Message to Internet Venues: Stop the Internet Death Threats and Deliberate Attempts to Incite Violence

Finger pointing at raised hands

I’m going to do something that I said I would not do.

Less than 24 hours ago, I was involved in a behind-the-scenes discussion of the vile reactions to the Hobby Lobby decision that were taking place on the internet. I said — and I meant it — that I was not going to write about this trash.

The reason? Satan brought this beast to life, and I, for one, don’t want to feed it.

Now, I’m going to do a 180 and do that thing I said I wasn’t going to do. I am going to talk about the satanically-inspired things being said.

The reason?

I read a call for help from Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. I have worked with Mrs Lahl on legislation. She is publicly involved in fighting commercial egg harvesting and surrogacy. Evidently, Mrs Lahl has been receiving what amount to death threats.

I’ve decided to write about these threats. I can’t let this go unchallenged.

There were, at least in some dirty little corners of the internet, comments directly inciting violence against Hobby Lobby. What I saw was one person after another calling for specific acts of violence.

I want to make this clear. These were calls to commit crimes of violence against this business. They were explicit and repetitive. They were direct calls to do violence with specific types of violence being named. Every action these commenters were calling for was both a felony in itself and potentially murderous to large numbers of people.

The threats directed against Jennifer Lahl were also explicit. In fact, they were even more explicit, naming the weapon and the method. They were implied death threats, made in graphic terms.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that you have to take people at their word about these things. Words precede actions. My advice to the police is that if anything happens in either of these situations you already have your “persons of interest.” Just look at the people making these threats.

Slander and personal excoriation have become so rife in our society that we no longer recognize them for what they are. We’ve gotten to the point that we think this kind of verbal debauch is normal. Are death threats and calls for violence against persons the downward trend toward a new normal?

I am writing this post to call on other bloggers and people who publish on the internet to accept that they are responsible for what they allow on their publications.

I am not talking about a random comment that got through by accident. I am referring to one call to commit violence, one death threat, after another. If your outlet has become a venue for issuing calls to commit crimes of devastating violence, you need to do something about it. 

Do not wait until a tragedy occurs and then make sanctimonious statements to the press to excuse yourself. Because if that happens, I, for one, won’t be buying it.

A Big Birthday Card for Pope Francis

Here’s an idea worth emulating.

More than 10,000 young people have signed a birthday card for Pope Francis.

The Holy Father’s birthday is December 17.

After reading this, I decided to send the Pope a Happy Birthday greeting by means of Pontifex, which is his Twitter account. You can find Pontifex here. My suggestion: Go thou and do likewise.

From Catholic News Agency:

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 6, 2013 / 02:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 10,000 young people have signed a giant birthday card for Pope Francis, offering their prayers and well-wishes for the Holy Father’s 77th birthday on Dec. 17.

“We wanted to give the Pope a gift he would truly appreciate; something he would be proud of,” said Mark Nelson, founder of Catholic to the Max, the Ohio-based arts and gifts outlet company behind the initiative.

The 4-foot-tall card consists of a tri-fold plaque featuring an image and prayer of one of the Holy Father’s favorite Marian devotions, “Mary, Un-doer of Knots.” After collecting both physical and digital signatures, Catholic to the Max intends to send the card to the Pope later this month.

Nelson said that the idea to give the Holy Father gifts of prayer and service came from the Pope’s first “Urbi et orbi,” when he asked that the faithful pray for him before he imparted his blessing.

“From day one, he has asked all of us to pray for him and to serve the poor. This is our response,” Nelson said.

The card traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last month and acquired signatures from more than 10,000 young people.

Now that the card is back in Steubenville, Ohio, it has been gathering signatures at local Catholic parishes and Franciscan University.

 

Follow Jesus on Twitter

The Gospel on Twitter.

Watch and be blessed.

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Book Review: Social Media Ministry and Community Building in Today’s Church

Join the conversation about The Social Media Gospel and order a copy here

Clergy talk a lot. Clergy usually also write, read and socialize a lot.

By a lot, I mean a lot. The average priest, preacher, deacon, rabbi, imam, probably has moments every week when he or she would like to drop their cell phone in the nearest toilet and flush. 

These people are intelligent and greatly gifted in verbal skills. 

You’d think they’d be naturals for thinking up ways to use the social media to promote their beliefs and extend their faith community past the church doors and into the world. 

For some of them, this is true. We have outstanding clergy bloggers here at Patheos. SQPN was founded by the podcasting priest, Father Roderick Vonhogen. But for most clergy, especially Catholic priests, not so much. 

Why do I say “especially” Catholic priests? Because it’s just a fact, at least concerning the priests that I know, that the good ones are somewhat reluctant to use the new media to preach, teach, organize and build community. Also, we’ve had some appalling falls from grace by “star” priests who either were corrupted by the attention, or were ripping off the priesthood as a vehicle to fame in the first place. 

It is important for us to tread carefully in the business of making “stars” out of people who may not have the anointing for the work. But social media does not have to make rock stars of clerics. It can be, and it should be, just another form of communication to a world that is dying for lack of social and spiritual nourishment.

The lack of community is an emotional poverty in many people’s lives. Social media can be a way of reaching out to these people with a Christian hand. It can bring them the Gospel they will never find inside a church because they won’t go inside a church in the first place.

It can also build community within existing church congregations. Too many people go to church kind of like they go to a movie. They go, sit through the service, then leave and never talk to anyone from the parish until they go back again the next Sunday.

Social media can allow parishioners to develop contact between one another, learn more about their faith and become engaged in a more intimate and companionable relationship with their parishes. 

But how is a religious leader to start the process of developing a social media presence for his or her church?

The Social Media Gospel, by Meredith Gould, seeks to answer that question. 

The book makes many important points. It is critical for church leadership to spend time planning and learning before beginning the social media adventure. The author says that it’s important to decide what you want to accomplish with social media and how you’ll know if you are accomplishing it. 

Also, church leaders need to build their social media activities around the beliefs that are the reason why their church exists in the first place. 

The book gives useful guidelines for the thinking it through part of developing a social media ministry. It does not provide technical information about the how-to phase of setting up this ministry. It is a worthwhile read for someone who is thinking about setting up a social media ministry for their church. It is especially useful if you are trying to decide whether or not your parish or church should engage in social media ministry.

I think the answer is an emphatic yes, churches should engage in social media ministry. I think the rewards of community building among existing parishioners alone will be astounding. 

For a parish to ignore social media in today’s world is a little bit like ignoring the need for sound systems. These things are tools, and those who bring Christ to the world should use every tool they can find to do this effectively. 

These two videos, Don’t Be That Church I & II, were created by Meredith Gould, the author of The Social Media Gospel.

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