own personal decisions (Galatians 5:1-15).
That’s why I think it’s completely unbiblical for Christians to make a sport out of saying patently offensive things just to piss people off. The church needs prophets. We do not need the Christian version of Howard Stern to create hostile factions over every preference point under the sun. If every other tweet or status update is filled with controversial vitriol or divisive language, please think twice about being the clanging cymbal—you’re making the rest of us go deaf (1 Corinthians 13:1).