Murder on the internet

OIP

I am preparing for Os Guinness to be our guest again on BlogTalkRadio in a few weeks by reading his newest book, The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom. It’s a fascinating study of revolution and freedom in which he compares the Jewish revolt against Egypt and Pharaoh, the American Revolution of 1776, and the French Revolution of 1789 and how widely they differ in their understandings of freedom and human dignity.

In one section of his book subtitled “Social Media and Evil Speech,” Os observes how that “American public discourse has degenerated to the level of a verbal slum ruled by the vicious gang lords of the Twitter world.” Os goes on to remark how Rabbi Jonathan Sacks noted that the Jewish sages regarded evil speech as the worst of sins, “as bad as the the three cardinal sins — idolatry, murder and incest — combined.” The reason for that being, “it kills three people, the one who said it, then one it is said about, and the one who listens in.” Those distinctions are important because we may not be saying it but we may engage in an unhealthy amount of listening in, which is just as murderous.

We must realize we are living in a culture that has lost total regard for basic human dignity — the kind that comes from believing every person is made in God’s image and has immense worth. “Can there be any doubt that the brutal incivility of American discourse is now tearing America apart?” Os then quotes Rabbi Abraham Heschel who lost family members in Auschwitz: “Holocausts are caused wherever a person is put to shame.”

We feel helpless in many ways against powerful social forces such as these and tempted to despair over the hope of anything being done. So we typically throw our hands up and do nothing. But there is something we can do. We can choose to never participate in this kind of damaging activity. We can refuse to create, pass on or take part in any way in any kind of speech that degrades another person, no matter who they are or what they stand for.

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3 Responses to Murder on the internet

  1. Tom Faletti says:

    Thank you for this great quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks through Os Guiness.
    We shouldn’t hit the share button on anything on the Internet unless it passes 3 tests:
    1. We believe it is true.
    2. We have done reasonable diligence to fact-check it, to ensure that there are objective grounds to believe that it is true.
    3. It speaks the truth in the right way — in love (Eph. 4:15) and in a manner that builds up rather than tearing down (see 2 Cor. 13:10, where Paul says that the purpose of his writing [applicable to our typing on the Internet] is “for building up and not for tearing down”).
    Too many people stop at step 1 and hit the share button. Only a smaller group of people accept their personal responsibility for what they share and complete step 2. There would be a dramatic transformation of social and political discourse if everyone routinely embraced step 3.
    We Christians should be at the forefront of that transformation.

  2. Toni Petrella says:

    I believe you said it all and hit right to the point. Cannot improve on that and hopefully people will heed to what was greatly mentioned.

    • Sandie says:

      Tom, this is late in coming, but I’ve been away from my computer for several weeks. I’ve often expressed the thought: What would/could this world be like if every Christian (including me) to put your #3 into serious practice? Blessings!

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