Loving Controversy: Revisited

Recently, I spent some time looking at the problem with loving controversy. That, along with some other stuff I’ve recently read online, prompted me to write a bit about online arguments on my personal blog. This, of course, brought me back here and studying about a Christian’s attitude toward arguing. Before I jump into some scripture, I want to give you some of the background that keeps this in my mind, so you understand where my concerns are coming from. Please note, I’m going to open up here and let you have a peek into the real me. If that makes you squeamish, close your eyes until you get to the third heading.

The Backstory

Like any good online citizen, I don’t only blog. I also belong to a couple of online communities. I don’t jump onto every social network available, but I’m active in three particular ones:

  • Pleonast. This was my first social network. It’s supposed to be like MySpace for Christians.
  • Twitter. I joined Twitter shortly after is opened and have made several new contacts through it.
  • Facebook. I was most hesitant to join this one. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

In all of these networks, I link to my various blogs when I post something new. I’ve noticed a troubling pattern, though. Whenever I post something of a spiritual nature, it gets few hits and few responses. In contrast, whenever I post something that even remotely touches on the topic of politics, it gets a lot of hits and numerous responses – mostly negative because, I’ll admit, my personal political philosophies are contrary to those of many Christians. I want others to understand where I’m coming from, so I write, not necessarily caring whether or not I change any minds. I just want to share a different perspective.

By the way, do you see the problem yet?

Spelling It Out

All of my friends on Pleonast consider themselves Christians. The vast majority of my Facebook friends consider themselves Christians. I think my only substantially non-Christian community is Twitter, and I link to few of my spiritual posts there. (Specifically, on Twitter, I only link to the posts that I author myself.) The expected outcome, then, would be that posts on spiritual matters would receive the largest amount of hits, for the vast majority of my contacts consider themselves to be spiritual individuals.

That doesn’t happen, though. If I track hits from Facebook alone, one of my political posts will generate ten to twenty times the hits of a spiritual post. In fact, a post I recently wrote about my favorite Obama myths generated more traffic from Facebook in a day than this blog will generate in a couple of weeks – and I link two or more posts from this site every week on Facebook. Let that sink in for a bit. One silly post about Obama easily outpaces the collected effect of four posts on this site – among a primarily Christian audience!

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s not like my Facebook or Pleonast friends are unfamiliar with my political views. It’s not like I link only posts I think will be (unintentionally) controversial while withholding those that would be edifying. The conclusion is that many of my fellow Christians are ignoring spiritual nourishment but willfully pursuing content they already know will rile them. They are seeking out reasons to be angry.

What Do We Seek?

What are you seeking when you are online? Research? News? Distraction? God’s word has a few things to say about the things we seek in this life.

  • Proverbs 2:4 encourages us to seek God’s wisdom as a treasure.
  • Proverbs 8:17 says those who love God seek Him unendingly.
  • Matthew 6:33 calls on us to seek God’s kingdom before anything else.
  • I Corinthians 10:24 and I Thessalonians 5:15 say we should seek ways to help and benefit others.
  • Colossians 3:1 tells us we should seek things above.
  • I Peter 3:11 encourages us to seek and relentlessly pursue peace.

We’re good at this when we’re at worship services. We may even be good at this when we look for books to read or choose activities with our Christian friends. When we embark into that hive of scum and villainy that is the Internet, however, all bets are off. The Internet has a profound affect on Christians, and it’s seldom a good one.

We are quick to remind our children that they are still Christians when they are at school. We easily remind each other that the workplace doesn’t negate our Christianity. We know that we still have to behave like Christians when playing sports. We would do well to remind ourselves that we are also still Christians when online. If we truly reflect the name we wear, then what we seek online will closely resemble the things we seek when we open our Bibles.

Again, I can’t help but come back to Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Do we seek what is true online? Do we pursue that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy? Or are all bets off the moment we launch our favorite web browser? Is the Internet merely a place to waste our times with our favorite games and yell at people who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on every worldly issue? Put another way: what would Jesus browse?

The Final Word

This kind of stuff has almost caused me to abandon this blog more than once. I wonder why I bother when not even those who consider themselves Christians can spare a moment to read something edifying while they go out of their way to seek controversy. In fact, I only link to this blog on Pleonast now, and I seldom visit anyone else’s page. Too much negativity and arguing exists there. What’s the point? Why do I keep banging my head against the wall when I see so many fellow Christian seem so disinterested in God’s word when they are online?

You might notice I haven’t said much about Twitter. Again, I only link to this blog on Twitter when the post is original to me – not when I’m sharing my notes of someone else’s lesson. Of my Twiter followers, only a handful identify themselves as Christians, but here’s the thing. One link on Twitter outpaces Facebook traffic by a factor of ten. Here are people who, by and large, have never met me face to face. Many of them don’t share my religious views, yet more of them visit this blog than my friends and family on Facebook. That keeps me going here: the knowledge that I’m reaching someone in some small way.

What are you seeking from day to day? What do your activities look like online? Do you spend your time looking for political controversies? Do you look for arguments to join? Do you seek out reasons to be angry? If you are, just stop it. Exercise a modicum of self-control, and reject the negativity and distractions of this world. Instead, seek out things that will edify you. Do this, and the will to argue will dissipate. Seek out things that generate peace and unity. Let your online habits be as nurturing to your spiritual growth as your church attendance. Seek Him first.