The self-defeating nature of Internet Evangelism

This article excitedly declares that internet evangelism will be the next big thing. It lists five very specific reasons.

  1. Technology is affordable
  2. Millions can be reached
  3. It’s cheap
  4. People love to share
  5. Non-Christians are searching for God

Suppose all of these are true. I’m skeptical of the author’s interpretation of the data on the last one but let’s let it pass. Even if this is all true, what do we have? We have the opportunity for a complete stranger to interact with millions of complete strangers and pass along a set of propositions that they claim are true. Continue reading

Proverbs 25:12 – What kind of ear do you have?

Like a gold ring and a fine gold ornament, so is constructive criticism to the ear of one who listens.

(Pro 25:12 GW)

Who likes to be criticized? Before you think this is a rhetorical question with the obvious answer, “nobody,” consider the message of this proverb. If you have the kind of ear that doesn’t listen, then criticism is most likely going to go in your one ear and out the other. However if you have a listening ear, as the proverb says, then criticism is of immense value, comparable to jewelry made of precious metals. How many of us have the nobility in our character to consider constructive criticism to be valuable; something we would pursue? It’s not always my first inclination.

There is another element to this. Other translations specify not just constructive criticism, but that it should come from a “wise reprover.” So to clarify, we should seek the reproof of the wise, not just any old man on the street. However, reproof is a strong word. According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions (Strong’s number H3198), the word can mean a number of things including, “rebuke, reprove, correct, chasten.” In other words we’re not necessarily talking about a polite exchange of some friendly advice.

However, if it comes from somebody wise – somebody who’s character and life experience has earned them a place among those worth listening too – then such a chastening is well worth it!

Social media; some more warnings

This article was forwarded to me. It is packed full of good advice on how to handle yourself online. The importance of heeding that advice is also explained. Here are some statistics.

  • 3 in 4 have witnessed an argument on social media
  • 4 in 5 report rising incivility on social media
  • 2 in 5 have unsubscribed, blocked or unfriended someone as a result
  • 1 in 5 have reduced in-person contact with someone over a cyber argument
  • 88% believe people are less polite on social media than in person (Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!!)
  • 81% say emotional conversations held on social media are most often unresolved

It doesn’t need to be this way. Try sitting across a table instead of behind your laptop for starters. Think before you type. It’s mostly common sense, but read the article for plenty of other excellent advice.

John Loftus debate

I had the pleasure of attending a debate last night between John Loftus and Randall Rauser, co-authors of the book “God or Godless?” During the debate Loftus had all the passion of a fundamentalist preacher and you could almost smell the fire and brimstone. Except, he was the Atheist! Rauser was the calm, cool and collected presenter. Loftus was also remarkably condescending about religious believers in general, calling all of us “delusional” on multiple occasions. All-in-all I was very unimpressed with his aggressive tone, his condescension and his general lack of etiquette.

But I had a chance to chat with him one-on-one after the event. He was a different man! He was relaxed, he was calm, and the insults were (mostly) gone. We didn’t talk for long, but he was definitely willing to have a gentle dialogue on these issues without resorting to name-calling and condescension. He was willing to explore the issues instead of pounding his opinions into whoever would listen.

What happened? I have a theory. The major difference between the formal event and our one-on-one chat was the venue. In the debate he had an audience. He had a reputation to uphold. At public speaking events adrenaline can get pumping and one can take on a different persona. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I could never possibly say that I know Loftus well enough to really comment on the reason for the difference, but I would wager a guess that the reason lies somewhere between adrenaline and an audience.

Most of us will never do a public debate where we have to defend our views (unfortunately – it would probably be a good learning opportunity) but sometimes we do have “public” discussions online. If you get into lively discussions at Facebook, or on discussion forums or what have you, there is a known audience. When you know other people are listening in, does your persona change? I suspect mine might change a little. In some ways this is unavoidable; it’s only human. We get nervous. We don’t want to “lose.”

I need to re-iterate my opinion (and yes, it is merely an opinion; I could be wrong) that most people should avoid online discussions of major life issues for this reason. Instead, go for coffee with people where you are face-to-face with them and nobody is listening. If you do engage in online discussions try to make them private; just email. If you end up having public discussions be very careful how you behave yourself. I’ve poked around briefly at Loftus’ blog and, unfortunately, the fundamentalist preacher mode is alive and well there too. Case in point.

The Loftus during the debate was a man who I would have been glad to personally escort from our city if somebody gave me the authority to do so. The Loftus I chatted with post-debate was a man I would have loved to go for coffee with and chat for hours. Be the second kind of Loftus in all your conversations, even public ones.