A clear stance against hatred and bullying

Hate comments, racial slurs, and bullying … social media is not always a source of joy. Things are faked, there are attacks, and public sentiment is stirred up … We see it and … click to the next page?

Social media is both an amplifier and a stage. Here people look for an exchange, a discussion partner, or a follower for their own cause. They air their opinions, ask questions, and demand answers—with various intentions. Entire threads develop with countless co-readers everywhere and at any time. This is the goal of social networks such as nacworld.net, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. A large number of mobile devices, which have become a firm component of most people’s lives and which many people carry around with them all the time, promote this trend. A number of developments over the past few years have brought about a complete change in the way people communicate.

Another world, another I?

The digital age is another world entirely: different from what Jesus experienced and different from what our great-grandparents knew. We are part of this new world. We are offline and of course also online. Every online activity presents one aspect of our own virtual personality. Everything we do—or don’t to do—outlines our profile. And we are Christians. On the web we do not have a second face, nor another personality.

A Christian is a Christian even if he gets together with his neighbour via Wi-Fi. A Christian is also a Christian even when he sees injustice or suffering on his screen. The same standards apply here as in the real world. A Christian is a Christian whether he is at work, on holiday, or surfing the Internet, comfortably seated in an armchair. Only the Sunday Christian is excluded.

No answer is also an answer

Rightwing smear campaigns, racist statements … do we distance ourselves from such content actively or do we allow it? There may not be a universal answer to this question, but perhaps a possible approach: not everything has to arouse our active opposition. We cannot actively join demonstrations against everything in real life either. However, if there are discussions between acquaintances and friends that do not correspond to our Christian faith, we are called on to take a stance. Because if we do not react, if we do not counter, it can quickly be taken to mean that we consent. Offline as well as online.

Making contact or severing it?

Unfriending people could be one consequence of discussions that have failed to meet their objective. But the Christian as such is no one who labels anyone permanently after a first suspicion. If something needs to be discussed, let us do so.

That all human beings are equal before God, that God offers salvation to all human beings, is something we do not only explain to those who have already internalised this and who nod their heads in agreement when they listen to us. Let us also talk about this with those who prefer a two- or three-class society, who elevate themselves over their neighbour. Certainly, this takes courage.

Open eyes, open ears, but also an open heart belong to leading an active Christian life in the digital world—as in the real world. To ignore something, to be disinterested, or just not available are not an option for Christians.

The World Wide Web: a world in itself?

“Go into all the world …” Is the World Wide Web also part of this world. Yes! “All the world” means the neighbour—regardless of his country of birth, his culture, or his social position. And of course it also plays a role whether we are actually facing him in real life or whether we are communicating with his virtual self on a screen. Going means seeking the neighbour out actively, speaking to him. As Christians, this is our mission—online and offline. And this is exactly what Church is all about, what being a Christian is all about. Sometimes all we maybe need is more courage or an additional idea.

Professing their faith is something New Apostolic Christians do when they invite other users to real divine services, when they talk about their faith, when they share Christian thoughts. Posting, liking, and sharing is part of our personal vineyard and always also public relations work.

Several accounts, but not a second personality

Looking away when we come across smear or hate campaigns, not commenting injustices … this is akin to failing to render assistance to the disadvantaged and the suffering. Such behaviour does not correspond to the commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” As in material life, we cannot and do not have to post comments about everything. But if we are directly confronted or challenged, we take a stance.

Remaining invisible, browsing the web anonymously is not a sin, but an unused opportunity. Or like Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said some time ago: “Let us use social media responsibly, and carefully weigh up the use of our time and our words. What is important is that everyone is aware of the consequences of his statements and behaves in an appreciative and respectful fashion, in accordance with the gospel.”

Photo: Henryk Boeck / fotolia.de

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Oliver Rütten
Media, Congregational life