Sadly, our latest political phase has retreated into a conceited tribalism, and the barbed words and badly drawn portraits are disgracing the halls of public discussion once more. My reason for referencing this is that there are significant parallels with the evangelical church, in terms of partisan approaches. For a time in the early twenty-first century it looked as though the old days of lobbing theological grenades at parties with a different, but equally biblically conservative, emphasis were over.
When we prize the interests of party above those of the whole community, when we make our perspective prescriptive, our personal preferences into binding principles, then we have lost a significant part of our apology for the Christian faith, and our voice within the Church. This is a truth which seems sadly lost on much of the Christian discourse and interaction on social media, and the internet more widely, and the cause of Christ is suffering as a result.
In the next few posts on Thinking Pastorally I want to probe some of the motives and outcomes which precede and follow the fiery debates between brothers online, highlight a few parallels from 1Corinthians, and suggest some steps we can take towards agreement, or at least disagreeing more agreeably. In this first post I think through the internal group dynamics of being antagonistic towards brothers and sisters online:
Your followers are listening
In the world of social media the choir is consistently preached to and primed to support one’s own view. The smallest amount of time spent reading the Tweets of prominent polemical evangelicals makes one thing clear – they are seldom writing to persuade their opponents, and are more often writing to please their followers. The pattern repeats itself time and again, a social media figure with a significant following earths the tuning fork, and a ready chorus rises up in apparent harmony – not realising how discordant and tuneless their strains are to the rest of the world.