Christians on social media-the purpose, the perils, the promise

Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why.  And apologize, if warranted.

Last year, I published a post about social media use, alarmed at the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, and too much good information. I saw people, myself included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others. We were being contentious, disrespectful, divisive, and anything but “social”.

“Fake news” has been an issue with social media, but in 2020 it became a secondary pandemic with inaccurate, misleading, and false posts about coronavirus, lockdowns, public health, the presidential election, riots, protests, racism, etc. Due to the popularity and widespread use of social media sites and personal blogs we have all become “influencers”, like it or not.

In that post I suggested 9 strategies to share responsibly on social media.

  1. Post with purpose.
  2. Express yourself (not someone wlse)
  3. Consider the source when reading or sharing .
  4. Confirm the facts-who, when, where, what, how, why
  5. Differentiate facts from opinion
  6. Share videos with value
  7. Report accurate numbers and statistics
  8. Pause before sharing photos: are they real, are they yours?
  9. Share facts, not fear.
graphical depiction of electronic devices, paper, pencil, Bible, coffee mug

What about the Bible?

In my posts I approached these as secular problems, and they are. But even though I have a strong Christian faith, I had not thought of the spiritual implications; that is until I read a book by author N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts.

N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts

Professor Wright, or Tom as he is called, is an English New Testament scholar, theologian, and Anglican bishop. He was the bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010, then research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland until 2019, when he became a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall at the University of Oxford.

If all that sounds academic and stuffy, he is not. Besides reading this book, I have listened to several videos and podcasts by him, and outside his academic pursuits, he is quite down to earth.

So getting back to the book, Broken Signposts:How Christianity Makes Sense of the World, I gained a different perspective about social media when I read this passage (which is edited for brevity)

man looking at a phone screen

“Idols always promise a bit extra-or perhaps a lot extra…start off as something good, a good part of God’s creation…then it attracts attention and begins to offer more than it can appropriately deliver-it starts to demand sacrifices.

Idols are addictive. We know a good deal about the forms of addiction in our society, far fewer people are addicted to cigarettes than 50 years ago, but the same kind of compulsive behavior and often the same kind of destructive behavior, is now associated with not only alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs, but with our electronic systems:smartphones, social media, Facebook, and so on.

These can become self-destructive when people portray themselves in a particular light and then struggle to live up to the image they have created.

Technology can of course be a blessing, bringing people together in all sorts of ways, but in the last analysis real relationships with real people are a form of freedom. Half-relationships with a screen personality can be a step toward slavery. “

What do others think?

So then I wondered what other Christian thinkers, theologians, pastors, or authors were saying about social media. I found several Christian denominations have specific social media guidelines for their clergy and churchs to follow. (I only looked at Christian organizations but it is likely other faiths have similar committments to responsible social media use.)

But what about lay persons I wondered, does the church or other Christian leaders offer guidance? The answer is yes.

Here are links and a brief synopsis of some of the sources I found that address how a Christian can and should reponsibly use social media.

A CHRISTIAN CODE OF ETHICS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA

The first I found in a Facebook post by a relative by marriage who is an Anglican priest. He shared a link to A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media of the Anglican Church in North America.

The following is a simple code of ethics (5 Questions) for the follower of Jesus to consider before one clicks the “enter” button. It is intended for the follower of Jesus to remember that even in cyber-space we are witnesses (either for good or for bad) for Jesus Christ modeling a life which is supposed to emulate him.

hands keyboarding

A Christian Ethic for Social Media

More ideas came from the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. Denver Institute for Faith & Work is an educational nonprofit dedicated to forming men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work.

The post at this link shares a video by Denver Institute founder Jeff Haanen in which he shares insights to answer the question

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, how can the Bible guide our use of social media?

Biblical Principles for Social Media

This is a blog post shared by Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, who serves as President and CEO of AgathonEDU Educational Group and leads Vyrsity and Colorado Biblical University. Dr. Cone has served as a President (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Tyndale Theological Seminary), a Chief Academic Officer (Southern California Seminary), and as a Research Professor (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Southern California Seminary), as well as several pastoral roles and teaching positions at the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, and Southern Bible Institute.

Dr. Cone writes

there is an even more valuable question we can consider with respect to social media: what would Jesus do – or more precisely, what would Jesus have us do with social media? We certainly would be unwise to retreat from social media – if we desire to interact with people, social media provide fantastic tools to do that. Paul cautions believers not to disengage from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), and again warns believers not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). One principle in view here is to be deliberate about using tools like social media to accomplish specific (His) purposes, and not to fall into the trap of being taken captive by those tools.

Dr. Cone

The American Values Coalition has a mission of “growing a community of Americans empowered to lead with truth, reject extremism and misinformation, and defend democracy.” On the blog, writer Ian IcCloud suggests telling stories as a way to avoid the polarization that he calls “harmful to American civic life.”

3 Ways to Combat Extreme Polarization

We all need to be better at telling stories and, more specifically, better at listening to the stories of others. Stories have the power to draw us out of ourselves and move us to care for others in ways we wouldn’t otherwise choose or know to choose.

But stories only work as an end to polarization if we’re willing to admit that we can change. More bluntly, stories will only work if we are ready to accept that we could be wrong and in need of change.

15 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media

Writing for Relevant Magazine, Tim Arndt, lists 15 rules under the headings of Attitude, Distractions, Image, Discernments, and Nastiness. And a “bonus” rule

It seems like having a civil disagreement has become a rare phenomenon, but we need to learn how to disagree with charity.On social media, I’ve had disagreements with people on a wide range of topics like abortion, atheism and racial issues. I try my best to be civil and if the other person is too, I thank them for that.

Tim Arndt

Social media has changed the world and the very nature of communication. We are all able to broadcast our every thought and opinion at an unprecedented scale. But Christians must not forget that everywhere we go, we represent our savior.

Tim Arndt

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16, ESV

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

THINK before you post or share

Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why.  And apologize, if warranted.

Harvard School of Public Health recommends we THINK twice before posting or sharing on social media-

  • Is it TRUTHFUL?
  • Is it HELPFUL?
  • Is it INSPIRING?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

Using Our Online Conversations for Good

Explore a Christian viewpoint on social media use with this book by Daniel Darling, an author and pastor. (this is an affiliate link)

Sadly, many Christians are fueling online incivility. Others, exhausted by perpetual outrage and shame-filled from constant comparison, are leaving social media altogether.

So, how should Christians behave in this digital age? Is there a better way? 

Daniel Darling believes we need an approach that applies biblical wisdom to our engagement with social media, an approach that neither retreats from modern technology nor ignores the harmful ways in which Christians often engage publicly. 

 In short, he believes that we can and should use our online conversations for good

Amazon

Be Kind Online: Ten Rules for Christians in a Digital Age 

exploring the HEART of responsible social media use

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Please share this post on your social media sites so together we can make the social world safer, friendlier, and trustworthy. Thanks.

Dr Aletha

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

Lightstock-quality photos and graphics site- here. 

(This is an affiliate link)

Keith Wheeler-“take up your cross”

It , 2020, was a season of adjustment. There were many distractions in the world, but I refused to be distracted by the politics. My message continued-know Jesus and love people.


“I’m heartsick about the times, when we, as Christians, have not lived according to Jesus’ teachings and created barriers to the faith. But …nameless men and women…humbly and courageously upheld the faith, have served in obscurity, have given their lives to help others”

John D. Woodbridge, PhD, in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

I know one person who humbly upholds his faith, serves in relative obscurity, and has given his life to help others. Keith Wheeler from Tulsa Oklahoma has done so since 1985, travelling the world, meeting people in crowds, sometimes one on one, without introduction, without an entourage, without publicity. He does it because he loves Jesus and wants everyone else to love him.


Others do something like this, but unlike Keith, they don’t do it on foot (after flying into a country by plane, of course.) Nor do they do it carrying a 12 feet tall, 90 pound cross over a shoulder. But Keith Wheeler does.

a man surrounded by children, all carrying a large cross
Keith loves kids.


I introduced you to Keith in two previous posts that I invite you to read. In 1985 he began walking around the world carrying his cross. He started in Tulsa Oklahoma and returned there when he had walked the entire circumference of the earth. Then he continued walking until March 2020 when like the rest of us his usual life routine was interrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. But the pandemic did not stop his ministry, his love for God and people, and his desire for people to know Jesus. He just did it in differently.

Keith, the Cross, and COVID


Like millions of others, Keith was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early 2021. Fortunate, he had a mild case, not requiring hospital admission, and recovered after the recommended isolation time at his home in Tulsa.

He was well enough to pick up the cross and carry it in Florida on perhaps the most appropriate day of the year-Good Friday. A few months later he started travelling again, although at a limited extent due to worldwide travel restrictions.

The Interview, part 2


In November 2021 Keith was home in Tulsa and I caught up with him by video so we could maintain social distancing. I wrote about my interview with him in an earlier post and continue it here. (KW is Keith, I am AO.)

AO: Keith, have you started travelling overseas again?

KO: Some but mostly staying in the states, a lot of travel in Oklahoma and Texas, and to Central America and Paraguay. Travel is more difficult due to fewer direct connections, and the need to get tested for COVID so often. If a country requires a 2 week quarantine upon arrival, that’s not a good use of our resources. And it can be hard to maintain masking outdoors when it’s required by the local regulations.


AO: Keith, you called your COVID timeout a precious time with Jesus.
KW: Yes it was. One of my favorite verses is John 13:23, in the King James Version (KJV) ;it says the disciple whom Jesus loved (believed to be John) was “reclining on Jesus’ bosom”. I like to think that meant the heart of Jesus, and that’s where I want to be.

AO: What was it like in 2020, not being able to travel internationally?
KW: It was a season of adjustment. There were many distractions in the world, but I refused to be distracted by the politics. My message continued-know Jesus and love people.

AO: Keith, I suspect many people quote the scripture about taking up one’s cross. What does that mean to you?
KW: Jesus said to be born again once, but several times he said to “take up your cross.” (Matthew 16:24) To be there are four aspects to taking up the cross.
First, it needs to involve sacrifice, it has to cost something. It has to be chosen willingly. Next it needs to bring redemption to others, that is save them from sin, evil, or error. Finally, it has to bring glory to God.

men carrying a cross up a rugged mountain wall
Keith with his trail guides carrying the cross up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa

AO: Keith, what should we learn from the pandemic, not just medically speaking, but socially and spiritually?
KW: We have missed the presence of Jesus by insisting on our rights. A story in the Old Testament, about Joshua teaches a lesson about this.
(Keith then told me this story)

While Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?”
He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. I’ve just arrived.”
Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, “What orders does my Master have for his servant?”
God’s army commander ordered Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy.”
Joshua did it. Joshua 5:13-15, MSG

KW:Taking off one’s shoes is a sign of humility and submission, the very opposite of insisting on our rights.

Meeting Keith-and the Cross

That thought has stayed with me, long after Keith and I ended our talk so he could make it to another appointment. Since then, I have watched several of his YouTube videos, listened to other interviews, and a few weeks ago my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a local church where Keith spoke.


If you think Keith dresses up in a suit and tie to speak in churches-well, guess again. He looked like he had just walked in from the road, although I’m fairly sure he and his wife Nicole drove there. He brought the cross, which is just as big and impressive as it looks in his photos.

a man holding a large cross
Keith speaking at a local church, photo by Raymond Oglesby


Before he spoke, Keith wasn’t backstage drinking coffee. He was in the auditorium, sitting at the far end of the front row, joining us in the music and worship time, sometimes kneeling as we sang, and occasionally lying prostrate on the floor. (Later over lunch my husband said he noticed Keith had “disappeared” and wondered where he was.) Before he started speaking, he invited all of us in the audience to kneel and pray, and as far as I could tell, we all did.

Keith’s message that morning was about-the Cross. He said almost everywhere in the world he travels people recognize the cross and what it stands for, but a few times he has gone places where people didn’t know.

Once he was in a large crowd in Nairobi Kenya, so crowded he could barely walk through. Suddenly the crowd parted to allow a blind man being led by a friend to approach. When he reached Keith, all he wanted to do was touch the cross. Then he walked away.

Keith says he should all be like the people in the Bible, John 12: 21, who came to the disciples, asking to see Jesus. Instead, we have taken our eyes off Jesus, off the cross, instead worrying abut masks, vaccines, and election fraud, which he calls distractions.


I was honored to meet him after the service, pose for a photo, and most importantly, touch the cross that has been up to Mt. Kilimanjaro. The cross wasn’t smooth and polished; it felt sturdy and rugged, the surface rough, like the one Jesus would have carried. It was a Sunday I will not forget.

Keith Wheeler holding his cross with Dr. Aletha
photo by Raymond Oglesby

You can find Keith at Keith Wheeler Ministries

The Message Bible Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

King James Version -Public Domain

sharing the HEART of faith, hope, and love

Thanks for joining me to meet Keith Wheeler. Soon I will share another post about Keith, with info culled from his website, social media, and videos. Keith has encountered many situations involving conflict, and I’ll tell you about one that happened surprisingly right here in Tulsa Oklahoma.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Doctor Aletha

Keith Wheeler-a Cross and COVID

No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

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