by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium
Recent events have motivated me to write a brief post on Social Media etiquette, and indeed, it should be etiquette for the real world as well. Fellow Christians and Conservatives/libertarians should not fight one another openly on social media.
At risk of making the same error as a fellow writer has done this week, I’m going to explain the situation as it unfolded and offer some advice. I’m going to omit any names so as not to embarrass anyone. I was reading a blog post on one of the major conservative media outlets I enjoy, and I was shocked to find a thousand word essay by a favorite author criticizing another young rising star in the conservative movement. It wasn’t just criticism, it was nasty and in my view, uncalled for. (I think the author called this other person an unkind name or two.)
Really this kind of personal attack in an open forum shows an extreme lack of emotional maturity and deeply damages the author’s credibility more than it seeks to damage the credibility of the other person. Both have said some rather outlandish things, but when they open up attacks on one another in a public forum, it’s the movement itself that ends up bruised. I don’t know the history of these two individuals, but they really should talk to one another rather that air their dirty laundry in public.
The Bible teaches that Christians who are having a difficult time with one another should take their disagreements and attempt to confront one another quietly in order to resolve the conflict. Usually, this involves taking a trusted friend into the meeting as a witness. If the meeting doesn’t have the desired result, then the next meeting should contain a contingent of four or more. A final meeting should include a moderator both parties empower to settle the issue amicably. None of that should be aired in public and actually causes dissension and unnecessary pain in the group. The Bible actually recommends expulsion from the group, if the remedy doesn’t work.
Read Matthew 18: 15-17 NIV
15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This passage is meant for the church, but it works with any group or organization. And really, the attitude people have going into the meeting can greatly affect the outcome. If the participants are adversarial, they’ll just ruin any chance of reconciliation. If the participants are friendly and compassionate, their compassion will pay dividends. I’m only writing this because I care about the people involved.
There is a wonderful article about this online and I invite people to read it. It is quite long and I don’t have the time to deal with all of it in this writing. I just want to mention it as a reference.
Lastly, I want to address what can happen for a person who fails to receive correction from their fellows. The outcome can be completely undesirable for the one who fails to receive instruction. I heard this story from a fellow captain I attended a military school with. I had a similar experience when I was in Iraq, but fortunately in my case, the consequences were much less dire. This captain was an armor officer stationed near Baghdad. He and his company were on patrol when they met up with another unit conducting a snap TCP, that is a hasty traffic control point. Their purpose was to stop traffic and search passing vehicles for bad actors.
This captain noticed errors and sloppiness in the way the TCP was being conducted. The point at which the traffic was being stopped was too close to where vehicles were actually being searched, a critical error. Additionally, the TCP was struck below an overpass, leaving soldiers vulnerable to attack from above.
The captain pulled aside the lieutenant and his sergeant to discuss ways to improve, but they were obstinate and wouldn’t listen and were hostile to the correction. The captain left, hoping his advice would take hold at some later date. Sadly, within 20 minutes or so, the outcome the captain feared came to fruition. A psycho with a vehicle born IED, car bomb, attacked the TCP, killing the lieutenant, the sergeant, and eight of their men.
When I was in Iraq I had a similar experience. I had some logistics work to do for my brigade at another base and the only way to get there was by ground convoy. I jumped in a convoy heading north from Talill to Baghdad and sat in the back seat of the convoy commander’s humvee. I was a highly paid, heavily armed tourist. There was a young lieutenant running the convoy, and he and his sergeant had things well in hand, so there was little this staff officer had in way of criticism, so I kept my mouth shut and tried to survive the ride.
At a certain point, the LT chose to stop the convoy along the roadside. His lead vehicle crew detected a potential roadside bomb. As per SOP, they stopped the convoy and called EOD to come and investigate. This sucks because all the convoys behind you have to stop as well, or at least that was the instruction. Some convoy commanders choose ignore the risk and take their convoys passed the groups that are stopped. Often with disastrous results. That happened on this particular day as another lieutenant chose to bypass the stopped convoys. Luckily for him, his men, and us, there was no roadside bomb that day, only a suspicious pile of dirt. But there were fireworks!
The convoy commander I was riding with caught up to the other lieutenant at a movement control team check point further on and they had a few words. I hung out in the periphery to listen to the debate. When the discussion threatened to become a fight, I stepped in. I explained to the young officer the nature of his offense and I advised him to correct his behavior. I doubt any words of mine had any affect because later on he tracked us down in the dark on the way back to our vehicles. This time he brought support from his NCOIC, a master sergeant. I couldn’t tell his rank in the dark so I asked him who he was. When I learned he was an NCO, I chewed him out. Last time I checked, master sergeant, I’m wearing captain’s bars, which still trumps your stripes. You’re both wrong, move out smartly! Now I was getting pissed.
I sure hope things turned out ok for those guys, because, they were wrong, and their behavior put the men and women they led in great jeopardy.
There isn’t quite the fallout potential in this case, but there is a potential for great harm. As writers, we put our credibility on the line every time we write something and put it out there in the public. If we use that line of credit to damage the reputations of other writers, especially members of the same party with similar worldview, other writers in our small enclave will take notice. They will see our lack of maturity and instability and will be wary of us. In the end, it is our own reputations that are damaged as members of our small group eventually won’t want anything to do with us, since they will be afraid we will lash out at them as well. Soon we will find ourselves isolated from the larger group, with no way to get back in.
Ronald Reagan always admonished us that we should not openly criticize other Republicans and conservatives, and he was right. My 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy. We’ve gotten away from that practice, and with social media such as it is, we get in front of the keyboards angry, hammer on the keys, and hit send before we’ve really thought things through. That is a huge mistake!
Lastly, I will say this. The Bible teaches that we are held accountable to God to correct our brothers and sisters when they make an error. This is not a correction as a matter of preference, but of major issues with major impact. Some say, “well you can’t judge me”. Nonsense! It is required because our God is judging us if we do not. We should do so in humility because we know we ourselves are imperfect and we should be as open to the positive criticism as we provide positive criticism of others in our group.
I offer this advice humbly and accept others criticism even as I offer it to others. Of a positive result, I am not confident, as I was not confident of that young officer and his sergeant who left us there in the dark. These two young writers, like the soldiers I met on the road in Iraq, may well find themselves trapped in a minefield they created for themselves.