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included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others.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)

Daily Audio Bible-now read and listen to the Bible in 1 year

Brian Hardin has been podcasting the Bible to hundreds of thousands for over a decade, leading people through the whole Bible every year. Now he’s putting his love of the daily reading of Scripture on to the page. In this collection of 365 readings, you’ll be surprised by how often what you read in the Bible will be a mirror into your own heart and motives.

It’s not too early to think about adding more faith, hope, and love to your life next year. One way I do so is reading the Bible.

The Bible is long and sometimes complicated, so reading every chapter in a year is daunting. But Brian Hardin and his crew from Daily Audio Bible have made it doable.

Brian Hardin, creator of Daily Audio Bible, reads from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs every day of the year. His daughter China reads from the Chronological Bible every day. (That’s the order the events occurred, rather than the way the books in the Bible are arranged.)

And there are versions available for kids and teens, and in multiple languages including Spanish, French, Arabic, and Japanese.

How to listen

Accessing the DAB is easy – and FREE.

And that’s not all

Now there is another option- a daily devotional book to read along with the daily Bible readings.

The One Year Adventure with the God of Your Story by Brian Hardin

This is an affiliate link, used to earn a commission from sales made through it. The funds go to support the expense of publishing this blog.

The daily devotional entries parallel the readings that Brian does each day.

Brian Hardin has been podcasting the Bible to hundreds of thousands for over a decade, leading people through the whole Bible every year. Now he’s putting his love of the daily reading of Scripture on to the page. In this collection of 365 readings, you’ll be surprised by how often what you read in the Bible will be a mirror into your own heart and motives.

Amazon

I’ve already purchased a copy of the devotional so I’ll be ready on January 1. But I skipped ahead a little to share with you a quote from the January 5 entry, when Brian introduces the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. It’s one of my favorite passages of scripture and I’ve shared several blog posts using verses from it.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus began to teach one of his foundational messages known as the Sermon on the Mount. This disruptive message describes a world that we long for but have no idea how to achieve-which may be the point.

 Jesus spoke of the countless blessings (the Beatitudes) for those who reach the end of their own strength and ability only to find God there. We are happiest when we depend on God for everything we are and everything we will ever be

Brian Hardin

sharing faith, hope, and love next year

So whether you buy Brian’s book or not, I hope you will follow along with me at the Daily Audio Bible. It will only cost you a little time but I think you will find it a worthwhile investment.

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.

Dr Aletha

The Daily Audio Bible is supported by donations and sales of products on the website. This blog gains no financial benefit from them and DAB did not compensate me for this blog post.

Some posts from the Sermon on the Mount on this blog

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