Raising the tone of our conversation

The Posting Policy of The Geneva Push website is so good I'm posting about it. I actually found these guidelines assuring as I read through their challenge to self-control on the web and their requirement to maintaining a high-level 'tone' in all conversation on their site.

It begins:
"The Internet is a brilliant place to witness people behaving badly. The belief that the web is somehow unreal has encouraged unbelievable behaviour. It is a sad fact that even believers have been known to express themselves in a particular way online that would be considered sinful in any other context. As a Christian network, The Geneva Push encourages its members to speak the truth, but to do so in love."

In general this is a rebuke much needed by our generation I think. It is commonplace today to be exposed, even regretably involved, in the fierce fighting of Christian argumentativeness, even amongst reformed Evangelical circles (such as the long comment threads recently on The Briefing).

Ironically, we children of the reformation show off our 'maturity' by pulling apart one another in critique and debate, often beginning with theology but ending in personal conflict and even fall out. Are we using our knowledge to love or to pull down?

Sadly, in a world of speed limits and regulation, guidelines are needed because we as people need to be told how to behave; by nature we are creatures that fail to govern ourselves internally and automatically. We need external controls to impose standards upon us; we need to be lead by God's Spirit.

Offline we are generally more careful to show self-control because our cultural etiquette, which itself is an external force providing norms of acceptance, provides us our much needed help in governing our behaviour.

But in the last decade or so, blogs and Facebook have of course allowed a new space in our lives where we can find it so easy to forget to apply these norms and in this sense forget 'ourselves'. Like failing to think about the risks of entering into a friendly game of gambling, we can leave ourselves open to losing many of our usual restraints. We can so easily become lazy, and ultimately careless, because without these automatic rules for engagement, we have no necessary commitment to a certain standard of communication that will likely be appreciated by all parties involved in our conversations.

Ironically these are often the most public of spaces where we can do the most damage to our community, to our churches.

So it's probably fair to say that in recent times Facebook (and the like) have become not only a force for much good, but now also one of the most significant forces for bad within our community life. Just as for Businesses and other organisations more generally, the effect of Facebook upon the dynamics of our community life have surely emerged as one of the greatest challenges now for church leaders.

Perhaps we need to follow the lead of The Geneva Push; perhaps we need our leaders to give us policies to help us govern our use of social media as members -- not necessarily as prescriptive regulations, but as guiding principles that would help us to think through and apply the gospel of grace, the command to love, and the call to growth in maturity within the context of our online community relationships.

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