How to Have a Discussion Online Without Making Jesus Sad

This is something I've been wondering for awhile. Now that we live in an online world, every time something rocks the church, Christians go to bat for their theological camps on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.

And y'all, we can all see it gets ugly.

So how does this help our witness? How can we enter into messy places and have discussions that are driven by honor and respect rather than anger and indignation?

How do we not compromise our convictions while being loving online? Where there's less margin for error. It's possible, sure, to get to know someone online, but is it really possible to know them fully? Where does this leave us, as Christians? How do we defend a faith that is becoming pretty counter-cultural in a culture that is becoming increasingly isolating?

I love writing. I love blogs. I love the ability to discuss how the Christian faith saturates every facet of our lives, and what that even means. Motherhood, the environment, politics, third-world relations, roles in marriage, etc.

I just wish we could do it in a way that would honor the Man we claim to worship.

So these are a few things I've come up with, some are more practical, some are more principle. I'd love to know your thoughts as well!

Here we go:


Even if it's EVERY FEW WORDS. Typing in caps really does sound like YOU MIGHT BE YELLING. Or at least speaking VERY FIRMLY. This does not help the situation. Would you speak like this IN REAL LIFE? With a COMPLETE STRANGER or with someone you know but are having a SERIOUS DISCUSSION WITH? Probably not.

It adds tension because the chances of them interpreting that in an unnecessarily aggressive way are pretty high.

2. Try not to respond when you are having all the feels.

Can I just say this is my worst habit? If you're about to rip into someone because they said something that bothered you, sit back for a minute or thirty.

Don't get me wrong, it's important to pay attention to why something made us feel sad/angry/hurt, and be able to express that. It's just that we may not be doing our own emotions justice, or writing in the most grace-filled way when all we can see is rage. And we might fall on using all caps to try and rage-type our emotions onto the screen instead of using the English language.

3. They will know you by your fruit... so be a little patient, eh?

Be patient. There's roughly a 95% chance you'll be misunderstood. It's incredibly hard to be concise, coherent, and communicate an appropriate tone when writing. If you're misunderstood, brush it off. Take another stab at explaining your viewpoint from a different angle.

Be kind. Give people dignity, honor, and respect. Especially if you know they're wrong. Don't mock their ignorance if they happen to get in over their heads in a discussion. And seriously, brothers & sisters, do not ever call someone a derogatory name online. We are not in preschool.

Have self-control. Know when to bow out. There comes a point when you have to realize that nothing more can really be done by continuing a discussion.

Be peaceful. Don't respond to low blows. Don't give any low blows yourself, and that includes passive-aggressive ones.

4. It's all about the journey, not the destination. 

Realizing that comment threads are rarely places that someone's theological or belief-system-forming journey ends is helpful. Sure, we want to give people something to think about, to chew on, as well as process different ways of seeing an idea ourselves. That's the whole point. I think the power of discussion (and, particularly, the written word) is immense. That's why I feel it's so important to know how to do it well.

I just don't think people are going to change their entire value system because of someone's ability to out argue them on a comment thread.

5. Apologize when you have done something wrong. 

Did you assume something about the person that was wrong? Could you have communicated your point better? Were you condescending? Did you call someone a name? Then own up to it.

I have several more but that would make this post unbearably long, plus I really do want to hear other people's thoughts on this.

What do you think? What should our online behavior look like, as Christians?

1 comment:

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