Ah, the good old days. Those pre-social networking ones, when people talked behind your back, perhaps with some misogynistic slur, while you carried on ignorant, sipping on Pimm's, listening to Radio 4. The days when we would have frowned in confusion to the question: "What's your Twitter handle?" When dishing out profanity, character defamation, antagonizing people of decent intent and challenging strangers on their theological doctrine, actually cost something. When abuse provoked consequences – such as a punch in the face.
But today, amid the online world, adults pretend to be giants and the overtly proud pretend to be 24 feet tall behind an 8-inch screen. It's a game-on attitude to see who's going to hear our voice in a puddle of give-me-a-break opinion. We may differ in perspective, but need it be so familiar to road rage? Brave communication is rarely 'brave' when public criticism on social networks is conducted behind a MacBook Pro.
As I write articles for magazines with two types of audiences both secular and sacred, disappointingly, it appears to be the Christian conglomerate that wishes to voice their opinion the most. Reacting with tones so harsh it's as if I insulted their newborn. Don't misunderstand me, I've had my fair share of non-believers message me privately saying they "hate religious speak, and that all Christians should be round up and shot." I don't care for helping the pro-massacre mindset. I do care about what we're projecting as a generation of Christians who should be known for loving all people with radical methods. Because they're watching. All of them. And with being observed, we must be accountable for the power of our 140 characters.
It seems we can't make a life choice without attack: if you buy a hairless cat, or an Audi R8, if you have plastic surgery – or don't have plastic surgery, or accuse Bin Laden of winning when you didn't get through customs because they confiscated some honey.
When I choose not to respond to a manipulative comment, then comes the mockery. Sweet friend, I think to myself, I'm so very happy to have a conversation with you, if only you would tell me your real name? Your avatar is of a hedgehog and I somehow don't believe your parents called you Pocahontas at birth.
Most want to have an opinion, for you're in a world where everyone wants to be heard. The poorest supplication when you're lacking a voice is to attack someone influential, in the hope they will reply, satisfying the dull ache that should have been filled with sonship, love, identity outside of significance, way before Vint Cerf or Bob Kahn were knitted in their mother's womb.
If criticism is necessary, perhaps fill it with an ounce of structure, a smidge of specificity? Take out the unnecessary commentary on one's mother, and talk to each other, like when you were friends. Lessen the mis-contextualized use of scripture as if it's your big brother in the playground and add in that word – endearment.
Realistically, just how much will negative slants really change a stranger's mind? Only love brings transformation. Everything else should be discounted to dust.
The medium that could be used to exhibit God's love is subliminally echoing the reason why people stopped coming to church – to void themselves of judgment, of rejection in their mess.
In short – why can't the Church, play nicely? Online attacks will publicly burn any secular invitation to be loved by us. No one wants to dine with a married couple predicted to fight for the whole evening.
You don't agree with someone? Then tackle the mitigation in private. Face to face. One to one. True friends don't fight with me in a room filled with people, they talk in private, keeping connection, no matter the cost.
Only kindness connects, and humility packs a mightier punch.
If giving feedback, we must ensure we've sacrificed our own agenda before responding: no fear of man, no need to be understood (for Christ had no problem being labeled as sinful as the tax collectors) and ensure that God is glorified in the moment. Rarely was Christ reactive and when he was, the wind was unequivocally on it.
Let God fight the good fight, so we can watch where we walk.
My personal experience was nothing compared to my own church leaders who have websites dedicated to them, littered with hateful commentary, barbaric in abuse. Websites - please note – created by other Christians. My heart crumbles, knowing these leaders personally, sitting with them in their living rooms, watching them love their children and grandchildren, changing my own life with love. And yet I am two clicks away from seeing the demonized opinions of people who've never had this opportunity to meet them. None of it questions, nothing seeking an understanding - all of it wreaking of fear. Anonymous they may be, but they just brought Christ down with them, all in defence of Christ himself.
Yet we were never created to defend him; we were designed to emulate him.
I long for a new movement – speaking life, not death, into people. A people who stand up for kindness above ego. Who will begin to change this insipid tune that has done enough to embarrass the gospel, the unity of Church via social network sites?
It's time to show the world how love acts, to stop feeding what doesn't need nourishment; backing down from the belligerent high horse that was never designed for us in the first place.
For in the end, it can only start with you, your fingertips and the power of your humble pen.