Over the past week or two, there have been several Christian organizations making headlines in national news. The first was a debate that took place last Tuesday between Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) and Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) on the topic of origins. The second being a Christian university allegedly accused of silencing the voices of sexual assault victims on campus. It’s quite possible you’ve heard of these topics in the past few days, and have had the chance to interact with others over some controversial issues. I know I have! I have one question for you (and myself): Did we do a good job of representing Christ, or did we succumb to the flesh’s desire to put down, intimidate, and respond unkindly?
Please, ponder this question. It’s not a rhetorical one.
The internet is full of strangers with opinions. How we carry ourselves in areas of controversy reveals our heart’s motives, desires, and true personality. You can argue a right thing in a wrong way and lose your audience, and much worse, your spiritual klout with that person. Eternity could be at stake here, so let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t intimidate– If you’re putting other’s down because they think differently than you, you’re not demonstrating a life smitten by grace. On the contrary, that would make you a cyberbully.
- Don’t respond to a hot comment right away– Take your time to respond. My wife so tenderly reminded me just this morning that even if I respond hours later, the world will keep turning.
- Don’t make fun of people– I have a subtle way of doing this by using sarcasm in a comment thread. First off, it’s just mean to make fun of people. Second sarcasm tends to be even more poorly received over the internet than it does in person.
- Don’t make stuff up– I have a tendency (like many) to always have to be right. I’ll admit to occasionally making stuff up to make my point of view more convincing. Bad Jesse. Bad you. Stop it!
- Do give the benefit of the doubt– Jesus gives grace, so the least we can do is give the benefit of the doubt in a circumstance where we don’t have all the facts.
- Do attack arguments, not people– Stick to the topics! That’s what I kept screaming at the debate last Tuesday. Nye and Ham occasionally made bites at the other person rather than keeping to the topics and arguments. Attacking arguments significantly decreases the amount of hurt feelings all around, as well as keeps the conversation focused.
- Do have support for your claims– If you’re making claims, back them up. Provide links, evidence, and articles. Deal in the concrete as much as possible.
- Do apologize and repent when necessary– You can’t be perfect all the time. Repenting publicly takes some guts, but it could be the most important contribution you make to the comment thread. Stay humble.
These do’s and don’ts merely scratch the surface of proper e-etiquette. What are some things that help you in heated comment threads? Do you have any advice or stories you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below, or reach out to us on any of our social media outlets!