how to have constructive conversations in cyberspace

Justin Taylor posted this gracious plea titled “Should You Pass on Bad Reports?” by Tim Keller & David Powlison.

Permission is granted to mirror the article, and I’ve chosen to extract several excerpts:

… One obvious genius of the internet is that it’s “viral.” Information explodes to the whole world. … Instantaneous transmission produces some wonderfully good things. Truth, like joy, is infectious. A great idea feeds into a million inboxes. But it also produces some disastrous evils. Lies, rumors, and disinformation travel just as far and just as fast.

So what should you do when you hear “bad reports” about a person or church or ministry? We want to offer a few thoughts on how to remain constructive. To paraphrase Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome words come out of your computer, but only what is constructive, in order to meet the need of the moment, that what you communicate will give grace to everyone who ever reads it.” [nb: other key verses = James 4:10-11, Proverbs 17:9.

… Passing on negative stuff always undermines love and respect. It’s never nourishing, never constructive, never timely, never grace-giving.

… To savor the tasty morsels of gossip and bad reports is very different from grieving, caring, and wishing nothing less than the mercies of Christ upon all involved.

… you only really need to know something if it touches your sphere of life and relationships.

… If you hear bad reports about other Christians you must either cover it with love or go to them personally before speaking of it to any others.

… to simply suspend judgment. Don’t pass on bad reports.

Read the full article.

We desparately need more civil conversations in the public square of the blogosphere, especially among professing Christians. I think this article masterfully deals with not passing on bad reports via blogging, and to deal with personal sins personally. What may show up in a follow-up article or in the collective wisdom of the crowds, is how to discuss issues online when individuals have obvious disagreements.

What have you noticed about watch blogs? I find it unfortunately ugly when certain individuals equate a difference of opinion / conviction as if it were a public moral sin. It’s not.

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