The Perversion of Social Media Amongst the Flock

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When I was younger we thought two tin cans attached by a string made for great communication devices for our war time games.  If we wanted to catch up with a friend we had to use a land-line telephone-that’s a phone that actually had to plug into a wall for your millennials.  Now we can reach out and touch like never before in real time with friends and family across the oceans by way of social media vehicles and smart phones.  I am an avid user of such media and have to admit that  without it I may have never reconnected with some of my childhood and school friends and caught up on their lives hundreds or thousands of miles apart.  And who doesn’t enjoy watching cat videos to pass the time.

The number of active accounts on social media is mind boggling.  On Facebook alone there were over 1.65 BILLION active accounts as of April 2016!  I would swear some of my FB friends know every last one of them. The potential to reach the masses has never been greater or easier as it is now with everyone having access to these media outlets right on their personal smart phones.  But like any good invention it didn’t take long for some of us to pervert it and abuse it to the detriment of many.  Specifically I am addressing us church folks who have used it to preach false doctrines, perpetuate hate and alienate Christian siblings who have differing views on social, political and religious issues. I have witnessed just within my limited circle of friends how harmful social media can be when used for the wrong purpose.  It can be embarrassing, hurtful and quite frankly, not very Christ-like.

There is a verse, Mark 13:10 that says the Good News must first be preached to all nations.  The worldwide usage of social media may be the very vehicle God intends for us to use to fulfill that requirement. In countries where Bibles are not allowed, study can still be done discreetly on smart phones  by way of URLs to Bible sites.  The Word is going forth by way of social media into areas where Christianity is otherwise forbidden. The impact social media has on spreading the Good News can not and must not be ignored. The potential for people to be pointed to the only source of salvation, Jesus Christ has never been greater. But alas, just as there are those who use the very Word of God to divide and tear down instead of its intended purpose of offering hope, there are those who abuse sites like Facebook to bring harm and disruption and discord among the Church. For me this  a travesty, and one I have been guilty of myself in years past.

If you are concerned about your activity on social media let me suggest the following verses as a measuring stick regarding social media posts:

1 Thessalonians 5:11; “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

Hebrews 10:24; “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”

Romans 14:19; “So let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding”

Eph. 4:29; “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up”

1 Peter 2:1-24; “Put away all malice, deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Be like living stones used to build a spiritual house…

Exodus 23:1; “You shall not spread a false report.  You shall not join with a wicked man to be a false witness.”  (This is a biggie on social media, sharing uncorroborated posts).

Does this mean we have to type “Amen” to every lame meme that comes into our box, of course not-that is only another form of a false doctrine.  However it does mean that we need to be aware that our social media posts may as well be billboards for the number of people who will come across them in your circle.  There is but one truth, one Holy Gospel and not a myriad of relative truths based on our socio, economic, political or religious persuasion. To cause others to stumble in the faith is irresponsible at best, and to turn someone who is genuinely seeking away from the truth because of a hateful or divisive post is simply unforgivable. Don’t be like I once was, guilty of perverting a tool that should have been used to exhort, not destroy.  Peace.

 

 

 

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Cyber Whisperers

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A woman heard a rumor about a lady in her neighborhood that was too good to pass up.  Being the busybody she was she quickly spread this rumor to those in her social circle. Word quickly spread and the lady who was the object of the rumor was soon shunned by even her close friends.  Not long afterward the neighbor who initially spread the rumor learned from a trusted source that what she had heard was not true. Feeling remorseful she sought out the advice of her priest on how to fix the situation.  Her priest told her to go to a local farmer and get a chicken and pluck the feathers out one by one on her walk home.  This sounded easy enough so she complied.  The next day she reported to the priest that she had done as he instructed her.  “Good”, said the priest.  “Now today, go back and collect those same feathers”. The neighbor lady retraced her steps but to her dismay found that most of the feathers had already been carried off by the wind.  She returned to the priest holding three single feathers.  “And so it is with rumors”, sad the priest. “Once you have spread them it is impossible to gather them back up before they are carried away by the wind”‘.

Yes, if you are in my social media circles you know I have been on a kick about cyber gossip. We all remember the story years back of Megan Meier, the teen whose friend Josh along with his mother launched a bunch of rumors that quickly spread through the Myspace world and eventually led Megan to commit suicide.  Words, whether spoken or shared on cyberspace are harmful, destructive and in many cases fatal. There are countless pages of examples of murder, assault and suicide over something that was shared or read on the internet, many of which turned out to be false but discovered too late to prevent the damage. Facebook seems to have made everybody an expert on everything and there seems to be no limits as to how far some will go in posting articles they know to be false in order to stir up the flock, increase ratings and likes or support social agendas in a manner that takes away any credibility from the core issues.

Backbiting is nothing new-there really is nothing new under the sun.  The Apostle Paul had to address this in Biblical times in his letter to the Romans.  In the KJV gossipers are referred to as whisperers and secret slanderers.  Here is how the passage reads in the Message Bible, Romans 1:29:

And then all hell broke loose; rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on Earth with their envy, wanton, killing, bickering and cheating. Look at them-mean spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers and insufferable windbags!”

It is no accident that gossip, slanderers and whisperers are mentioned right along with murderers because destruction by tongue is just as deadly as by gun. Not convinced? Proverbs says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue“. 1 Peter says “Whoever desires to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit”. 

Still not enough, then let’s read the words straight from our Master Jesus recorded in Matthew 12: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will give account for every CARELESS word they speak…”

Any accepted form of communication, spoken word, letter, email, or cyber media where ideas, stories or rumors can be spread falls under the edict from the verses listed above pertaining to gossip.  Any information spread without due diligence as to its accuracy, credibility or truthfulness equates to gossiping and rumormongering. We who use social media as outlets for communication need to be a little less right and a bit more righteous in our discernment in being involved in cyber rumors and hate speech when nothing but destruction can be the end result. Disagreeing, having opinions, stating personal beliefs that are characterized as such is not what I am referring to.  However sharing malicious posts, pushing along false theories and butchered photo-shop images to support a trending social agenda should be off base for believers who are concerned with being Christ-like in all things. With the 2016 Campaign season getting into full swing I fear many of the faith will get themselves caught up in polarizing threads that do nothing but harm to the Body of Christ, just as they have with recent trending stories “too good to pass up”.

My prayer for me is that God will help me recognize my weakness and temptation to be pulled into these cyber rumor mills and give me the strength to just shut up opposed to saying something hurtful that can’t be retracted.  I hope your prayer is similar.