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?