The Great Divide (And How The Internet Is Exposing It)

“Oh. I hit the wall I got back up and dusted off.
I’m past the pain and I’m taking back all that I lost,
I’m going to kick you off the throne hang your crown up on the wall,
Yeah your glory days are gone gone gone.
Yeah I’m bringing down the giant
I won’t sit here and be silent.

When your world comes crashing down I’ll remind you
I’m the one who’s laughing loud in your face
Yeah yeah your karma’s coming back here to find you
This could get a little violent
Yeah I’m bringing down bringing down the giant.”

– Saving Abel, “Bringing Down The Giant

“So David got up early in the morning and entrusted the flock to someone else who would watch over it. After loading up, he went just as Jesse had instructed him. He arrived at the camp as the army was going out to the battle lines shouting its battle cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up their battle lines opposite one another.  After David had entrusted his cargo to the care of the supply officer, he ran to the battlefront. When he arrived, he asked his brothers how they were doing. As he was speaking with them, the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, was coming up from the battle lines of the Philistines. He spoke the way he usually did, and David heard it.  When all the men of Israel saw this man, they retreated from his presence and were very afraid.  The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? He does so to defy Israel. But the king will make the man who can strike him down very wealthy! He will give him his daughter in marriage, and he will make his father’s house exempt from tax obligations in Israel.” David asked the men who were standing near him, “What will be done for the man who strikes down this Philistine and frees Israel from this humiliation? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he defies the armies of the living God?”  The soldiers told him what had been promised, saying, “This is what will be done for the man who can strike him down.” When David’s oldest brother Eliab heard him speaking to the men, he became angry with David and said, “Why have you come down here? To whom did you entrust those few sheep in the desert? I am familiar with your pride and deceit! You have come down here to watch the battle!” David replied, “What have I done now? Can’t I say anything?”  Then he turned from those who were nearby to someone else and asked the same question, but they gave him the same answer as before. When David’s words were overheard and reported to Saul, he called for him.  David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged. Your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” But Saul replied to David, “You aren’t able to go against this Philistine and fight him! You’re just a boy! He has been a warrior from his youth!” David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been a shepherd for his father’s flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock,  I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it.  Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them. For he has defied the armies of the living God!”  David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!” Then Saul said to David, “Go! The Lord will be with you.”  Then Saul clothed David with his own fighting attire and put a bronze helmet on his head. He also put body armor on him.  David strapped on his sword over his fighting attire and tried to walk around, but he was not used to them. David said to Saul, “I can’t walk in these things, for I’m not used to them.” So David removed them.  He took his staff in his hand, picked out five smooth stones from the stream, placed them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag, took his sling in hand, and approached the Philistine. The Philistine kept coming closer to David, with his shield bearer walking in front of him.  When the Philistine looked carefully at David, he despised him, for he was only a ruddy and handsome boy. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?” Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come here to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field!” But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied!  This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand! I will strike you down and cut off your head. This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God  and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”  The Philistine drew steadily closer to David to attack him, while David quickly ran toward the battle line to attack the Philistine. David reached his hand into the bag and took out a stone. He slung it, striking the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank deeply into his forehead, and he fell down with his face to the ground. David prevailed over the Philistine with just the sling and the stone. He struck down the Philistine and killed him. David did not even have a sword in his hand.  David ran and stood over the Philistine. He grabbed Goliath’s sword, drew it from its sheath, killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they ran away.  Then the men of Israel and Judah charged forward, shouting a battle cry. They chased the Philistines to the valley and to the very gates of Ekron. The Philistine corpses lay fallen along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. When the Israelites returned from their hot pursuit of the Philistines, they looted their camp.  David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put Goliath’s weapons in his tent.  Now as Saul watched David going out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the general in command of the army, “Whose son is this young man, Abner?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, O king, I don’t know.” The king said, “Find out whose son this boy is!” (1 Samuel 17:20-55, NET)

Anyone that follows me closely will note a lot of what I write usually starts with a story or an experience. The reason for this is simple: what I experience or encounter typically starts with something that happens because what happens makes me think. I think it’s important that when things happen, we look beyond just whatever it is that happened and start looking for things that we can learn from them in a bigger and a larger way. The problem I am experiencing as I write this is the reality that there are so many experiences I’ve had that relate to this issue, I’m not sure where to start or which ones to specifically reiterate. What I think I am going to (and will be open to its change as I go along if God changes it) is just start out with the thoughts and tie it all in.

The topic of “unity” is one that just sends everyone into moments of fuzziness and warmth. It’s the little “puppy dog” of modern Christianity, the thing to talk about or throw out there any time a crowd seems to be losing interest. It makes Christians all start about how we should be more unified (although nobody seems to have the answer as to how to get there). The issue, however, seems to end right then and there. People never do anything to be more unified (a community council is not the answer, by the way, we’ve had those for years and it’s not working) and the only grounds that seem to meet people’s demands for unity all take the form of political alliances and controls. There are people now, for example, demanding churches come back into communion with Rome, as if we all forgot (or failed to learn, as the case usually is) why the church broke away from Rome in the first place. Unity becomes the biggest denial factor for people today, as they talk and muse like we don’t have any differences anymore and we should all just like each other all the time, look the part, talk the part, and grab a bottle of Coke as we sing “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” on a hillside somewhere.

Then…enter the internet. Enter social networking media and new ways in which for the world to supposedly “unite,” one to another. You’d think this would be awesome, right? Here’s a way the church, transcending denominations and transcending cultures, can reach out and connect! We can sit around and bond over shared prayers and intentions, and love God and one another. We don’t even have to leave our homes!

The only problem is that this isn’t what’s happened. Instead of bringing us closer together, it’s revealing more and more of our differences, the reasons why denominations started in the first place, and more of the reasons why we can’t all “just get along.” Instead of helping the church to socialize itself, it’s showing us to be the nasty, bickering, judgmental people we all-too-often are.

(And before you get nasty over that statement, think about it for awhile.)

Maybe the reality is that we like the idea of unity as a cute musing, but it never manifests because everyone is just too darn interested in power and control in the name of belief and the name of Christian understanding. Everyone wants to be the one that’s “right,” that rescues those perceived to be “wayward” because something seems wrong to them, or because we feel that we are truly the only ones who are right, after all. Maybe after all these years and all the fake, plastic “oh let’s get together and praise God” garbage, our true colors are coming out.

We talk often about the internet as a clever way to hide our true selves, because nobody is going to know if we’re real or not unless they meet us (or unless the Holy Ghost bears witness, but that’s another issue). The reality is that the internet is also uncovering things about us. It is uncovering our disunity, our bitterness and hatred toward others who claim to be believers, our disagreeable nature, our internal ugliness and need to be in control, and our true spirit of disobedience.

Want to know why we have so many different denominations? Look at some social media platforms. It won’t take long as you watch people argue over the same things they’ve always argued about, just using new means and new fingers to point.

Before the internet, the odds were good we’d never encounter most of the people we meet online in our lifetimes. I’d be over here, and whoever has an attitude and a conviction would be over there, and never the twain should meet. We would find ourselves like-minded communities that established forums of accountability (at least in theory, I am the first to admit it didn’t always work like this), and we “answered” to those in authority within that group or community.

In other words, our differences and our pursuit to find others who felt the same exact way about our differences is what kept us apart. Our convictions, whatever they were, how imbalanced they were, caused us all to stay in our own remote corners of the world instead of forcing us to resolve the issues at hand. We’d just go over here and handle things the way we wanted to over here, and pretend that other group didn’t exist, or worse yet, just decide they were going to hell. While yes, I agree that there are differences between groups and that we should not unite with every group out there, the reality is that a lot of the differences in mainline Christianity are over variances of issues that aren’t eternal. Skirt lengths, tattoos, divorce, women preachers, facial hair, make-up, hair, and T-shirts or shorts for men aren’t issues that are going to send anyone to heaven or hell, for that matter – but they seem to be minor issues that people want to debate and “pick at.” The way we avoided picking at it for centuries has been to retreat to neutral corners and ignore each other, while muttering and murmuring over what was wrong with the other while we were amongst ourselves.

Now we’re all on social media together, clawing it out, really revealing the state of the church today. “Picking and choosing” groups has now become a matter of how much we can get away with in a church or how much we can avoid things we don’t want to deal with while over-emphasizing the things that we want to deal with. Let me say this: we do NOT need another special-interest ministry that deals with only one constituency of the “church” and ignores the rest, and calls it “church.” Special-interest ministries are for church service, not for churches where people meet every week. This leads to exclusionary spirits and the attitude of “not every ministry is for every person.” Yes, that is true, but we have a five-fold ministry for a reason, and you do not need to have a “church” that people attend every week if your call is ONLY to college students, or to inmates, or to whoever else…I am sure you get the idea. We’re now even “picking and choosing” what church should be about, and defending it in the name of it not being our “calling…” then team up with someone whose calling it is, and start building the church instead of special-interesting it to death.

But, of course, then somebody isn’t “in charge,” so there’s the problem, there.

Our answer to dealing with this ever-increasing conflict is to “not care about” the way people are behaving toward us or to “ignore it” or “not pay attention to it.” Or my personal favorite, “just keep it moving.” “Everyone isn’t for you!” Well, duh! I think we’ve all figured that out, but I feel the issues we are seeing on here are deeper than thinking, “everyone isn’t for us.” Just because someone isn’t called to our ministry and isn’t called to be a part or follow us doesn’t mean they have the right to behave unseemly, demand that we remove something from our pages when they have no authority over us, or that they can spiritually threaten us because they feel they are right and we are wrong. If they aren’t “for us,” then why not just keep your mouth shut and move on? Why does it have to become a power and control struggle, with people rebuking and saying they sense spirits and acting unseemly? Have we forgotten that the entirety of the unsaved world online is watching us and washing their hands, not because they reject the “truth,” but because, quite frankly, Christians are acting like a bunch of stupid idiots?

When I first started out representing the apostolic online in 2007, it was a hard and offensive place to be if you were a woman calling yourself anything related to ministry. I and a few of the other women who were among the first to do it got the nastiest, name-calling, cussing, swearing emails from the so-called “holiest” of men who felt they were justified because to them, we were doing something “unbiblical.” Their answer was to attack our beliefs, attack us as women, and attack us as people. The first time it happened, I went somewhere and cried, I cried my eyes out, because I just didn’t “get it.” I am sure that I disagreed with him about a lot of things, but I would not have ever acted like that and tried to justify it. All these years later, I’m done crying now. People can either respect my space and I’ll respect theirs, or they can get a lesson in order they will never forget. Now people troll through our pages, demanding we “repent” for what we put on our walls and telling us God is going to level us if we don’t do what they say. Just today, a self-appointed prophet (and I am calling him that because that’s exactly what he was, based on his behavior) told me that. This is a man I do not know, somebody I have never met in my entire life, and he’s someone who had never, ever before today even had the courtesy to post something on my page to the extent of hello or to like anything. We have no connection, we are not people under the same association – my people over here have nothing to do with his people over here – thus he is not someone I would ever, ever be accountable to or for. He just “disliked” something and under the veil of “prophecy” or “being spiritual,” spoke with disrespect and in a condescending matter.

You know what? I deleted and blocked him. I could have gone over point after point to argue with him, but because he’s “over there” and I am “over here,” we weren’t going to come to a meeting of the minds. He wasn’t going to see my point, and because of the way he presented himself and the disrespect he spoke with, I was not about to see his. And maybe we should back up and point out that what was posted was something that was funny, it wasn’t something offensive, and it was something that helped a few women on my page to talk and interact and connect. It was an “identifiable moment,” something that bridged that internet gap between all of us in time and space, and opened up the doors of communication.

And, in that split second when he came on, trying to rebuke without authority, the great divide became that much deeper.

I am personally tired of feeling bullied online. I have had points in time where I just want to sign off FB all together and not deal with this stuff anymore because to me, it’s just not worth it to be arguing about all these issues. We can all make our points and have our opinions without resorting to spiritual bullying and speaking nasty things over one another, thinking that gives us “authority.” But what I am realizing is that not speaking up isn’t solving the problem, it’s making it worse. People are learning that, as we try to sidestep and ignore issues and differences, that they can get away with things around us. It’s not inspiring respect, it’s inspiring more authority questions and issues. Yes, I believe that we have to pick our battles and not everything is worth the fight, but at the same time, if we don’t stand upon the authority God has given to us, we are letting the spiritual bullies have control and win the battle.

We love the story of David and Goliath because we think it’s a great underdog story, but David and Goliath is actually a story about bullying of all sorts. Goliath wasn’t the only bully that David faced. David was also bullied by a society, his brothers, and even a prophet who didn’t recognize what God has placed in Him as a leader. They didn’t give him a chance to speak or a chance to even prove himself because they were all over in “their corner,” doing what they all did, while he was over in “his corner,” tending the sheep. He was misjudged by his appearance, by what people felt they knew about him. There was a lack of unity in his family, partitioned off by whatever it is that divided them, be it age, attractiveness, or capability. It was this bullied prophet, this bullied teenage boy who, in one singular swoop, shut everyone up and actually came to unite a Kingdom.

I see all of us in this situation who are truly called by God on today in a similar light. There is a needed unity to come in the church that has spent thousands of years content and delighted to be unified. We are even content to talk about it today as long as it makes us look good and it doesn’t mean we have to reach out or give anything up on our side of the fence. The internet deceives people into thinking we can seize opportunities to look better than everyone else, holier than everyone else, more spiritual than everyone else, as we decide to pick on people based on something they share or something they say. We are misjudged based on appearances, by what people feel they know about us, and what they think they can get away with because this is the internet. (Have we not forgotten the command to watch our own words, because what we say will be the same measure used to judge us?) But those of us who are experiencing the sting of spiritual bullying, inflicted on people who are acting like Goliath on here, need to remember that all it took for him to come down was a little boy with a rock and a slingshot. As holy as you attempt to act on here as you go along and divine, you’ll be the ones exposed and leveled as soon as that rock hits you.

David didn’t ignore Goliath, decide he just wasn’t “for him,” and he didn’t just “keep it moving.” He confronted Goliath so Goliath’s reign of terror could come to an end.  He did what nobody else was willing to do when confronted with that bully: deal with him.

Like I said in my status earlier today, I certainly hope heaven is holy enough for some of these FB people. I have my doubts.

Here’s to a better day in the church. I hope it gets here soon.

© 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

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