Being virtual salt and light

Week 2

Today we’re going to look at a sample comment (below in the Blue text) that I wrote in response to the George Zimmerman/Treyvon Martin case, when racial tensions were being, shall we say, encouraged by the media.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 ESV)

First off, I do not believe that most white people, or most black people either, are racists. Yes, there are some white people who hate blacks just because of the color of their skin. And there are some black people who hate whites just because of the color of their skin. But if someone does hate you because of the color of your skin, you will never overcome that by hating them back. At best, you will keep that hate alive and poison yourself with it. At worst, the hate will multiply and infect future generations who never would have hated anyone if they had not been taught to hate.

You will never overcome evil with more evil, any more than you can put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it. You overcome evil with good. At a minimum, be careful not to give any reasonable person anything resembling a legitimate reason to either hate or fear you. That just reinforces the stereotypes we’re trying to get rid of. But if you really want to overcome evil, then find a way to do good to those who hate you.

Will that work with everyone? Of course not! Some people are so twisted and bitter that they will go to their graves hating others no matter you do. But fighting evil with good will do more to overcome the blindness of prejudice and quench the fires of hated than all the counter-hatred in the world.

Now, of course, this is just one example. You don’t always have to include a scripture reference. Your response doesn’t have to be this long (two or three sentences will often have more impact than a dozen wordy paragraphs).

Today’s homework – pick out a news article and write a sample response. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. We’ll work on some ways to improve as we go along. You don’t need to actually post anything online, yet. Just get it on screen, or on paper, where you can look at it.

One of the big dangers of electronic communication is that it’s far too easy to tap out a reply on your keyboard, and hit “send” before you’ve had a chance to think about what you’ve said. Start getting in the habit of writing first, taking time to look at what you wrote, and then consider if that’s really what you wanted to say. Go get a cup of coffee, think about it, try to consider it from the other person’s point of view. Some words, once spoken, cannot be easily taken back. Words posted online can be read by the whole world, and may haunt you for years to come (hint: if you ever get sued in court, the other side’s attorney may dig up everything you’ve ever posted online. So never post anything you’d have difficulty explaining to a police officer or jury). Have you ever said something to a friend, or spouse, that you wished you could take back? Have you ever tried to explain something, and had your words totally misunderstood? Or had something you said taken out of context? That’s what you’re looking for before you post anything online.

Please note that some people will deliberately misquote you, and twist whatever you say and try to use it to attack or discredit you (I’m sure there are some people who would read the above posting and accuse me of being a racist). That can’t be avoided. Your job is to make sure that reasonable people can clearly see that you are the one speaking in love, and judge for themselves who is ranting against you in hate. More about that in my next posting.

I was in a prayer meeting once where the focus was on the Mainstream Media and how it influences the culture and politics of our increasingly secular society. I’ve written occasional Letters to the Editor for years, and am somewhat active in on-line discussion groups. So I know that there exists some opportunities for us to influence our culture, or at least make our voices heard. But I was hard pressed to try to pass along that knowledge in five minutes, so I decided to try to write it down for anyone else that might like to do the same. If you’re reading this in my blog, then most of what I’m going to say in my first posting is stuff you are probably already Internet savvy enough to know. But since this my also be read by Internet newbies, I’m going to start with the basics.

But first, should Christians even be actively engaged in Politics? Well, contrary to what is being taught in the schools today, the United States was clearly founded on Christian principles. The anti-slavery movement was largely driven from the pulpits of both England and the United States. So based on historical precedent, I’m going to say “Yes”, Christians have both every right as well as a duty to be engaged in Politics.

What does the Bible say about it?

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16

We now live in a world where public opinion is shaped by mass media. The world view presented by most forms of informational media today not only ignores God, but actively seeks to undermine the ways that He has told us to live. I don’t know of any way to directly influence the nightly TV news. But there is, in fact, already a way that we can have at least a small influence on what is both reported and discussed on the Internet. I’ve broken the following up into “weekly” lessons, but you can go through it as daily lessons instead if you have the time. But some of it requires a little research and practice, so it’s probably best not to try and do it all in one day.

Being virtual Salt & Light

Week 1

Many News and Opinion websites have a provision to allow readers to post replies to on-line articles. Although some sites are just set up for a simple polling vote (Yes, I liked the article, or No, I disliked the article), many sites will let you post whatever reply you want. This lets readers actually discuss the issue, state their own opinions and add facts or viewpoints not covered in the article. Which gives us an opening to introduce a Christian world view or rebut a secular line of reasoning.

Not all news type websites are set up for this. Fox News is not. But many news sites, like World Net Daily, accept reader replies. There are also all kinds of Bulletin Boards and various discussion groups on-line. Many of these are built around politically neutral topics (like the love of dogs) and specifically do not want any controversial subjects discussed. If a particular website doesn’t want hot debates and posts that generate name calling, please respect that.

The more politically oriented websites are often already polarized into right and left wing, although many are open to listening to both sides of the issues. Now here we get into a judgment call. If you go to a Christian website and post that you’re opposed to abortion, then you’re pretty much “preaching to the choir.” If you go to an extremely pro-choice site and just simply say “abortion is evil”, then you’re unlikely to convince anyone to change their heart or mind. Yes, you can encourage fellow believers. Or you can enter the lion’s den and boldly challenge the ungodly face to face. Not everyone has the gift to do both, but it is usually more effective to at least know which one you are trying to do at the moment.

Today’s homework: Pick out a website or two. Watch it for at least a week to see what kind of articles it has, and what kind of replies are usually posted in response. Find out what time the articles are posted. Having the second or third response will have more impact than having the forty-second response. If possible, select a site where you have a little knowledge or expertise to contribute to the discussion (sometimes just countering a false argument by correctly staying the facts can be very effective).

You will usually have to register with the website before being able to post. If you’re not comfortable giving out your regular email address, then you can get a free email account from yahoo or Gmail and just use it for this. Do not ever use your full name, address or any personal information when actually posting on-line. Just quoting a Bible verse will generate hate mail from some people, and you don’t want some Internet weirdo tracking back to your home and family.

Note: There are many other venues available on the Internet. You can start a blog, create a Facebook page, build a website or gather a following on Twitter. Broadly speaking, there are two types of social media. Either people will seek you out, or you will have to go to wherever people already are. I work in a Christian bookstore. Since it says “Christian” on a big sign out front, people that don’t want to hear Christian truths tend to avoid coming inside. If you venture out of your Safe & Comfortable Christian enclave and go to a town meeting, then you will be reaching a whole different audience. Blogs and Facebook are kind of a different medium, as people have to seek them out, and if you’re largely just sharing with your friends then they probably already agree with most of your views. But if we want to change the world, then we have to go out into the world.