Slander, Libel, and Professing Christians

It used to be that people spoke to each other respectfully and graciously, more or less. To be sure, there were times when the conversation reached lows which could only be considered repugnant and unworthy according to the moral character of the day, but they were not common nor preferred.

How far we have fallen!

If you follow blogs or news sites which promote any type of opinion, you will almost always find comments from followers which do not even attempt to debate the issue. Instead, these commentors post words which would have been considered off-limits only a few years ago. Maliciousness, name-calling, slander, and libel are now allowed as acceptable behavior, even on blogs which protest that, according to their Posting Policy, such things are not to be tolerated.

Below is a definition from Wikipedia (edited very slightly) which I think is a good description. I am posting it so that no one can mistake my intent when I declare that I will enforce my own posting policy on this blog. See the Comment Policy tab at the top of the page.

“Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In Common Law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).

In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slander)

What bothers me about this whole affair is that people who claim and profess to be disciples of Jesus (Christians, in other words) engage in this exercise as much as those who are not Christian. (Don’t belive me? Go to any blog which is “conservative” and/or Republican in nature, pick an article, scroll down to the comments, and see for yourself. If you have trouble locating these, let me know. I will give you specific links.)

Generally speaking, the people who follow and subscribe to conservative, Republican blogs and news sites confess to be Christian. Many of these are proud to admit that they have been “disciples” for 20, 30, 40 years or more, yet they attack someone who shares an opinion which doesn’t fit well with their worldview and/or offends their sensiblilities. Why? Why do so many think that they have the freedom or right to air the vicious, mean, unloving comments they post? Do they talk this way to each other face to face? What do they hope to gain by this conduct? How do they think they are honoring and lifting up the Name of Jesus by the way they carry on?

Apparently, these people have never learned what the Bible has to say about this. Let me quote various scriptures.
1. Colossians 4:6–“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (New American Standard Bible (©1995))
2. Proverbs 15:1–“A gentle response diverts anger, but a harsh statement incites fury.” (International Standard Version)
3. Proverbs 15:28–“The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” (NIV)
4. Ephesians 6:12–“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (English Standard Version)
5. Luke 6:45–“The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Amplified Bible)

Did you hear that? Out of the evil that a man stores up in his heart will come words from his mouth. There is only one logical conclusion to this–those who speak nasty, foul, demeaning words to others have evil stored up in their own hearts. It is inevitable that the people who think this way will speak in the same manner.

What really surprises me (it probably shouldn’t) is that these people express amazement and wonder when they are called to account. I do this on a fairly regular basis, not because I am any better than they are, but simply because I have learned what it means to vehemently hate this particular sin and am not afraid to say so. Occasionally someone will thank me for helping them see the error of their ways, but more often than not, I am either attacked myself or completely ignored.

What will it take to raise the tenor of the conversation? It’s quite simple, actually. As individuals, we have to admit that we are sinners and that we sometimes we say things we shouldn’t. In that case, we have to confess the sin and stop repeating it. Also, we must realize that we are representatives of Jesus the Christ and that, when we use derogatory, hurtful, unloving words against someone else, it is His Name, reputation, and kingdom which suffers. In addition, we need to come to the understanding that, again from the mouth of the Master, “…as you give, you will receive.” If we don’t want someone else speaking that way to us, we need to stop speaking that way to them.

There are laws which prohibit such speech and which have penalties against it. However, I am under no illusions as to the effectiveness of these laws. The legal system would be completely swamped if it started enforcing them. What would be far more effective is for the various blogs/news/Internet sites to police their own policies and simply refuse to post such comments. This probably won’t happen on a large scale, because a blog which did this would probably lose readership and revenue. The Almighty Dollar wins again!

No, the only way this is going to be substantially effected is for individuals to know what is right to say and to refuse to say anything that is wrong. Individual responsiblity before God is still the primary vehicle for positive change in society. I have committed to this course and am looking for others to follow suit. Are you in or out?

11 thoughts on “Slander, Libel, and Professing Christians

  1. Christians are given a pass on this sin because for them joking about someone is a sign of maturity and not being able to let it fly, or “be real” as they say, is a worse situation to be in. I recently left a Christian blog because of rampant slander and because the admin seemed proud to admit there are “no rules.” Rules of conduct I think some would say, are for the immature Christians not for the liberated ones!! You see its a sign of liberation when one can be “real” and thus free the speak his or her mind, even if its derogatory, belittling, hurtful, malicious etc. The weird thing about this site is the members are always expressing concern about the moral flaws of their political opponents. These same moralists when cornered into a debate about Godʻs laws have proven to be just as averse to Biblical or moral absolutes as their liberal counterparts.

  2. Titus1:12
    “one of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.”

    What would that come under?

    Rev 2:9, 3:9
    “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and [I know] the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but [are] the synagogue of Satan.”

    How do we deal with these BIBLICAL defamatory and slanderous comments?

    Joe

  3. Roger, thank you for such a excellent reminder of the attitude and demeanor we should always adopt when engaging in discourse with others. It is absolutely imperative that we conduct ourselves , in conversation or otherwise, in a manner worthy and becoming of a representative of our King. We don’t expect those of the world to submit to such a standard. But you are absolutely correct about the shameful manner in which many professing Christians respond. Would to God that all who seek to engage in public conversation take your words to heart.

  4. Hi, Joe. I appreciate your thoughts and questions. I won’t say that I can answer them to your (or anyone’s) satisfaction, but I will do my best. If anyone else has insight into this issue, feel free to join in.

    Let me say first of all that open, honest, and courteous dissent is, and always will be, welcome here. I don’t claim to have any lock on the truth and am more than willing to listen to another point of view and possibly learn from it. I hope all those who participate in this blog (this topic or others) have the same attitude.

    There are other references in the New Testament as well. Luke 3:7, Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23:33, et. al. These are all words spoken by either Jesus Christ or John Baptist, both of whom we hold up as examples and which could be used by some to excuse their own behavior.

    This statement that “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” appears to me to be commonly held at that time and Paul mentions that even the Cretans apparently believed it as well. (v.12) In the very next verse he says, “This testimony is true.” There must have been some validity to the point.

    The overriding rule to follow in scriptural interpretation is context, context, context. If we look at the context in Titus 1:7-16, we can see that Paul is instructing Titus to exhort his “flock” to get a grip on what they say, in fact he tells Titus to “rebuke them sharply.” Paul’s intention is not to disparage or ridicule the Cretans, but to get them to realize the error of their ways and to change them.

    In Revelation, the references are made with respect to those who were followers of the Old Covenant religion and contrasted with those who have chosen to follow the New Covenant faith. The writer here is alluding to the source (Satan) of the opposition which was actively engaged in trying to destroy the newly planted churches. These were warnings to the local churches to be careful and aware of their opponents.

    I try to live with the operating principle that I should “love my neighbor as myself”, which is, of course, the only commandment which is equal in importance to “loving the Lord our God.” This is addressed quite well in James 3, where James questions why we bless God one minute, but curse our fellow man the next. I cannot in good conscience say that I am a disciple of Christ if I make no effort to control what I say about anyone else. This is not to say that I will always be perfect in my words, because I’m not. When I do make a mistake and it is brought to my attention, I am required to admit it and make necessary changes in the way I speak, which also means in the way I think.

    It doesn’t matter whether the Bible has examples of the type of speech we’re discussing or not. These are not the way we live nor should they be taken as license to act that way. We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to lift people up, not tear them down. We are supposed to speak words of hope and encouragement, not ones of anger, ridicule, and hatefulness. This is the direction my life is going. I’ve seen the other side and I will not return to that.

    In the end, however, it would be good to keep in mind the words of Jesus in John 14:12, where he says to his disciples, “…he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also and GREATER works than these he will do…” As relating to this topic, even IF Jesus spoke rudely, viciously, meanly, disparagingly, etc., to certain people, (which I don’t believe for a second), His words here tell me that I can rise above that. We know that with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we CAN control ourselves and be that “city set high on a hill” which shines the light of truth out into the dark areas. The world is waiting for us.

  5. Thanks for your comment. We live in a society which has chosen to make it “right” for anyone to vent their spleen. This is where “freedom of speech” has brought us. What it really means is that no one has to be responsible in their speech anymore. Unfortunately, the ones who should be leading the way in responsible speech seem to have lost their way. This is just one more reason why the Church is increasingly seen as irrelevant. Until we, as individual persons, change our course and refuse to go along, the drift will continue.

    I commend you for your action as you described above. The Church (and the world) needs more people who refuse to act that way.

  6. I appreciate your comments. All that is necessary to change the world for the better is for one man (person) to change. One man with God is an unstoppable force. The neat thing is that nothing has changed since Elijah’s day. God still has 7,000 (an unlimited number of) men who have not gone down this road. They just need to find their voices.

  7. Joe and Roger, here’s my two-cents worth:. I don’t see identifying and describing someone or a group (with evidence) as a synagogue of Satan or an antichrist or a brood of vipers (or a number of others descriptive phrases) as any different than identifying someone as a non-Christian. The operative words being “identifying ” and “describing.” We have Scriptural examples for doing so. Where, I believe, we cross the line (and it can be a very fine line) is when our statements are employed pejoratively with the intent to belittle or slander another person.

    This said, I believe a close reading of Titus 1 reveals that Titus 1:10-13 is not an instance of the former but a condemnation of the Judaizers doing the latter. Verse 13’s “This witness is true” is not referring to the Cretians in Verse 12 but to the Judahites (the circumcision) in Verse 10 who were slandering the Cretians for “filthy lucre’s sake.” It’s, therefore, the Judahites whom Paul was saying to sharply rebuke, not the Cretians. The innocent should always be protected and slanders rebuked, sharply, if required, for either their sake or for the sake of onlookers.

    “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd,….” (Proverbs 19:25)

    “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise….” (Proverbs 21:11)

  8. Ted, I’ve been back to Titus and studied this out according to your outlook and I believe you’re right. Titus is not my favorite NT book and the Apostle Paul wasn’t very good in speaking plain English, so I just missed it. Thanks again.

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