Maybe I am becoming the negative and divisive person that I so dislike as representative of Christianity. It seems like there is an occasion every couple months that Mark Driscoll infuriates me to an inch of losing my Christianity. It happened again this week- and he isn’t even active in the blogosphere right now- as some folks uncovered some heinous things he said 14 years ago. I suppose that he has become something of a punching bag for me as he rants ridiculously and his blogging group of neo-peep followers applaud him for it.
Let’s face it. Being mean to him or writing something controversial about LGBT issues or lambasting the hypocrisy of those on the right or left gets pageviews for Christian bloggers like me. There are lots of people out there that are tired of hearing voices like Mark Driscoll and they are glad to find an articulate voice that says what they were already thinking. So these folks will read and share. They may even defend their favorite blogger’s critics on their Facebook wall. I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Then we have this rather odd reality that bloggers and those who read them get caught up together in a rage against the amorphous “them” across social media in ways that rarely ends at a table in fellowship…even a virtual one.
A few months ago I was participating in a Facebook discussion about the World Vision fiasco when a post about the whole mess got a lot of attention. Some folks started into ad hominem attacks on the author, and then one person said: “She is the ‘ambulance chaser’ of the blogging world.” This person was generally appreciative of the author and her opinions. But he was concerned that this blogger was taking advantage of a very sad situation for all involved for her own gain. I think this names a great temptation for all of us that blog that we will surely be held accountable for when we face our Maker.
People that are hurting and confused want someone to stand up for them and defend them and tell the world how they have been wronged. I think that is the job of a prophet and I’m glad that there are prophets. But there are two problems that I see with the “ambulance chaser.”
First, the ambulance chaser never tells the injured person that maybe they don’t have a case. Maybe it was just an accident. Maybe they are even responsible in some way. The ambulance chaser just files the suit and tells the “victim” that they will get justice. The analogy breaks down a little here so I hope I can make sense of my point in spite of the weaknesses. Bloggers have a responsibility to our readers to lift up some of the places that our distaste for other people or their theology that can lead us out of a place of deep formation. I think a blogger that is going to write prophetically has to open a window of transparency that reveals their journey of spiritual formation. Bloggers have to struggle with their motives and their tone. And they have to share that journey of formation with their readers. Because we need to be reminded that Driscoll and his neo-peeps are, in fact, people. And we need to be confronted with our own struggles with anger or hatred so that they don’t consume us.
A comment made by Justin Dillon, founder of Made In A Free World, at The Justice Conference this year has really been haunting me: “We cannot let our anger at injustice lead us to forget that the perpetrator is made in the image of God.” There are Spirit-filled bloggers and blog readers across the web that want to live in that place. But bloggers and readers are going to need to go on a journey of formation together as they deal with contempt for those they find most hurtful. Because hurting people also need to be on this journey of formation just as much as they need someone to stand up for them.
Second, the “ambulance chaser” is at least as concerned about their own profit as they are the well-being of their client. I struggle every time I write a post on some hot topic or try to create a hot topic myself. When I wrote “4 Reasons Why Ordaining Women Is No Longer An Option,” I knew that I was going to make some of my own friends mad for saying that their churches were outside of God’s will on this issue. I was troubled by that prospect but I also knew that this was the most interesting part of the article. I hope that bloggers and readers will have a similar sense of the gravity of calling out our brothers and sisters. Some of the most frustrating posts and social media conversation about those posts fail the holiness test because they do not share that concern for how people respond. When I wrote my two posts about the World Vision fiasco, I knew that I was doing so in part because the topic was bouncing around social media like ping pong balls in a paint mixer. I also hoped to have something to add to the conversation. But controversy equals pageviews. And the more popularity and influence a blogger has, the more temptations they have to exploit hurting readers for personal gain. I have no advice here but that we make it a matter of prayer. There is a fine line between thought-provoking questioning of the status quo and click-bait trolling.
Those that write and read blogs have to be careful that they don’t lose their own souls. The social media echo chamber is not a school of virtue. Aristotle said that virtue is always the mean between two vices (interestingly, the most applicable virtue here is probably indignation, which Aristotle thought was the middle ground between the vices of envy and spite). Social media encourages us toward the poles of vice and not toward the difficult way of virtue.
May those of us who write blogs be careful to be transparent with our formation journey and avoid the temptation to chase ambulances. May those of us that read and share blogs be careful that we see the image of God in the face of those that make us most angry.
Related Post: The Problem: You Just Aren’t Religious Enough
One of the reasons I post under the same name everywhere is to keep myself accountable for my own words. I still don’t like the way I’ve always responded but I can learn and grow if I don’t hide from my behavior. Otherwise how do we improve? How do we change if we are unwilling to acknowledge there should be change?
I constantly remind people, if we, Christians, cannot be decent to others on an anonymous website, how do we expect the world to see Jesus in us. In our words, our heart is showing. I use these words to get a good view of myself, repent and be encouraged; He who began a good work in me is able to complete it.
God bless, andrea
Linda Carter says
I hear what you are saying, Jeremiah. This past weekend, as you may know, Toledo had a water crisis. High algae levels in the western end of Lake Erie caused a spike in microcystin toxin in our city intake. Everyone was advised against drinking, cooking, or bathing in the water. As the two-day drama worked itself out, I was reading the website for a local TV station. Yes, the messages from the city administration were vague and unclear. But many people on the comments voiced ugly disdain for the hard-working and highly-educated scientists who were working to control the situation. I was glad I didn’t have to make decisions, knowing that saying a wrong thing might spark panic, fear, or mass exodus from the city. What disturbs me about this is the reaction of others who mistrust everyone, city officials, water scientists, and the employees of the Water Department. Few expressed respect for their expertise and much greater knowledge of the problem that the rest of us. In fact, some folks have said they won’t be ingesting the water from the city again. It makes me wonder about whether the internet is a good thing, and if allowing comments is a good thing for some web pages. Clearly many people were not respecting others. On the other hand, there were many volunteers out trying to help make sure the elderly and sick had plenty of water, Red Cross volunteers standing in parking lots while bringing cases of bottles to people’s cars, etc. Even the farmers who pumped water from their wells and brought it to town to give away. In a crisis you see good and bad, but I didn’t see much good on the internet comment pages.
Judy Shaw says
Great article! Thank you.