Beware of the Some of the Dangers of Social Media

Title: Beware of Some of the Dangers of Social Media
Text: Numbers 30:3-5, Ephesians 4:14-15, Matthew 10:32-33
Time: May 16th, 2015

Here’s a headline I read a few months ago in the newspapers that caught my attention –

“Study: Social Media Users Shy Away From Opinions. People who use Facebook and Twitter are less likely than others to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center. The study, done in conjunction with Rutgers University in New Jersey, challenges the view of social media as a vehicle for debate by suggesting that sites like Facebook and Twitter might actually encourage self-censorship. Researchers said they detect what they call the ‘Spiral of silence’ phenomenon – unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial. In other words, most of us are more comfortable with ice-bucket challenges than political banter. ‘People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere,’ said Keith Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study.’”

This study confirms what I’ve been observing over the last few years, especially among Christians, that controversial subject shouldn’t be talked about because they might cause hard feelings, alienate people and divide the body of Christ. So consequently, important and needed conversations that should be taking place, don’t happen due to an overemphasis on peace, love and harmony within the church. The irony is, in the absence of serious Christian conversations about important social and moral issues, the secular, pagan, worldly position is largely unopposed in the public square. Take for instance the strange, bizarre and kooky two hour interview given by ex-Olympian Bruce Jenner to Diane Sawyer of ABC’s 20/20 where the ex-athlete told seventeen million viewers worldwide, “Yes,” to the question put to him, “Are you a woman?” Social media lit up with positive endorsements to this ridiculous assertion by Jenner. Where were any negative or critical comments? Virtually none to be found, anywhere. Did that really mean everyone was on board with Jenner’s transgenderism? No. It rather meant that nobody was comfortable in sharing their opposing views on the subject out of fear of giving offense. What good is freedom of speech if everyone is too afraid to use it? Evidently social media work against freedom of speech on many issues today. I’m concerned about how Christians are remaining silent on issues when they should be speaking. I’m concerned about how the Christian church is failing to teach God’s truth out of fear of offense – or worse, fear of possible negative consequences, like punishment visited upon Christians by opponents. But now is the time for courage, not cowardice. Now is the time, a teachable moment, to explain God’s truth, even if it might be controversial or offensive to some. Now is the time for Christians to speak boldly, not remain silent or avoid commenting. If social media encourages Christians to remain silent when they should speak, then this temptation must be resisted and overcome. When must look to God for our agenda, not the secular world. Let me explain a few important points related to this problem.

First, Christians must not give the false impression by our silence that we are okay with the secular, worldly position on social and moral issues. Numbers 30:3-5, “When a young woman still living in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligates herself will stand. But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the Lord will release her because her father has forbidden her.” Now there’s the Old Testament principle that teaches if someone in authority hears about something but remains silent, then it is assumed or presumed that the authority is okay with it. The Old Testament gives a couple of examples of this. And we can see that this is also a matter of common sense. If there are no objections, it’s usually taken as consent. If a teenager marches out the door and says, “I’ll be at the party next door,” then after having heard, if the parents say nothing then the teenager assumes it’s okay. Well, that same principle applies to many or most things. But what’s happening among Christians today is, for some reason – and the habits of social media might be part of the explanation – they aren’t objecting to the ethical and moral outrageousness that is taking place in our modern secular society today. Where are the Christian voices against, for example, gay marriage? America is well on its way towards legalizing so-called gay marriage in all fifty states. How could this happen? With so many so-called born again Christians – by some estimates up to one-third of the population – how could something as immoral as same sex marriage make such progress in just a few short years? It’s simple. Christians aren’t speaking out when they should be speaking out. They are remaining silent when they should be speaking. And Christian silence on important moral issues is taken as tacit approval or at least begrudging tolerance or acceptance by our opponents. Christians are often silent on so-called gay marriage and other moral issues in public debate because they don’t want to be offensive or don’t want to be labeled “unloving” or “intolerant” or “judgmental” and so forth. So what happens is the only voice heard in the public is the pro-homosexual marriage voice or the pro-transgender voice, for instance. Social media contributes to the problem because it trains Christians to be too positive, too polite, and too passive when they should be negative towards moral outrages.

Second, Christians must learn to speak the truth in love, but above all speak the truth. Ephesians 4:14-15, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.” The Apostle Paul is here outlining how Christians should conduct themselves in life – public and private life. The key phrase, of course, is “speaking the truth in love.” That’s the challenge for Christians today. We must speak the truth; we must not remain silent. But we must speak it in a loving way without compromising. The problem today is that Christians, generally speaking, are not speaking the truth – they’re conceding the debate to opponents. I remember reading comments by gay activists in New York after the state legalized so-called same sex marriage by legislative vote. They were surprised at how little opposition there was coming from churches. These gay activists actually commented how shocked they were that pastors and church leaders hadn’t spoken more forcefully in opposition to gay marriage. What does that say? It says that even our opponents recognize that Christians in this country have a problem standing up for their convictions – or we might say, lack the courage of their convictions. Where are the pastors and denominational leaders as so-called gay marriage spreads from state to state? Where are the Christian leaders in so-called para-church organizations in speaking in defense of the biblical definition of marriage? It’s not like this is a side issue or secondary matter; it isn’t. Marriage is an area that traditionally the church has defined and administered. So where is the church as gay marriage spread so rapidly? The truth is, pastors are largely silent. Church denominations are either silent, generally speaking, or compromised themselves into actually joining the pro-sodomy forces pushing for same sex marriage. High profile Christian leaders rarely, if ever, speak strongly in defense of marriage; there is mostly silence. And what about Christians on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and so forth? We find very little defense of God’s plan for marriage by Christians on social media. All the while the other side makes their voices heard, for example, on Facebook, with the so-called “marriage equality” equal sign posted on Facebook pages to show support for sodomy marriage. Our opponents voice their support, but Christians are largely silent in opposition. Is it any wonder why homosexual marriage is now almost legal in all fifty states? Silence is interpreted as consent. There isn’t even an attempt to lovingly state the Christian marriage side. There isn’t even that much. How can we bear witness for Christ if we don’t open our mouths?

Third, there comes a time when silence in the face of evil is a form of denying Christ. Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before me, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Jesus is teaching on the necessity of “owning” God’s truth in our lives. Did we actually think that following Jesus Christ would come without cost? Here in this teaching he explains that sometimes there is a price to be paid for faithfulness to Christ. There will come times of testing in our lives when we will be asked to make a choice: Christ or culture? Which side will be choose? Are we willing to side with Christ even if it’s hard, even if there’s price to be paid, even if it will cost us something? Every day in our modern secular world we are being tested, and every day we are being asked to choose whether to be faithful to Christ or faithful to the worldly cultural position. It takes courage to stand against an opposing culture. Many of us haven’t even been challenged to stand up for God and God’s truths in the midst of a hostile environment because, frankly, up until a few years ago a Christian could go about their life without ever coming into direct confrontation with a hostile force, an outright attack on their Christian faith and what the Bible teaches and they believe. But today this is happening more and more as our population departs further from God’s will in every area. A popular response among Christians today is to remain silent, no comment, keep one’s feelings and views to oneself. This is exactly how Christian singer Natalie Grant responded when asked to comment on why she walked out of the Grammy Awards last year that included satanic and homosexual themes, stating, “There are thoughts inside my head that are better left inside my head. That’s all I’ll say.” How pathetic. Christians are reduced to thinking “thoughts inside our heads,” rather than boldly speaking out and bearing witness to the truths of Christ in culture. If we’re honest we’ll realize that this kind of “no comment” Christianity is a subtle form of denying Christ. For example, Christ teaches in Matthew 19:4, “’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man will leaven his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the tow will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’” We might also add, “What God has defined as marriage, let not man redefine.” Now why is this so hard for Christians to say publicly?

The truth is, we are using politeness and love and positivity and non-judgmentalism to cover up our cowardice. The real reason we aren’t speaking up and bearing witness for Christ in public, on public social media and in other forums, is because we are too afraid of the negative consequences that might happen. We are so intimidated by our opponents that we won’t even risk a few critical feedback comments on social media to state our faith, our Christian faith, position on marriage. Our opponents are willing to state their views on re-defining marriage to include gays and lesbian couples, but we aren’t willing to defend our beliefs on the subject. Is it because we really don’t hold to these beliefs very firmly to begin with? Perhaps. But probably it’s because we don’t want to risk the potential negative consequences for bearing witness to Christ in an increasingly hostile culture. So what do we do with the words of Jesus then? He says that we must be willing to step out and bear witness and take a stand, even if unpopular. Now I blame the Christian leaders for the sad state of the church and Christian population in the United States. If they had been talking about these issues and strengthening Christian conviction and resolve on Sunday each and every week then we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today. Christians most of the time don’t hold to their beliefs with conviction, so they lack the courage to defend them in public. Next, many Christian leaders actually waffle or flip-flop on these moral and spiritual issues to the point where it’s often confusing listening to many Christian leaders because you can’t tell what they are saying when they are asked by someone about an issue. Leaders like Christian pastor Joel Osteen appear frequently on CNN and other television networks but it’s a crapshoot as to what kind of answer you’re going to hear from them. At times they seem to defend biblical Christianity, but other times they seem to waffle or flip flop, so it’s all a little confusing. What’s the Bible verse concerning this? “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8. We need our leaders to train Christians in the truth and how to speak it lovingly in decaying culture. Christians need to look to the Lord for marching order, not the prevailing culture. The Facebook and Twitter culture may promote the idea of putting forth a positive, carefree, successful persona is the only acceptable image. But as Christians our loyalty is first to Christ not social media. If something is right, we should encourage that; but if something is wrong, we should discourage that – and not hide behind some social media protocol. This is bearing witness to Christ in our place and time.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: