Busybodies & Bulletin Boards
CHRISTIAN MEDIA - June 10, 2002
The Internet has drawn Christians like ants to a picnic. Although many are concerned about this high tech window to the enormous archive of earthly knowledge that it distributes, the consensus seems to be that the medium’s benefits outweigh its shortcomings. However, that perceived benefit does not mean that every aspect of the net should be utilized.
A good analogy might be the television receiver. Although some have despaired that television will ever offer any meritorious contribution to mankind, others see it as a technology that can still offer intellectually stimulating and spiritually edifying material if kept under strict control. For example, I watch the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, and the occasional movie classic - among other things.
As a Christian writer, the Internet has proven to be a powerful and efficient research tool. Our websites (Christianmedianetwork.com and Christianmediadaily.com) are vehicles that provide an inexpensive platform that can potentially reach vast numbers of people. The Internet now carries our radio network and anyone connected can hear our programming 24 hours per day. Our weekly email newsletter (you're reading it) Christian Media Currents now goes out to thousands. However, one corner of the Internet is of such a dubious value that I have chosen to completely avoid it. I'm referring to the concept known as the Internet bulletin board.
When Guttenberg invented the printing press and brought about the beginning of the revolution that provided the masses with books, an enormous paradigm shift occurred. For the first time, printed material was available to a broader spectrum of society. The resultant wide distribution of the written word had enormous repercussions. For example, the Protestant Reformation may be definitively traced to this technical breakthrough as significant numbers of lay persons became aware, for the first time, of the sacred content found in the scriptures. Eventually, many people found that the often illiterate clergy of the church were functioning completely outside of the acceptable parameters defined by holy writ, and a spiritual revolution became inevitable.
With printing advances came the political stability that brought education to the masses and a democratization of literacy - as well as a system for delivery of everyman's correspondence. Letters from the war fronts and personal hand delivered notes penned by courtier's quills with the notorious wax seal eventually gave way to private correspondence to remote frontier outposts via the Pony Express. History records many such pivotal transitions as written communication became more and more commonplace.
While Satan has been ever-present as he and his minions have aggressively sought to maneuver every form of media and communication towards fulfilling his nefarious goals, the longsuffering attribute found in linear time was frequently his enemy. For instance, if someone wrote a letter that offended or inflamed an individual’s passions concerning a subject that was considered of great import, the recipient would frequently feel a need to retort or respond antagonistically. However, in order to get it right, letter writers commonly went through more than one draft. Thus, time elapsed as the writer gave the matter considerable thought. Indeed, because the process of getting a written correspondence delivered always took a considerable amount of time (sometimes months), it was important to get the letter just right.
As this process ensued, people would re-read the original correspondence and they would commonly cool off a bit as they began to perceive more than they originally absorbed. If we think analogously about the New Testament Epistles (Greek for letters) we quickly realize the passages we don’t much care for eventually sink in as we continue to study these sometimes abrasive instructions from the Apostolic era. So too with personal correspondence.
More often than not, earlier letter writers found a more conciliatory stance as their spiritually driven intellect ultimately superceded their emotional reaction to the original statement. And so it went for many, many years.
Enter the email. Now, the correspondence is practically instantaneous. Now, when a person receives a communique that carries something deemed offensive, we can dispatch a pejorative fiery dart in a retaliatory fashion practically immediately. We can bring our untamed tongue to the battle of literary wit in an expedient fashion. And we can do irreparable harm in a millisecond as we move in the emotional grip of a spiritual undercurrent that is both ungodly and unscriptural.
Now add the relative anonymity of email. Email accounts are commonly named under some sort of slang term not dissimilar to a Ham radio or Citizen's Band "handle." Some email practitioners go out of their way to shield their true identity. Many are not aware that it is actually quite difficult to ascertain the identity of an anonymous attacker that uses the Internet to slander with impunity. To uncover a hidden identity requires knowledge of the medium, or the substance to bring in a greater expertise to handle it on your behalf.
Now consider the Internet forums, bulletin boards, or newsgroups. Here we have the instantaneous aspect of email, known as posting, that simply opens the email correspondence to the general public. Add a communal anonymity, then mix it with a healthy dose of special interest and agenda that is found in a topical bulletin board. Now season thoroughly with a couple of outrageous offenders to instigate the fireworks, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Now place all of this in a "Christian" context where literally dozens of board browsers have varying levels of theological and emotional maturity. The result is a silicon snakepit that brings the name of Jesus Christ into a hideous disrepute through the linguistic antics of agent provocateurs that errantly believe they are believers. In short, the "Christian" bulletin board has become a cowardly electronic brawl that is embarrassing to people of good will everywhere.
Furthermore, the primary offenders are those that would never have achieved a voice in any other era. The truth is, the natural order of things has historically provided an intrinsic hurdle for the unqualified that would be leaders. In previous eras, would be leaders needed some form of achievement in order to gain enough credibility to even merit a trial-listen to their perspective. Later, when desktop publishing became all the rage, people could publish a newsletter relatively inexpensively - but even then they still had to have something to say. If their content was void of substantive material, no one would read it and the publication would eventually fold amidst a profound apathy.
With the Internet, an intrinsically reprobate person can pose as a Christian with something scriptural to say. He or she can stay hidden away from any public scrutiny as their credentials (or lack thereof) are not automatically placed into evidence. They can wage word-wars without ever demonstrating any accountability — or any qualifications of any kind to validate their unwanted perspective. They simply log in on the various bulletin boards and start to stir up trouble. Their weapons are an inexpensive computer, a free email account, and the spirit of Antichrist to empower their malicious maligning of the truth.
The Apostle Paul found that "…there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies" (II Thessalonians 3:11). This rebuke was related to the fact that these people had so much time on their hands that they spent it by gossiping and creating discord among the brethren. His command to the church was "that they with quietness... work, and eat their own bread."
Later on, Paul warned Timothy about those that "wander about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (I Timothy 5:13). Paul was repeatedly attacked by these worthless gossips that divide the true church and said that it was "slanderously reported" that he taught people to "do evil" (Romans 3:8). To the church at Corinth, he rebuked those that were behind the "backbitings" and the "strifes" that are associated with what he dubbed "whisperings." Interestingly enough, these evils were all mentioned in conjunction with "debates" (II Corinthians 12:20). What is an Internet bulletin board but an emotionally charged instantaneous debate?
How appropriate in the present context is the classic caution found in Proverbs 6!
"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Now add the one last vital ingredient. The forward function. Those that are unfamiliar with the Internet may be unaware of this clever capability. What the forward function does is allow anyone to instantly forward any email to another person - or even a group of people. For example, one couple that have been thrown off of most of the "Christian" bulletin boards were ejected from another one just recently. The note they received from the board operator justifiably rebuked them for their vile and spiritually malicious behavior.
Instead of taking the reproof to heart as the scripture requires, they immediately forwarded that rebuke to another board operator in the hope of finding a defender that would then respond to the first board operator. In this fashion, they can go back and forth saying `you see what he/she said? Don't you think that's atrocious?' They can then take the response and send it all around until they've stirred up "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar…." (Acts 17:5). In the ensuing turmoil, they then seek to capitalize on it by insinuating themselves as the defenders of truth.
Unfortunately, unwary believers are easily sucked into this repetitive maelstrom that seems to present a clear case of good versus evil. But truth is the first casualty of war, and in the spiritual warfare that is raging even now, the Internet bulletin board has become a stronghold of Satan. Indeed, there seems to be a spirit associated with the very concept - thus I choose to completely avoid that unsavory arena on the Internet.
Even though the Internet bulletin board is a very economical and inexpensive way to communicate, the spiritual price tag is too high. The sad truth is, the Internet bulletin board reduces everything to its lowest common denominator and the world's Christians are poorer for it.
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