Facing the Challenges of Being a Christian in Social Media

Christians

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.

The Christianity subreddit has over 45,000 members. The atheism subreddit has over 1.25 million members.

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?

 

Boldly Go

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.

 

Practical Tips

“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.

About JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of both Judeo Christian Church and Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. AMEN brother. I struggle with this myslef and although I attempt to lovingly share my faith as well as politicial opinions, I have been “unfriended” as a result of these posts at times. I believe that I have also formed tighter affiliations with more open minded and Christian individuals, probably an equal volume of folks.

    Can you offer any advice to a someone considering blogging? Best tool/platform? Why do you like what you use? Thanks.

    Proverbs 3:5

    • Best tool to blog is word press if you want style… Blogger is the best if you want to keep it simple but they have come up with some cool widgets that you can hack into it if you know how to do a bit of code…. Do not worry about the people that unfriend you… Comes with the territory… Unless people are being obnoxius… Which I have seen very little from the Christian side… Way less than you see normally from some of the zealots…

  2. Very well done JD Rucker. It is important that we are the message……not the mess. Often people of faith speak freely and openly about the challenges of everyday life….forgetting the message….that we are not alone. There has been gratitude joy and abundance….never spoken of. When you expressed recently, in showing a home-made meal, that your were grateful….I was delighted and inspired. When I man will speak up and say “I married a goddess, I know he lives the Joy and Love of his Master.
    I am a woman of faith. I share my ESH,,,(experience, strength and hope) I am a woman of recovery….I share that recovery came before the discovery.
    I am a fan of JD Rucker….and much more so after this article and the public praise of your chosen woman.
    We walk in our faith. Mine is not yours. I do learn from you . I do respect your walk.

  3. Dennis Coble says:

    I like your post, JD. Most modern day religions proclaim one God. IMO, most people will admit to believing there is a God, yet not so many appear to live their lives as if they do. When groups can get together, and make a physical stand against something that doesn’t fit in their religion, that is making judgments against others, plain and simple. I tell people that God may indeed have a judgment in store for me, but it is His judgment, not theirs. It is His place to take care of it, and He doesn’t need His children taking care of His business, for Him.

    • Dennis,

      Explain… Some zealot Christians do ooze judgement. But God is a lot more patient with us than any man… Right is right and wrong is wrong and there are consequences to doing wrong but His mercies are new every morning…

  4. Andrew Riggio says:

    While I always feel your writing style is great, I have to disagree with your basic premise. The reason Christians have such a hard time online is because the world is waking up and rejecting unfounded belief in ancient myth.

    • Well said, Andrew. If one is going to put their beliefs regarding archaic superstition into a public forum, they will most likely meet with some challenges from those who require some evidence in order to believe. Preaching to the choir might be a better idea. The developed world is coming to be more and more secular and reason-based as the darkness of religious nonsense fades away.

  5. JD – Excellent post!! It is a challenge to walk the fine line between being offensive instead of effective. Many Christians also struggle with the perceived (real or imaginary) idea they have to be perfect and fear letting their guard down to take a stand.

    We have been given a golden opportunity through Social Media and you provide some wonderful insight for spreading the Message and being true to ourselves and our Lord! No one ever said it would be an easy journey.

    • I learned as a cross cultural missionary that the message has to be contextualized for each culture… Social Media is its own culture but really each platform is a different culture onto its own… I am developing social media classes for business purposes… I have been thinking about doing some for Christian outreach but am not sure I have time… Maybe if some of us got together and collaborated we could put a class together and do it on Google Hangout… I would help for sure and could probably find some old missions contacts that are cultural experts to join in if it were organized properly…

  6. “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.”

    I am an atheist who was a dedicated Baptist for over a decade in the past, and I’d like to give you my opinions to help explain our intentions properly.

    1. You feel your religion is targeted because the majority of anti-religion posts you see are anti-Christianity. But that’s because Christianity is the main religion in the United States. Of course anti-religion folks are going to focus on the religion that is most common. In the Middle East, atheists target Islam more. We target all exclusive religions.

    2. We fight because, whether you participate in it or not, right wing Christians are trying to take over the United States government to force Christian “rules” on everyone. We’re not attacking your religion, we’re defending ourselves FROM your religion. I hear many Christians say that it’s only a minority that are trying to legislate Christianity, but, if that’s true, you better get that minority under control because right now they represent you to all non-Christians. Ask any non-Christian under 30 and they’ll tell you they perceive Christianity as a political movement, not a spiritual movement. Christ’s true message has been lost and it’s up to you to fix that, not us.

    3. You can’t lump Hindus and Buddhists in with Christians, because Christianity is an EXCLUSIVE “we’re right everyone else is wrong” religion, while Hindus and Buddhists do not claim exclusive revelatory information. Exclusive religions breed arrogance, superiority, intolerance, hate, fear, elitism and eventually violence. It’s a historical reality. So we fight these exclusive religions – Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, for the good of mankind. Saying something bad about Buddhists, who are not proselytizing, judging others, trying to force their beliefs on everyone, is just rude, because they’re harmless.

    4. You (Christians) rarely – and I mean almost never – defend your faith against our comments in a reasonable manner. You normally respond with anger, hate, sarcasm, patronisation, vileness, threats of violence, and claims of being persecuted. Alternatively, we will defend our atheism day and night. This difference is what creates the idea that atheists are “intellectuals” while the religious are not. Reason with us and earn our respect, instead of attacking us, which earns you ridicule. When Christian leaders claim science is “straight from the pit of Hell,” and similar anti-science comments, you can’t expect us to consider you intellectuals.

    5. We are usually motivated to post or respond due to hypocrisy. We target the Christian right wingers who say they’re pro-life while fighting school lunches and health insurance for poor children, who fight gay marriage using vague arguments because they don’t want to admit it’s 100% because of their interpretation of the Bible, who spread rumors and lies to win a political race while professing themselves to be living like Christ. And yes, we judge your religion based on the actions of your members – it’s a reasonable thing to do.

    6. For thousands of years Christians have murdered, burned, tortured, jailed, black-balled and ridiculed atheists. Just because the scale is tipping in our direction doesn’t mean you’re suddenly the persecuted ones. Spend a day as an atheist and see who is attacking who. I literally don’t go a day without getting threats, foul language, or other hateful abusive comments from Christians who hate me because I’m an atheist. You are just so busy feeling sorry for yourselves you don’t “put yourself in others’ shoes.” Seriously, when I see posts like yours, I laugh out loud over whining about something your people have done a hundred times worse to my people for over 2,000 years.

    As a final note, never say on social media to a non-believer, “I’ll pray for you.” That is a demeaning statement that means, “I have superior knowledge that the supreme being chose me to have but not you, so I’ll put in a good word to my sky buddy, so maybe my good word will get him to help you not be so ignorant.” And we know when you say it, that’s exactly what you mean, not that you actually care enough about us to pray. If that were the case, you’d just do it, not say it.

  7. I have been going at it all alone for 5 years now… I started with Science Blogs and and have gravitated to Debate Me and other rabid secularists groups. For the most part if you stick it out and know your stuff in regards to practical non religious issues they may not like you but they will respect you.

    Part of my business is social media consultation and I have had more than one person tell me that I should not have religious and poltical stuff on my sites. Trouble is that it is just one part of my business. The other two are heavily biblically based. Not in our face and more from a philosophical angle but I still get grief. My newest site in overtly Christian and is basically the missions message I used to preach when I recruited missionaries 5 years ago… That is shared strictly with Christians because it is written for Christian but anything that goes out over the public web will draw attention beyond your target audience.

    I was ranked in the top 10 on Klout last year and had hundred tweet conversations regular. I gave up on it because it was like talking to the wall and I did not want that to be all that was on my Twitter page where I have followers that follow me for political analysis and social media information. Sometimes I think I blew it but I think Facebook Groups are a better venue so that my stream is not filled and only people in the group see it…

  8. JD.

    I left this link at your other blog but will share it here too just in case. You have no idea how much you encouraged me. I really thought I was all alone in this. There are Christians that use social media and you can talk to them about the Christian stuff but they really do not get the finer points of the power of social media. Then you have the social media people that say they are Christian and may well be. But at least some that show up on Christian lists seem suspect…

    My point being if you have a good understanding of the bible and social media you can have a great impact. I truly believe that Social Media is the Final Frontier Mission Field…

    http://www.3rdwavelands.net/2012/10/social-local-and-mobile-media-next.html#.UIS2u8X7JuM

    Please look over the entire site and tell me what you think… I could use some help for sure…

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