I’ve blogged off and on for about three years now. At one point, I was blogging every day. I’m actually in the process of revamping that blog right now — deleting things, adding posts, etc.
I’ve learned so many things since I started. I've learned that a lot more sharing and re-tweeting goes on during the early part of the week rather than over the weekend. I've learned that I am not the best English student that has ever lived. And I've learned that our society is obsessed with, addicted to and striving after outrage.
To be honest, in the back of my mind, I already knew this about people in general. In college, I ran a couple of really small radio shows (so small they could only be heard from the college dorms). This had me glued to at least one newspaper every day, because I had to have content to discuss during the news segment of my show.
It’s one thing to scan the news here and there, but when you read the news every day, you start to realize that this isn’t news at all. Half of these articles don’t even cite one fact. The “news” is mostly just a little devil that will sit on your shoulder and convince you it’s okay for your bad mood to last the entire day, because of all the "idiots making laws” and the “injustice of this or that.”
If you read most of it objectively, it’s just gasoline to pour on the fire of our anger. And most of the world loves it. After all, it makes you feel like you’re involved in all the world’s problems. Once it ignites your fury, you feel like you’re standing for what’s right and fighting against the enemy and staying true to America. When, really, all you’ve done is sit for an extra ten minutes at Starbucks.
But I was, and am still, a little surprised that the desire for outrage is just as prevalent in my own soul, and in the Christian community as a whole. I realized this somewhat from my own blogging and writing endeavors. I’ve written on many topics and slowly but surely realized that the posts in which I was taking a side of some sort (some of which probably shouldn't have been done publicly) were shared or liked more, much more, than a post in which I simply gave advice or bragged on God.
Due to my own blogging, I started reading other Christian bloggers more often and I started paying attention to what folks in my sphere were “liking,” tweeting, and commenting on. Again, the common theme was controversy and heated debate. If a well-known pastor was to write about redemption one day and why he disagrees with another well-known pastor the next day, I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter post got twice as many views.
Whatever posts allow us, the people of God, to feel mad about something are the posts that seem to spread amongst us. Just like the rest of the world, we love to feel involved and think we’re somehow taking a stand and making a difference when in reality we’re just wasting our employers money by spending company time on Facebook.
I would dare say that we (and that includes me) actually might be worse than the rest of the world in a few ways:
1. Our desire for outrage goes against the claims we’re making.
We claim that we have been redeemed from a life of anger and given over to a life of love. We claim that God is love and that love trumps all. We claim that the wrath of God has been placed on Jesus and that we have instead received his mercy, a mercy we are now hoping the whole world receives, unless they’re wrong on a side issue or gray area. And if they blog about that issue, well, then it’s up to us to cleanse the temple like Jesus did (only we do it sitting in front of our computer screens).
We’re claiming that we’re no better than anyone else, just forgiven. Yet, our portion of the Internet is filled with arrogance, arguing, and, generally, a know-it-all attitude. We can tell everyone what’s wrong with their pastor, their church, their doctrine, their Bible college, their anything. We should be gentle, encouraging, and hoping for the best. Like this:
"Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:23-25)
2. Our desire for outrage causes friendly fire.
What I find most interesting about my fellow Christians and myself is our desire to hurt our own people. Most of our anger online is directed right back at us, the church.
I interned at both an Independent Baptist Church and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where I eventually came on staff for a short while. These two churches were almost opposites. I say almost in that the members of both would claim that Jesus is God and only by faith in his work can you know eternal life. But getting to work at two churches (almost back to back) that were on opposite ends of the broader spectrum gave me an incredible insight. These folks probably couldn’t stand each other, especially online, but they’re actually family. Many folks attending both churches will worship together forever under the King they share.
When we comment, tweet, and post about other churches and Christians we’re throwing stones at our own family. We’re aiming at the backs of our own soldiers. Imagine what would happen if we instead patted them on the back? And, I don’t know, hoped that they were doing well.
3. Our desire for outrage greatly diminishes our ability to evangelize.
I’m an evangelist. My title is student minister, but one of my gifts is evangelism. I get, for some reason, how outsiders feel. I get how they think. As far as I can tell, I have a pretty good sense of their reasons for objecting to our faith. I’d say one of their biggest objections isn’t Christ. In fact, most unbelievers in our country are actually fans of our Christ. Their problem is with Christians.
How we act is a major part of our witness. Specifically, how we love one another is the proof we point to for His existence. Imagine stumbling across comments like this as a non-believer.
This is a real comment about a pastor on a Christian website. I know, this comment in particular is kind of extreme, but I post it here as an example. Because, when we argue online and get into heated Facebook debates, THIS is what non-Christians see every time. How can we follow this up with, “Hey, come to my church this weekend, we’re having a really cool event!”
My desire for this post might seem hypocritical. My desire is that, after reading this, you’ll be outraged. Yes, the very thing I’m preaching against. Only, this time I want us all, including myself, to be outraged by our unrighteous anger and repent of our online feuding. Let us strive to continue the example our Lord set for us when He gave grace. Grace to the blind. Grace to the hungry. Grace to the paralyzed. Grace to the sinner. And grace to us.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)