I’m not going to sit here and pretend that social media doesn’t have or hasn’t had many beneficial uses for evangelism and the Church. The rise in popularity of blogs, podcasting, and YouTube has allowed various congregations to expand their impact on their communities just from simply posting devotions and sermons on the web. These are great tools and they should continue to be used extensively.
However, I am going to sit here and claim that other elements of social media are killing the ability of the Church to be an effective agent in spreading the Gospel. Frequently, these elements are used with good intentions. However, results don’t always match intent, and a wake of irreparable damage is often left behind. I will offer up two examples, both coming from my own personal experience.
My first example comes from the massive Chick-Fil-A uprising that occurred a while ago. Surely you remember the entire nation going nuts over an interview in which Truett S. Cathy stated his belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. I, being the passionate and sometimes clumsy individual that I am, took action and purchased my obligatory chicken sandwich before all the TV cameras and crowds of protestors showed up, and posted my proud support of free speech on Facebook. Within minutes, I had alienated half of my wife’s family, a relationship that remains shattered to this day.
Did it matter that I was only supporting Cathy’s Constitutional right to believe and profess whatever he chooses? No. The fact of the matter is that my participation in “Chick-Fil-A Day” instantly labeled both me and my wife as closed-minded homophobes who think that every homosexual will burn in hell for all eternity. This image, reflected on me by this activity, doesn’t accurately reflect my true beliefs. The problem is that once you are labeled as anything these days, it’s nearly impossible to shake that label.
My second example of Facebook douchebaggery came from the posting of the good old meme. You know them…the ubiquitous pictures with snarky messages superimposed over them…we’ve all seen them, we’ve all laughed, we’ve all shared…let’s move on. The offending meme is pictured below:
Sure, I found this meme to be humorous, but I also found it to be offensive because it represents some of the most overstated arguments thrown back and forth about homosexuality…by both sides of the debate. After posting this, the debate was on. All parties who participated in the discussion came in on the defensive. Fortunately, this debate ended peacefully after a very lengthy explanation of the beliefs of both sides. It took many more words to smooth the waves than were contained in the meme to begin with. Many of these exchanges end much differently
That’s my point. Many times, the memes that Christians are posting on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are simply offering a cheap Reader’s Digest version of the beliefs they hold dear, leaving their friends and followers to fill in the blanks as they see fit. Let’s be real: in many cases, once a Christian is labeled as one of those closed-minded, Bible-beating fanatics, everyone has trouble taking them seriously, including myself. So my question to Christians is simply this: why label ourselves?
When we label ourselves in this way, we instantly shut off the message of the Gospel to the people we just alienated. That’s not the example we’ve been given by Jesus at all. Jesus was not about alienating people who needed His message. In fact, the only group of people He seemed to have any real spite for were the religious leaders of his day, who deserved it because they knew better than what they were doing.
The fact of the matter is that although these memes may be humorous and cute, they fail to explain the depth and detail of the stance they represent. Many of the issues that these memes poke fun at take time to fully form a stance on, let alone explain, especially in so few words. These are heavy and complicated issues, most of which have a huge impact on the future of society and religion alike, and we have the stones to cheapen them with a few words and a picture? Shame on us!
The Bible calls us to make disciples of all nations. It does not urge us to beat people over the head, make them feel stupid, and, when they just can’t take it anymore, baptize them and call them a Christian. Creating disciples requires taking the time to answer questions, building relationships, and even admitting that we don’t have the answer to some questions. When we do go back to study and find answers to these questions, we need to be honest about our findings.
Nowhere in the discipleship relationship does the concept of winning an argument come into play. But sadly, when we post these things on a given social media account, we do it with the attitude of “this is how I feel, I’m right, you are wrong, deal with it.” That is a very self-righteous attitude to have, and I am confident that few people would want to have a conversation with you ever again if you voiced that phrase in person. So why do we insist on having this attitude on social media as well? Proverbs 29:20 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Hmmmm.
Seldom do we acknowledge the numerous open wounds that our friends and followers may have about the issues in question. The Bible frequently warns us of the dangers of speaking too quickly. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I think that if we’re honest, when we post these types of things on our chosen social media platform, our hearts are not usually in finding and producing the righteousness of God.
Frequently, there is a desire on our part to be authentic (since we’ve been cautioned about this from day one in Church), but I’m worried that we’re taking it too far. Jesus had one big problem with the Pharisees in that they were making a show of their faith. They weren’t being authentic.
Matthew 7:16 tells us that we will be recognized by our fruits. Our fruits are the things that we naturally produce by the lives we lead, not the things we consciously decide to put out there for all to see. The fruits of these postings are frequently bitterness and destruction, rarely redemption and love. Yes, we are surely being recognized by our fruits, but the fruits that we are producing are not the fruits of the spirit. I remember an old song that said, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Well, I think we could probable change those words to, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our memes.” But I’m not done just yet.
Throughout the Bible we are cautioned to do things in private so as not to make a spectacle of ourselves. In both the examples above, I made a spectacle of myself and I should be ashamed.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all delete our Facebook accounts and live like monks for the rest of our lives. Like I said, social media has provided many benefits to the Church. However, I am suggesting that before we post something, we might want to think about who might see the thing we are about to post. We might want to think about the issues that people are dealing with every day. We might want to think about what the thing we are about to post says about us and our faith. We might want to think about whether we are building people up or tearing people down with our words.
I’ve given just two examples of times that I’ve been a massive jerk on social media, but you could comb through my Facebook page and find many more. I’m not going to go back and delete them and pretend like I’m innocent. But I am going to make an effort to have a filter and learn from the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I challenge everyone that reads this to do the same.