Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Benefit of the Doubt: Social Media is Killing It

Social Media is killing the age-old and inherently Christian practice (see Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Philippians 2:1-5) of giving others the benefit of the doubt. As a result, Christian fellowship is hindered, relationships between Christians are damaged, and the name of Jesus Christ is maligned.

I fully expect I will not be given the benefit of the doubt by some who read this article. After all, this article is a blog post. It's posted on social media. Therefore, my motivations and intentions can be negatively scrutinized, and some who might readily assert they are my friends, can assume the worst about me.

The above statements would be rightly classified as bizarre if such things didn't happen with increasing frequency and rapidity on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And, at least from my vantage point (most of my online interaction is with Christians), Christians are leading the way down this unholy path of uncharitableness.

A new-found commitment to brevity (thank you Dan Phillips) precludes me from providing a litany of qualifying statements in a robust attempt to make everyone happy. But I will toss at least this one, qualifying bone. I'm guilty. While I've been the recipient, many times, of not being given the benefit of the doubt, I have also done it to others far more often than I'd like to admit. So, I am doing my finger-pointing while looking in the mirror. If you're still not satisfied, let me fan out this hand on the table. Let me show you my cards. As you read this article, you may be right to conclude I have you in mind. And there is just as much chance you're wrong.

So, what am I not talking about? Well, I'm not talking about giving the benefit of the doubt to false teachers before commenting publicly about what they publicly do or say. I'm not suggesting giving Joel Osteen the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving Steven Furtick the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving Rick Warren the benefit of the doubt for doing this, or giving lesser known guys like Heath Mooneyham the benefit of the doubt for doing this.

Furthermore, I do not support the eisegetical, "Matthew 18" argument that says before a Christian should speak or write publicly about something another Christian said or wrote publicly, the former must go to the latter privately. Public debate (even criticism) is part of life in the Internet world. If you don't want your views scrutinized or challenged, then don't say it on Facebook or Twitter, and don't write it in a blog post. However, I have a modified view regarding situations when both parties have either a well-established rapport or a bona fide friendship.

If you have a friend, a brother or sister in Christ, who says or writes something online that leaves you scratching your head, or causes your pupils to dilate as a result of shock, or you develop bruxism (involuntary grinding of the teeth) because you're so angry, don't run to your computer, tablet, or phone. Pause. Take a deep breath. Consider the source of your confusion, perplexion, or consternation. Remind yourself that the other person is your friend. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

Then, do something social media has all but eradicated. Pick up the phone and call your friend. Or, go see him in person, if that's feasible.

Social Media is killing the practice of giving people the benefit of the doubt. I think Christians should revive it.

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