This clever picture really breaks down the state of affairs when it comes to arguing over the internet, especially when it comes to the arguments between Christians and Atheists.
This scenario is not just limited to the Christian and atheist discussions either. It’s possible this happens more frequently among fellow Christians than any other group… well, obviously political liberals and conservatives are at the top of the charts, but Christians REALLY know how to spat with one another at times. Anyway…
I’ve had many fantastic in-person conversations with Atheists, Muslims, and other people I strongly disagree with on important religious, moral, and political topics, and it rarely gets tense or personal. This is not due to how fantastic of a communicator or humble of a Christian I am, as I am neither. However when it comes to internet dialogue, I’ve been so angry I’ve had to wait hours before hitting the “submit” button lest flames erupt from the monitor and consume the person on the receiving end of my wrath.
So why can we have good arguments (on the whole) with people in person but internet arguments build walls, fortresses, and flaming barrels of oil? Obviously there are a lot of different reasons for this, but everyone can agree this is indeed the case. As an ambassador for Christ, I primarily want to focus on what we can do to avoid this. Here are a few I’ve been thinking about.
Don’t do it
One way to avoid this is to simply avoid social media and not get involved. I know many people who choose this route and I think there is some merit to it. Social media can be a huge leech on your time and pull you away from much more important real life interpersonal activities such as playing with your kids in the backyard. As I type this, my kids are in the backyard playing, so I’m gonna take a break and live life for a little bit…
(shot BB guns, bow/arrow, and slingshots, then rode bikes)
However, I obviously see the tremendous benefit of social media interaction, especially when it comes to sharing the Christian worldview with nonbelievers. We just have to know how to do it.
Choose your battles wisely
This is one area I really have messed up in multiple times, but I’m trying Ringo… I’m trying real hard. Whether it’s politics, business, sports, or something else equally as unimportant, these topics of conversation can turn real ugly, real quick, and there’s usually nothing eternal at stake.Posting this is incorporating some public personal accountability because I can get easily sucked into this stuff. When these arguments are engaged with nonbelievers, they can be especially damaging to our Christian testimony so we must tread very lightly. I don’t consider abortion or other moral issues as political, but whatever we engage in, we must:
This is not just restricted to online debates but in every area of life. If we can do this, it’s ok to argue and discuss many issues. Arguing is a good thing, but it must be done properly. We don’t want to be perceived as consistently contrary, but arguing can help tremendously in how we relate to others if we do it the right way. In online debates, it’s very easy to not see the words posted as coming from a person made in the image of God who is worthy of respect, oftentimes even if we know that person outside of the internet. We say things online we’d never say in person, and frankly we just need to stop.
One of the biggest pitfalls is employing logical fallacies. There are a lot of them, and it can be a tough pill to swallow to realize you’ve been arguing poorly. So study them, avoid them, and take your time before hitting “submit”. Keep your cool and for the love of Pete do NOT commit one of the worst fallacies one can commit in an argument; the dreaded ad hom attack. When things get heated, it’s incredibly easy to fall into ad hom mode, and many times an argument can be won this way… but it is never productive for the kingdom and will typically nullify any positive ground gained.
There are many more areas we can cover, but for now I just wanted to hit a couple of the basics, primarily because I know about these firsthand.
The irony is, all of these rules can be followed to a T, and you may still offend others and find yourself wondering “what just happened???”. You can go Columbo and ask good questions, avoid all logical fallacies, and you still get people who are angry, bitter, and just not good at arguing. At the end of the day, our task is to share the Biblical Gospel with the people we encounter everywhere (online and in person), so we just need to make sure we don’t get in the way of the message we are proclaiming.
As Greg Koukl said: “The Gospel is offensive enough, don’t add any more offense to it; but we dare not remove the offense that is inherent to the Gospel.”