Fiery storms break out on Nigerian twitter without notice. The most virulent tend to be those involving social issues with the hot button topics being identity, gender, sexuality, marriage and pastors.
While some pastors find themselves in the eye of a twitter storm for their personal conduct; whether they are buying another private jet (why do we put private before it by the way) or they are plumbing new “levels of grace”, others inadvertently find themselves in the path of the storm for conveying their teachings in ways considered outrightly ignorant, or merely inelegant.
From Pastor Sarah Omaku’s teaching on Oral sex, to Pastor Adeboye’s advice for singles, and more recently Reverend Sam Adeyemi’s tweets on mental health, Nigerian social media space often erupts into a melee fuelled by what sometimes appears like pent up animosity.
For many Christians who retain some measure of respect for these church leaders, there is often considerable confusion, and squirming as they watch the latest public lynching by what is sometimes a hapless mob with no real redemptive agenda beyond earning badges as the most irreverent heckler in the latest episode of hold their feet to the flames.
These storms often do more than just hold this particular pastor to account on their teaching. Too often, the not so obvious sub-script in the sweeping, nuanceless, and quite often ignorant generalizations, is to question the entire idea of faith.
So I have put together a few rules (principles in reality) to guide Christians who want to engage more effectively on social media without feeling the need to be defensive about their faith or the conduct of their brethren.
1.Overcome the need for validation by metrics.
As with all that a believer does, the primary goal for engaging on social media should always remain to honour God and not to build our ‘personal brands’. John the baptist left us a very useful mindset to bring to social media. When told that Jesus was getting more followers than he was, his response was… “He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30.
If we are too focused on building our numbers, we may fall into the temptation of pandering to the crowd. If we become too afraid to take a stand because we will lose our ‘friends’ then we are valuing the friendship of the world too highly and that’s courting enmity with God.
Besides, big numbers are not always a definitive proof that we are on the right track. In fact, there is a possibility that big numbers mean that we are on the wrong track. Be wary of the popular ideas and don’t follow the herd.
2. Learn to quickly spot the fake, neo-liberal Jesus
Look out for Team-Jesus-would-have-been-cool-with-that. The people in this team usually profess to be followers of Jesus. The problem is that they often misrepresent him, and misapply his teachings.
By all means, Jesus is the embodiment of love and grace. He will embrace the ‘worst’ of mankind because in reality, we are all needing of redemption. As Apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus came to die for sinners of which I am the chiefest.”
These often well-meaning people however misunderstand the grace of God. Grace does not pat us on the back for sinning. In fact, the reason grace came was to teach us to reject sin.
These people have been seduced by this new neo-liberal Jesus who only says “Go” to the adulterous instead of “Go, and sin no more.”
The reality is that believers are not the morality police, nevertheless, they are called to be the salt of the earth, and its light. They are called to take a stand against ungodliness by their personal conduct, and in their public utterances. The key is to do it with humility, realizing as it is written in Titus that…
3. Beware of the snare of keeping double standards
I see many believers who are offended when their pastor’s are being publicly chastized on twitter. That’s only natural. But it is also hypocritical for those same Christians to have no qualms in rudely excoriating other people (whether other pastors or even politicians) on the same platform.
Believers are given a standard for our communication, whether we are talking to revered men of God or ‘mere’ public servants.
we are commanded to always be gracious in speech, irrespective of who we are talking to. Even to those who are outrightly rude to us. In this, Jesus leaves us his personal example of not retaliating.
4. Understand that science is not the enemy
Believers can sometimes be uneasy around science, especially when it appears that the findings of science contradict scripture. I think there are two issues that are lumped together in this problem that we need to unpack.
The first is that we think science is conclusive and infallible. That’s wrong. Science is in reality unfolding. With new information, science will update its conclusions. The biggest challenge for the scientific approach is that it currently has no methods for accessing/assessing information of a non tangible nature. For things like emotion for instance, science only measures their impact on tangible and observable matter. Will science overcome this limitation? I don’t know. My take is that, if it ever does gain the ability to, it will happen on a trove of new information of a spiritual nature that will radically alter our understanding of the world.
The second thing is that we think we fully understand the Bible, and what it says about everything. The reality is that
What this implies is that both science and my understanding of the bible only add up to a fragment of all the information there is out there. Given this reality, it is useful to be humble in our summations, acknowledge that we and our Pastors are fallible and to suspend judgement on matters that are not entirely clear until we receive more clarity.
Rather than get into pointless arguments, It is helpful to focus on what really counts. That sin is a reality, and science cannot solve that problem. Only the saving grace of Jesus can solve the problem of sin, and that is what really counts.
5. Avoid Jumping into every fray
Savvy users of social media have learnt that jumping on trending topics can be quite useful in garnering a following. But as Rule ! says, believers should not make garnering a personal following a primary goal for being on social media.
It is important to be discerning enough to know when it is appropriate to weigh in, for Scripture says that “in the multitude of words, sin is not lacking. We must therefore be sparing in our words.
Believers need to learn to not meddle in every matter. Indeed if we are as busy as we ought to be, we will have little time to be such busy bodies.
Social media offers believers a great platform to live out their faith, and share the love of Jesus. We are not to shrink from the world; we are to engage so that we can salt and give light to the world.