Monday, July 25, 2016

On Controversy

About a year ago, my husband and I decided that should the right pharmacist job become available, I should probably take it. Not long after that, the right job opened up. I enrolled my last homeschool student in Christian school, and my family started adjusting to our new normal.

When this occurred, I was entering my 11th year of blogging. That’s a lot of content. In my case, it’s also a lot of public foolishness. I made my personal blog settings private until I had time to think about what content could stay and what needed to go. I also decided to take a break from posting here for a "couple of months." A year later, my blog is still not back up, and this is my first post.

Since one of my freelance jobs had been helping with social media and marketing for Cruciform Press, I went from constant immersion in all things social media to not looking at social media for days at a time. Controversies flared up and died out before I even knew about them.

And then, just as I was starting to contemplate blogging again, the Trinity controversy unfolded. Though this is one of the bigger debates I’ve seen in the Christian blogosphere in the past decade, it’s similar in many ways to many other disagreements I’ve seen.

Our motives are often mixed. When I blogged, I always knew some of my reasons for blogging weren’t very noble. And my reasons for going dark weren’t entirely holy, either. Stirring up controversy leads to blog hits and fame. Criticizing the wrong people might end up costing you links and endorsements. And like Paul, I’m not a good judge of myself (1 Corinthians 4:3–4), let alone everyone else. Some people are keeping quiet because they don’t have anything substantial to add to the noise. Some people are trying to preserve their platform. I have no clue who is who, so it does me no good to speculate.

People are more than their social media personas. It’s no good being well versed in theology if you’re going to be spiteful and mean about it (1 Corinthians 13:2). On the other hand, the most sincere person in the world can be sincerely wrong and lead weaker people astray. That said, our social media posts are a small snapshot of our lives. Just because someone posts a lot about a particular subject, doesn't mean that's all they think and care about. The Bible says we are to grow in love and knowledge (Ephesians 4:15). Since we have no idea what another’s motives are, and since “tone” on social media is usually subjective, we should endeavor to believe the best and focus on the ideas.

Bad theology often leads to bad practice. Notice I said often. Everybody is walking around with some bad theological ideas. We are fallible humans living in a world marred by sin. Things that would seem to be a minor issue to most of us might cause someone else to really get off in the theological weeds. Just because somebody’s a great person doesn’t mean his or her sloppy theology won’t cause someone else to go down a dangerous trail.

It’s easy to become numb to criticism. I’ve seen this happen numerous times. People who are “social-media famous” get picked at a lot. Most of these attacks are so silly they should only be ignored. Then, when a real issue is raised, it’s too easy for those being criticized to dismiss it as more of the same. We all need to do a better job picking our battles.

I still believe that social media has done far more good for me than bad. It’s led to some wonderful, real-life friendships. It’s challenged my thinking for the better on many subjects. It’s helped me keep in touch with family and friends who live far away. And yes, it’s often distracted me when I had more important things to do. But so has HGTV and the bird feeders in my back yard. Pulling back from social media and not blogging for a year didn’t magically improve my self discipline. I just found other stuff to do. We need to figure out how to do Internet debates better. But we also need to do good everywhere we can—whether that be in our virtual lives or our real ones.

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