Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Thursday

7

February 2013

1

COMMENTS

On Public Criticism via Social Media

Written by , Posted in Culture, Ministry, Theology

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on Twitter and especially Facebook. With what seems to be increasing regularity, I read public criticisms by Christians of their pastors, professors, or employers. Most of these criticisms aren’t so much well-reasoned critiques as they are drive-by gripes or passive-aggressive jabs at others. I don’t believe these sorts of comments honor Christ.

Let me give you three real-life scenarios, though some details have been changed to protect the guilty.

Scenario One: A church member is upset because she believers her congregation’s worship music is too boring. She wants the church to embrace a more contemporary approach to worship music. So she regularly makes comments about how praise teams evoke more passionate musical praise from church members than a choir and orchestra. She even finds websites that support her particular views and posts them regularly on Facebook so that everyone (including her pastors and other fellow church members) know just how dissatisfied she is with the direction of her church’s worship ministry. Of course, she’s always very polite. After all, she would hate to sow discord in the body or show a lack of submission to her church’s leadership.

Scenario Two: A student complains that his professor embraces a different theological system than the student, and thus is incapable of competently teaching his subject. Of course, the student doesn’t say this overtly. Instead, he regularly jokes about the theologically shallow comments his professor makes, points out passages the professor hasn’t considered, and encourages his Facebook friends to avoid Dr. So-and-So if they want a “real” graduate-level class. Of course, several of his professors, including the one whom he is taking pot-shots at, are his Facebook friends.

Scenario Three: A young man works for a retail chain store while he is putting himself through seminary. He doesn’t think his employer understands that he needs to work fifteen hours a week on two particular days every week so that he can take classes, participate in church, and not miss Monday Night Football with his buddies. He also doesn’t think his employer pays him enough, and he constantly “poor mouths” his own financial situation while noting that his manager just bought a new car and a 42-inch plasma TV. And several of his coworkers are lazy—he wants everyone to know that. And by everyone, I mean everyone, since this brother has plastered his thoughts all over Facebook.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that its never appropriate to make a criticism, even publicly via social media. What I am saying is that in the cases listed above, Facebook is not the appropriate venue to raise your concerns. In scenario one, the sister needs to talk to her church’s leadership. If the church isn’t moving in the direction she prefers in terms of worship (or whatever) and its not a matter of ethics or orthodoxy, then she needs to either submit to the church’s leadership or find a different church that suits her preferences. In scenario two, the student needs to raise his concerns with his professor. If the two of them don’t see eye to eye, and the student is convinced the professor’s views are actually spiritually dangerous, he needs to speak with an appropriate dean. In scenario three, the student simply needs to can the complaining or find another job—before his boss puts him in a situation where he has to find another job.

People often say things in the cyber-reality of Facebook that they would never say in a real life conversation. This is true even of Christians. As believers, we need to all pray that the Lord would help us to be above reproach when it comes to how we use social media—we are representing Christ. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29, ESV).

And as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be willing to confront our friends who are “acting out” in this sort of way. Don’t wait for a pastor to read the post and inquire with the malcontent. Don’t wait for the professor to catch wind of the criticisms and confront the student. Don’t wait for the boss to hear about the comments and fire her critical employee. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24, ESV).

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