Belligerent pt. 4: Violence in Social Media: Politics

If you haven’t been following this series might I suggest you go here first so you have a better context.

It seems to me that the church (not all of the church, but some of the church) has become too violent. We can be hostile, belligerent, brutal, and brawlers towards those we disagree with. It doesn’t matter if it is our secular society or fellow Christians, we are way too willing to land a punch and draw blood. I can be just as guilty.

In my last post I discussed violence in the pulpit. In the weeks to come I will be touching on violence in our vocabulary, violence in our homes, and violence in how we interact with those we disagree with. This article will focus on violence in our social media.

When I began my coaching practice I had yet to delve into social media. I had a newsletter that went out to pastors on a monthly basis but newsletters typically do not generate conversation. As soon as we moved from San Jose, California to southern Oregon in 2007, I started a Facebook page and joined Twitter. Shortly after I began on Facebook I decided to start a group page for pastors of smaller churches. For about the first five years my group page grew at a snails pace. Then it exploded! I never had a mega church but now I have a mega Small Church Pastor group page.

I am the moderator of this group. Every time a member posts or makes a comment on a post I’m notified. Moderating a group of online pastors can be like trying to herd cats. Some pastors find it difficult to adhere to my rules:

“The Small Church Pastor group provides a safe place of encouragement, resources, ideas, prayer requests…and laughs between pastors and the spouses of pastors. This group does not allow challenging, debating, or attacking other denominations, pastors, or controversial issues that churches and pastors might disagree on. As moderator, I (Dave Jacobs) reserve the right to delete any post or comment that I feel is not appropriate or not in keeping with this stated purpose of our group. Do you agree to participate according to the above?”

Pastors now have to say “yes” before being accepted into the group. But still…some, not many but some, forget the rules.

Because of this, I skim anywhere from 100 to 200 comments and posts a day to make sure everyone in my group is playing nice. Since using social media is part of my job, I’m online all day, every day, weekends and evenings…not so much.

Facebook can be a wonderful place to hang out. I’ve made some great friends and have been reconnected with old friends. But Facebook has disturbed me as I have seen so many mean, opinionated, belligerent Christians, many of whom are pastors.

Facebook, the new Soapbox.

One definition I found for ‘soapbox’ was, “A soapbox is a raised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. The term originates from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate originally used for shipment of soap or other dry goods from a manufacturer to a retail store. The term is also used metaphorically to describe a person engaging in often flamboyant impromptu or unofficial public speaking, as in the phrases “He’s on his soapbox”, or “Get off your soapbox.”

I think this fits Facebook perfectly.

The good thing about Facebook is that everyone has a voice. The bad thing about Facebook is that everyone has a voice. The problem with ‘free speech’ is that it’s not free…it’s costly, especially when those on their soapbox are angry, judgmental brawlers who don’t appear to care how their words hurt and offend others.

Nowhere does this insensitive mean-spiritedness show up more on Facebook than with the subjects of politics and theology. I am still amazed at how angry some Christians (and some pastors) can come across when they talk online about politicians they disagree with.

Peter had something to say about Christians and politicians: Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. I Peter 2:17

There are two things I find interesting about this verse. First, the ‘king’ Peter admonished his readers to show honor to was Nero, a notorious, possibly demon-possessed, sadistic ruler. Second, the word ‘all’ is a very interesting word in the greek. It means…all. It really does, I looked it up.

Everytime I hear someone talk about “those idiots in Washington” or say something worse, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:22:

 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

“Well they’re not my brothers and sisters. They aren’t even Christians. I can say what I want.”

“You just might have found a loop hole. Good for you. Go ahead then and Raca-On.”

Next up: Pt. 5 Violence in Social Media: Theology