A question came through my inbox yesterday that has been rippling through my mind for nearly 24 hours now. Social media is left-leaning. It is open regarding religion but a good portion of the active users around the world are either “secretly” Christian, atheist, agnostic, or believe in other religions. This is a challenge because for many the perception is that there needs to be either a balance between one’s faith and their social media activities or they feel like they need to hide their faith altogether.
It’s one of the toughest parts about social media. As a tool it can be extremely useful for learning and talking about the Word, but it’s loaded with the opposite. There are many (perhaps a majority of) believers who are worried that expressing their religious views will turn off their social media friends. There are many more non-believers who have seen the “benefits” of openly expressing negative sentiment towards Christians, Jews, or organized religion in general.
The biggest argument I hear from Christians about not posting their views or standing firm with their beliefs is that they want their social media to be relaxed and not filled with the religion or politics that they face in their real lives. The challenge with that argument is that most of these people do not “go forth” and discuss their Christianity in the real world, either. The second biggest argument I hear is that they believe their Christianity is a personal experience that does not need to be out in the open.
To both arguments, I would say that social media is the ideal venue through which to discuss our faith. That’s not to say we have to post Christian content all day, every day. I do it very sparingly. I build my network for professional reasons but I’m unwilling to shy away from witnessing or spreading the Word just because it’s not politically correct. Matthew 28:19 tells us to do something and social media is a gift in many ways to help make this happen.
The Double Standard
Here’s one that requires a little faith from the reader. It’s not faith in God that’s required. It’s faith that over the last five years I have explored the depths of social media, seen its bright sides and participated in its underbelly. What I’m about to say could be contested, but if you maneuver through social media on a daily basis for the hours that I do, you’ll find that I’m correct.
If you say something against Christians, Jews, God, Jesus, or the Bible, you may get passive resistance from some but for the most part you’ll be heralded as “intellectual”. If you say something against Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, any other non-Judeo-Christian faith, or any of their beliefs or literature, you are branded as a bigot. You will be unfollowed by friends, even Christians or Jews, because it’s simply not politically correct to promote hate. This may be true; I personally do not speak out against any faith or lack of faith. The double standard comes into play because anti-Judeo-Christian sentiment is not labeled the same.
On sites like Reddit, atheism is worn like a badge of honor. If you don’t believe in the “myths” of religion and embrace the “truth” of science, you’re superior. There is a tolerance on the site for atheism that is only a notch above tolerance for Buddhism and Hinduism. Islamic beliefs are not heralded, but they are rarely attacked other than during a couple of incidents where portions of the religion were attacked during short-lived site-wide jokes.
I wish there was advice to give here. The easy thing to do would be to avoid anything or anyone on social media and the real world that goes against your beliefs, but that wouldn’t be right, either. Facing the challenges, helping others face theirs, and elevating perceptions to a level of understanding of the realities of this world and the next are not easy tasks in the real world or on social media, but they’re important. If not you, then who?
For years, I’ve been a Star Trek fan. The unfortunate reality is that Star Trek and the vast majority of Hollywood expresses beliefs and spreads concepts that go against the Christian faith. In many cases, it’s subtle. In most cases, it’s blatant.
There is one concept, a phrase actually, that came from Hollywood but that can be used in the challenges facing Christians. “To boldly go where no man has gone before” ends the introduction speech of Captain James T. Kirk at the opening of every Star Trek episode. Despite it’s origins, the message can be applied to Christians on social media.
Be bold. Wear your Christianity online like a social media badge of faith. That’s not to say that you need to quote Bible versus with every interaction. It means that you have a communication tool in social media that opens doors to the opportunity to witness, the opportunity to guide, and the opportunity to fight when necessary.
Personally, I’m not a tolerant person. I believe what I believe and I don’t make excuses for those who follow other beliefs. However, social media is both liberal-leaning and filled with “less-than-Christian” content, so finding that balance is the key. I take advantage of the “tolerance” that supposedly fills western culture and the intellectual community. If it’s okay to express atheist beliefs, it’s okay to express Christian beliefs… in theory. Make it a reality.
Will you lose “friends”? Yes. Will you get attacked? Yes. Will Jesus be there to help you when you ask? Yes.
“Conjecture” is a word that is often used against Christians and Jews by atheists. It is a powerful word because it requires you to arm yourself with more than just faith if you want to go down the path of arguing intellectually for the reality of the Bible and its divine roots. However, the tools for such battles could not fit within a blog post. If you are like many and prefer to take the more appropriate path of letting the Spirit guide you through your journeys across social media, here are some ideas that may help:
- Pray. Always. Before addressing any situation, posting any thought, or talking to anyone on social media about your faith, say a little prayer. Get inspired. Open your heart and the words will come through.
- Results Aren’t Always Apparent. Don’t be discouraged by attacks. Don’t let concerns of failure pervade you. If you prayed before hand and let the Spirit guide you, the words will be the right ones. They may not always hit their target as you can perceive it, but all too often we do or say something that affects others in a positive way without ever knowing it. A social media conversation might end with someone calling you an idiot and unfriending you. You might think this is a bad thing, but don’t presume to know what is happening on the other end. The words you were given may be enough to spark a serious inquiry. That serious inquiry may help someone find the truth. You may walk away from a conversation on Facebook thinking that you failed miserably. You may never know that in reality, you touched someone who was unwilling at the time to tell you so.
- Arm Yourself With What Inspired You. There’s nothing more annoying than when someone asks me a question and I say, “You know, I was reading a verse the other day that would answer that perfectly… I just don’t remember which one it was.” Whether it’s a verse, a video, a book, an article (hint, hint – bookmark this!), or anything else that inspired you, be sure to save it. Build your arsenal, your defenses. Spread the most inspiring content to others. If it works to keep you heading in the right direction, it can help others as well.
- Take It Personally. Most would say otherwise. I believe that you should take it personally when others attack. The stakes are too high. That doesn’t mean “feeding the trolls” as some would put it. It means that the art of not taking it personally can lead to cynicism, regret, or doubt. When things do get personal (and they will if you’re doing it right), always remember to revert back to the first tip before replying.
- Find Real Friends. We are weak creatures. Nobody can stand alone regardless of how strong we are in our faith. We need help. Sometimes, that help comes in the form of friends. Allies in the fight are important to find and keep. There are Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, YouTube channels, and niche social networks designed to help like-minded Christians find each other. It deserves another blog post (expect one in the future).
- Prepare Your Content Carefully. The image above took me way too long to put together. It’s just an image and a Bible verse, but I spent nearly half-an-hour getting the shading, font, and position just right. One of the most oft-used weapons by the opposition is a perception of intellectual superiority. Proper grammar, spelling, capitalization, and presentation can help keep “intellectual superiors” from poking holes in your arguments.
- Be Sure Of The Message. There is a huge challenge facing Christians that has risen from the core of our beliefs. It has become increasingly easy for the wrong messages to be spread in the name of Christianity when the reality is that they’re not Christian messages at all. “Believe in yourself,” for example, is at the heart of many of the wrong messages. If we were capable of doing it ourselves, Jesus would never have had to die on the cross. Another common example of a “Christian” message that is often shared on social media comes in the form of signs that say something to the effect of “God prefers kind atheists over hateful Christians” or “Your beliefs don’t make you a good person, your actions do.” There’s a very subtle distinction between appropriate Christian messages and ones designed to push people in the wrong direction. When in doubt, refer to the Bible. It’s the safest place to find real messages worth spreading. If you’re touched by a message outside of the Bible and you want to be sure whether or not to share it, refer to the first tip and let the Spirit guide you.
This is far from comprehensive. There are many more needs, much more discussions, and a plethora of challenges that face us. Be strong. Be bold. Be faithful. Keep your eyes, mind, and heart open to the messages and signs. The time is at hand.