Abuse and the church: Small talk and social media

“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11)

I find Christian social media quite depressing and downright disturbing at times.  Over time I have witnessed significantly aggressive behaviour, people are belittled, dismissed, insulted.  I’ve also seen Christian leaders jump on newbies sharing their ideas with the put down “I was saying this x many years ago.”  But it doesn’t matter does it? It’s banter isn’t it?  It’s just online. You should meet them in real life, they are nothing like their online persona.

I beg to differ. Jesus was clear that what comes out through the mouth, what we say defiles because it reflects what is on our hearts.  If online, hidden behind our keyboards we feel safe to say things that we would not dare say to someone’s face, it probably tells us something about what we are thinking and feeling. We may call it banter but actually what we say in jest often expresses truth.

And not just online. What are our conversations like? What would it feel like to interrupt a group of men engaged in banter after the service on Sunday? Wesley Aiken who was pastor of Rochester Baptist Church for 30 years used to point young men  to Ephesians 5:23.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

He used to insist that there should be zero tolerance for the kind of banter that belittled wives and women in the church: “her indoors”, “she wears the trousers” that kind of thing.  I believe that he was 100% right to. How we talk to about and to our wives as well as to other women and girls matter. If we are belittling of them, if we objectivise them sexually, if we suggest that what they have to say is unimportant or nagging then we are contributing to a particular type of culture.

That culture is the type of culture where abuse is okay. What is said as banter amongst the lads is said and acted on in seriousness in the home.

Let’s commit to be loving and caring in our speech this year.

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