Discussing
Rob Bell, Rebecca Black and the Internet Hate Machine

Michael Geertsma

Maureenherring
March 30, 2011

Michael, thank you for writing this. You busted lots of us today and we deserve it. Many of us weigh in too quickly and too harshly rather than taking the opportunity to reflect the grace of Christ.

Zach
March 30, 2011

1. Biblically speaking, are there not some things that are worth hating?<br><br>2. When you read Galatians or Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees, wouldn't you see some "hating" going on? How does that relate to your piece?<br><br>3. Are there not significant differences between Rebecca Black and Rob Bell? In my mind the motives for the publicity are quite different between those two individuals.<br><br>4. Is it possible to "hate" the theology or ideology of a person without hating the person? It seems that that notion is becoming more and more scare in our cultural "free" market of ideas. It is not possible to write a piece condemning Rob's theology and not loathe him as a person? Seems to me that we need to work hard at promoting that ideal to a much greater measure in our culture. Without it we anesthetize the any real conversation away from having real substance.

Mgeertsma
March 30, 2011

You're right, Zach--there's an important difference here. I'm not suggesting in this post that there's no room for disagreement, or that there are no instances where "hate" (towards a theology, idea, event, etc.) is justified. <br><br>This post is directed towards the instantaneous, thoughtless reactions we all-too-often spew online, devoid of any grace. I have read many blog posts that have thoughtfully deconstructed Rob Bell's new book, strongly disagreeing with it, that don't provide fuel for the Hate Machine. <br><br>All this to say, I agree. We must maintain our ability to dialogue substantially, while simultaneously being graceful and loving.

StrngeFruit
March 30, 2011

Guilty! Amen!

Epistrophy
March 30, 2011

I think you're really stretching the definition of "hate" here. None of the internet posts I've seen about Bell or Black approach hatred, but rather critiques of dogma and talent. Bell has rightfully been criticized for his inability to answer any interview question in a straightforward manner. Pointing that out is not a matter of hate, but a justifiable defense of Biblical truth and religious solidity. Ms. Black's talents are questionable on just about every level, and criticizing the lack of meaning and quality in her video performance is not an act of hate. It's an analysis of how instant fame and DIY "art" have corrupted the quality of entertainment. If saying anything negative about anyone in any situation automatically qualifies as "hate", then everyone both inside and outside the church should apparently be silenced. I question your judgment, but not hatefully.

Bethanykj
March 30, 2011

congratulations on successfully avoiding the worst parts of the internet. <br>Rebecca Black has received death threats and all kinds of bullying language. Many people approach Rob Bell with dismissive name-calling and snap judgments. Appropriate critiques also exist, but there is a lot of outright bile out there, some from self-identified Christians.

JCarpenter
March 30, 2011

Heaven forbid we should come close to the comments found on news sites, FB pages of news media or magazines, blogs, etc. I fear for our nation and western culture, Christendom included, when I read the barbaric-spirited comments. I hope that what I just wrote wasn't the comment of a self-important Pharisee . . . .<br>(gotta watch our tongues: does it need to be said? am I truthful in my comment? am I the best person to say it? am I saying it in love, respectfully? was the zinger appropriate, or to score snarky points? would I say what I said in person? etc.) <br>Thanks, Mike---

Winginit
March 30, 2011

Michael, your comments are particularly relevant given the recent discussions of "civil discourse" in the political arena. Given the realative anonymity of the Internet or at minimum, the perceived distance between myself and the person or cause with which I am in disagreement, it is easy to become vitriolic and unnecessarily harsh in our language. It is also far too easy, given the immediacy of the Internet culture, to "shoot from the hip" and allow our words to spew out without due consideration and restraint. As Christians, we must remember the frequent admonitions regarding our speech (as an example, take James' comments on the tongue) and your reminder of our responsibility is well received.<br><br>However, I fear that in many cases, disagreement with an idea or philosophy is equated with disrespect for the individual. There are many examples of such sentiment, much of it aimed at Christians who disagree with someone's or some group's point of view. If we allow such sentiments to muzzle our responses then we trap ourselves in the web of the so-called politically correct nonsense. There are simply some things that we NEED to disagree with, and sometimes do so with forcefullness and even strong sentiment. I believe that we cross the line when we begin to personally attack the individual rather than the idea, philosophy or perceived error. I know that this is sometimes a fine line to walk, and the one whose ideas are questioned is very likely to perceive the words as an attack. But I don't think that the mere possibility of misunderstanding, whether unintentional or cortrived, means that we should never express our disagreement. I believe that a Christian's role of being salt and light sometimes sting and expose, both of which can be uncomfortable to some.

Mgeertsma
March 30, 2011

Well said. I wrestled with including this distinction in the post itself, but opted not to in hopes that it might come up in the comments--which it now has, several times.<br><br>I agree entirely that there are many times when disagreement, even forceful disagreement, is necessary. I read many blogs--Christian and otherwise--that are frequently critical. When criticism is done with grace, truth, forethought and love, it can be a wonderful catalyst for change. However, such inspirational criticism seems the exception, not the rule, even in Christian circles. And constructive intent does not absolve responsibility for the hateful sting of poorly chosen words.

Craig Adams
March 30, 2011

Oh no. I'm not allowed to hate Rebecca Black? Gee! This Christianity thing is tough!

Winginit
March 30, 2011

Thanks for your comments. Our use of the Internet as an adjunct to ordinary speech means that we need to observe some of the old addages about "listening twice as much as we speak". In addition, because we cannot depend on the visual cues present in speech when we write on the Internet, the use of sarcasm, humor and other nuances can easily be misunderstood.<br><br>As for your statement about "constructive intent" - I think we frequently fall into the trap of behaving like the world in that we try to be cute or clever rather than thoughtful and compassionate.<br><br>Thanks again for a very thought-provoking article.

Xioc1138
March 30, 2011

Is it wrong that I'm crying from tears of laughter from reading this piece? <br><br>Great work. Really thought provoking. Thank you.

Jake
March 30, 2011

This article reminds of Randy Alcorn's book "The Grace and Truth Paradox". <br><br>He writes, "Christlikeness means living by grace and truth, extending both to others. Instead of the world's apathy and tolerance, we offer grace. Instead of the world's relativism and deception, we offer truth. If we minimize grace the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer full-orbed, unabridged truth and grace, magnifying both, never downsizing or apologizing for either."<br><br>I know the heart of your message resonates within this idea. But why refer to John Piper as a pseudo-famous Christian pastor? Listening to him preach, and reading his books I've always been impressed by his selfless nature. Could one take exception to how he reacted to Rob Bell's video? Possibly. But viewing the video myself and listening to Rob Bell's interview, I find it plausible that John Piper was recommending to his congregation (both local and abroad) to follow Rob Bell's theology with a degree of caution.<br><br>Surely people have responded to Rob Bell inappropriately and have failed to honor God with their written and spoken words, but I think it would be a mistake to label Piper in this group. In tweeting, "Farewell Rob Bell" I think Piper was making an important distinction between Bell's theology and his own.

Dorci
March 31, 2011

I could not have said it better than Winginit01. Proverbs states the 7 things that God hates, and a lying tongue is one of them. How much more the lying tongue of one who calls himself by His Name, deceives people and leads them away from the truth? <br><br>As for the rest of the hatemongers on the internet, I just don't get it. I don't know if the internet has ushered in indecency or if it simply allows people to show who they really are. Hating people like Rebecca Black and Justin Beiber is childish and only stems from jealousy. The ironic thing to me is that right now the topic of bullying is finally getting its due. So many people are speaking out against it, and yet here we are, subject to more bullying than ever on the internet. And my personal belief, is that as long as websites such as CNN and Foxnews continue to allow comments on their stories they are contributing to internet bullying. Well, that's my little rant. In no way should we hate people, but we must stand up for the truth. As God's children, we would be remiss if we didn't.

Mgeertsma
March 31, 2011

I said this in reply to another comment here, but it's relevant to your comment as well:<br><br>"When criticism is done with grace, truth, forethought and love, it can be a wonderful catalyst for change. However, such inspirational criticism seems the exception, not the rule, even in Christian circles. And constructive intent does not absolve responsibility for the hateful sting of poorly chosen words."<br><br>John Piper has done a lot of good, and often does come across as selfless. This post was not a criticism of his ministry or work. And I would have no problem with him "recommending to his congregation to follow Rob Bell's theology with a degree of caution," if that is indeed what he did.<br><br>However, tweeting a dismissive-sounding message hardly conveys a graceful, thoughtful, loving "recommendation." The tweet was sent with no context, and was sent into the public arena, where it could only be interpreted on it's own merit. Regardless of John Piper's intent, it DID become the rallying cry of the Rob Bell-hating masses on the Internet. <br><br>Also, referring to Piper as a "pseudo-famous Christian pastor" wasn't dismissive of him--that's simply the truth (just like it's true of Rob Bell, who I described in the same way). Both are "famous" in specific circles, and are relatively unknown outside of those circles. Thus, pseudo-famous. <br>

Jake
March 31, 2011

I suppose in some ways we will agree to disagree. The connotation of "pseudo-famous Christian pastor" to me is a bit shortsighted, but maybe I'm reading too much into it. This is really a minor difference of opinion.<br><br>With respect to "Farewell Rob Bell." His tweet was dismissive, but was it inappropriate? To be dismissive is not innately wrong. When I interpret Pipers words I give him the benefit of the doubt. The context I think is clear. Piper is afraid Bell is leading people away from traditional orthodoxy, away from beliefs that are fundamental to Christianity.<br><br>I'd agree there are plenty of instances where people are lashing out against Rob Bell in ways that do not reflect God's love. I pray that I do not stray into this arena. I'm also confident that Piper shares these sentiments. The purpose of Pipers tweet was not to belittle or deride Rob Bell. It was to oppose Rob Bell's theology. I disagree with you when referring to Piper's words as poorly chosen.<br><br>I know it may sound like I disagree with your article. I really don't. I think it serves as an important reminder that we as Christians should always strive to reflect God's love, especially when reaching out to others who disagree with us.

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