Danger! Angry Christian Blogger

As the Blue Like Jazz movie controversy starts to get rolling, we thought it might be worth reposting a few lessons learned from 2011’s greatest controversy surrounding “Love Wins”

“Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right than to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, indeed, requires you to be mean.”

-Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor

The Bellapalooza surrounding the current Love Wins controversy may the first evangelical doctrinal debate in history to occur nearly exclusively on the Internet. The printing presses that launched the Reformation are silent. No books, no tracts, no pamphlets, no (print) magazines. Perhaps a few print newspaper articles, but that’s it. (With the notable exception of Bell’s publisher.) Yet, a Google search of “love wins”+”rob bell” nets over 400,000 responses (and counting), and the book hasn’t even been out for a month!

This development is as unprecedented as it is expected. We all knew that we would get to this point eventually, but what do we do now?  No matter who wins the theological debate, this is a very important watershed in church history. Where will the advent of cyber-theology take us in the future? No one knows for sure.

Love Loses

What we do know from this first round of cyber-theology is one very painful truth: “Meanness Wins!” Nearly a decade ago (2002), USC professor and spiritual formation expert Dallas Willard warned us that civility was near an all-time low in American church history:

“Why are Christians so mean?  Well, there actually is an answer to that question. And we must face this answer and effectively deal with it or Satan will sustain his stranglehold on spiritual transformation…  Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right… than to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, indeed, requires you to be mean–righteously mean, of course.” [1]

The advent of Internet culture has only made things worse. I thought sports radio was venomous… then I started reading blog posts on Love Wins. Wow! Talk about caustic! The boastful, arrogant, angry toxicity in some of these posts would make the coarsest Packers fan blush! I am not saying that the issues are unimportant, or that we that shouldn’t show some passion. But shouldn’t we also show some grace? [2]

A Modest Proposal for the Future of Cyber-Theology

I seem to recall the apostle Paul warning the Corinthians about the danger of “fathoming all mysteries and all knowledge” only to become nothing more than a “noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal.” No matter how worked up Paul got about an issue (have you read Galatians?) he was determined to make sure that his “blog posts” (isn’t that what an epistle is?) actually “edified” those who read them.

So in honor of the church’s first “blogging” superstar, I would like to make a modest proposal: From this time forward let no blogger ever press “send” for any post on any topic without first utilizing the “Saint Paul’s Blogging Checklist” provided below.

SAINT PAUL’S BLOGGING CHECKLIST: Do not press “send” until your blog post scores 5 out of 5 on the first set of questions, and zero out of 5 on the second.

Is this post?
(1) Patient
(2) Kind
(3) Free from envy
(4) Devoid of boasting
(5) Stripped of arrogance

Or is this post?
(6) Rude
(7) Self-seeking
(8) Angry
(9) Unforgiving
(10) Believing/assuming the worst about others

Of course, bloggers in a hurry (and bloggers are always in a hurry) could simply refer to Jesus’ simpler one-step appraisal tool: “Is this blog post written with the love and fairness that I would want a fellow blogger to use in writing about me?”

It may sound trite, but it is nearly impossible to imagine what a God honoring breath of fresh air such practices might bring to the future cyber-theology.

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See also: Blogging in the Midst of Controversy, by Adrian Warnock

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Notes:

[1] Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), p. 238. Just to prove the point, when I posted Willard’s quote on Facebook, half the commenters misinterpreted what Willard was saying and cheered him on for calling the church to contend for truth at all costs… even love. 

[2] I am not saying that there is never a time to call a group of hypocrites a “brood of vipers” (Luke 3:7), or “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27), nor even to wish aloud that stubborn religionists would “emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12), but that is always at the end of a very long conversation, not in the first month of a theological debate.


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