Facebook, The Culture War, and The Four-Way Test

I joined the social media world in March of 2009. Our daughter was home from college for spring break, and she insisted on helping her mom and me set up Facebook accounts. Now I’m on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and every morning TimeHop reminds me of past posts. I’ve been able to reconnect and stay connected with family and friends from my childhood, from college and seminary, as well as former church members in every place we have served. I’ve also been able to inundate these same friends and family members with pictures and updates about things happening in my life. Most importantly, for nearly two years now I’ve been able to share pictures and videos of my grandchildren!

Social media is a wonderful thing, and it can be an amazing ministry tool. In the local church we used Facebook to promote events, share information, even to livestream our morning worship service. In this ministry I am using all of my social media outlets to share these articles and promote what I have to offer.

Social media is a powerful tool, but there is also a dark side to social media as it continues to be a primary battle field for fighting the ongoing and escalating culture war. Not a day goes by without some heated exchange showing up on my newsfeed over at least one controversial issue. Last week I monitored a really nasty exchange that involved several friends and former church members fighting over one such issue on Facebook. Rarely a day goes by that someone doesn’t post some ridiculous picture, meme or “fake news” story that is only intended to stir the proverbial pot. Just this morning a particularly disturbing photo showed up on my newsfeed. It was quickly discredited, but the one who posted it is yet to delete it.

Before I go further, I have a confession to make. I have been guilty of engaging in this same kind of social media, cultural war battle. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally propagated lies, but I have certainly posted things without sensitivity toward those who might see it. I stand by my convictions of what is right and what is wrong, but I also want to stand on my conviction that I should seek to build people up rather than tear them down. Please forgive me for those times I have not lived up to this standard.

For a number of years I was a member of The Rotary Club. For those who don’t know, Rotary is an organization of professional men and women that exists to “provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.” Members of Rotary agree to abide by a statement of business ethics known as “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do.”

Perhaps it’s time for us to employ a similar set of ethics that govern the way we use social media to engage in the culture war. Before you post, share or retweet, consider these questions:

First, is it the truth? – Truth should always be important for those of us who are called by the name of Christ. We have no reason to deal in anything less. So, before you share that ridiculous picture of a former president of the United States in an intimate embrace with a male head-of-state from an allied country, take the time to verify! It’s not hard to do.

Second, is it fair to all concerned? – The world operates on the ethic that if you want fair you should purchase a ticket. That should not be the case for Christians. We should always be concerned with how something affects others, not just our friends and those who agree with us. Before you retweet the insensitive remarks of someone you follow on Twitter, think about how it might affect your friends or family who are “among the least of these.”

Third, will it build good will and better friendships? – If I post an inflammatory meme that expresses my view on gun control, homosexuality, immigration or any number of other hot-button topics, will it affect my ability to have a cup of coffee and a conversation with someone who has a differing view?

Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned? – Let me ask this one in a specific Christian context. Will it help or hinder the Kingdom? Will it help or hurt your witness? I’m thinking about an old-saying my grandmother used to share. Something about catching more flies with honey…

Titus 3:2-5a instructs us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us.”

Think before you post… Unless it’s something about Alabama football or the grandchildren.  See you on Facebook!

4 thoughts on “Facebook, The Culture War, and The Four-Way Test”

  1. I just posted a note on Facebook with the same burden, Rob. Lately, people have been circulating this 30-year-old and discredited hoax about a movie being made to depict Jesus as a gay man. I tried to point out that there is no such movie and never was. And yet, God’s people keep wasting their time and energy opposing it.

    What if we spent as much time and energy publicizing all that is good and helpful?

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