By Chris Turner
Director of Communications, TBMB
You’re probably familiar with the adage, “Do as I say, not as a do.” I am convinced there is a variation rising among too many Christians, including many pastors.
“Do as I say, not as I post.”
The frequency with which Christians assail others on social media – including fellow believers – is embarrassingly evident with even a cursory scroll through a Facebook or Twitter feed. There is a disconnect between the Bible many quote and the statements they make. Sadly, the sardonic posts are a window into their author’s hearts and expose a blinding, self-righteous hypocrisy. Jesus did say, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19).
I unfortunately spend more time on social media than I’d like as the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s director of communications. I must if we are to maintain TBMB social media pages that don’t degenerate into a forum for the lowest common denominator. Harsh? You wouldn’t think so if you read the comments I’ve deleted.
Over the past 18 months I’ve removed from our TBMB Facebook pages biting comments related to politics, racial issues, COVID, masking, not masking, pro-vaccination, anti-vaccination, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission/Russell Moore and Beth Moore. I always click on the profiles of the people making the offensive posts to understand more closely who they are. With rare exceptions, all are members of Tennessee Baptist churches and include pastors. The thought has crossed my mind that I should screen shot some of the comments made by pastors about Beth Moore and email the screenshots to their wives who have probably taught a Beth Moore Bible study.
For the record, we allow valid criticism on our social media pages, but we remove comments that are offensive to our community of users who interact in an orderly manner.
However, recent comments related to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse allegations have been shocking. The vitriol poured out on board members trying to understand the implications of waiving attorney-client privilege is an affront to Christ. Then, once the decision was made to waive attorney-client privilege, the comments directed at abuse victims seeking resolution and accountability were just as offensive.
Many people commenting are observing proceedings from the cheap seats with no connection whatsoever to pertinent information, and they are quick to ascribe guilt. Here’s a specific example.
Following the news release that Guenther, Pruett & Price – the law firm that has represented the SBC and the EC since 1966 – resigned following the EC’s decision to wave attorney-client privilege, I read a pastor’s conclusion that by resigning the law firm obviously had something to hide. I have gotten better about feeling the need to correct everyone on the internet, but I couldn’t let this one go. I replied that it seemed premature to declare anyone guilty of anything since the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force and the third-party investigator, Guidepost Solutions, had just begun their study and haven’t published any conclusions. His response: “The assumption of guilt comes more from [the law firm’s] resignation than from their fighting waiving privilege.”
So much for innocent until proven guilty.
The same conclusions of guilt were leveled at EC Board members who resigned. The charge? They were obviously hiding something to dissociate from the investigation. Apparently, it never crossed the trolls’ minds that the social abuse these volunteer laypeople and ministers received from fellow Southern Baptists killed their desire to serve. The trolls regard themselves as bastions of virtue, holding the EC to account. But where is the accountability for those incessantly and publicly deriding others?
I simply can’t comprehend the callousness of the many who are quick to assume the guilt or motivations of others they don’t know, and with whom they’ve never had a conversation, and yet take to social media to declare sentence and heap condemnation.
Christian, if this is you, just stop. You are embarrassing yourself, unjustly assailing fellow believers (which is sin), undermining the credibility of your witness – and for those in ministry positions, you are making a mockery of your calling before people to whom you are supposed to be a spiritual leader.
If you do not know a person or the motivations for the actions they take, resist the temptation to falsely accuse someone. Don’t make social media your courtroom as you serve as prosecutor, judge and jury. Recall this? “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).
Christians – pastors – we’ve got to rise to the higher standard Christ calls us to in loving one another. It is possible to be people who seek justice while also practicing kindness and mercy, but to do so we must stop socially crucifying others and follow Jesus’ mandate to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us.
Or maybe Jesus would say it another way today. “Do as I said and as I did.”