How do we handle the Twitter mob amid calls for decency?

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“What do we way as Christians when an influential professor fails to defend not only his childhood friend but his own wise and gracious comments because of hate speech that is increasingly tolerated and even endorsed in our secularized society?

While exchanging emails with my brother and bemoaning the lack of well-reasoned discussion and debate on the issues that divide our country, I heard about a sad and sorrowful situation at my alma mater. A professor had been castigated if not crucified verbally on Twitter because he had innocuously tweeted some words about a childhood friend who is a candidate for public office.

When we think about how the following words unleashed a flood of hatred toward him and his childhood friend, we might be tempted to conclude that the effort to replace our Judeo-Christian civilizations threatens to leave us sinking in a sea of uncivil, unruly, and unjust discourse. One headline read: “UGA dean apologizes to Twitter mob after congratulating (gubernatorial nominee).”

These were the professor’s tweeted words that unleashed a tsunami of voracious and vicious nastiness:

I went to high school with [the nominee for governor]. We played YMCA ball from childhood. Politics be [set aside]. He is a nice guy, always was. Kind to a fault. He’s a friend, always has been, and will be when we’re old(er) and grey(er). That’s how all this should work, people.

The article reports: “Twitter users immediately blasted the dean for associating with a ‘racist’ who ‘spews bigoted and dangerous rhetoric.’” The professor deleted his first tweet and then apologized and thanked the “community for teaching him a valuable lesson.”

Perhaps there is a different lesson to be learned from this ugly affair. A few months ago I had the privilege of preaching to a state Gideon Convention on the theme “Standing Firm.”Paul wrote about how we Christians need to stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel.”

I believe that means standing by our friends and by what we believe is right, good, and decent! I have always said I want to be a friend upon whom my friends can depend. Otherwise I ought to be ashamed of myself.

I am not going to chastise or criticize this professor who caved in to the mob that attacked him. I suspect he already feels bad that he was coerced into retreating from what he had said about his childhood friend. I am going to speak out against the uncivil nature of Twitter which so often reflects an increasingly “uncivil” discourse that degenerates into nothing but slanderous, mean-spirited hatred that is not worthy of any kind of acceptance!

As a Christian I am also going to compliment what this professor first said about his childhood friend, how he talked about his friend being “nice” and “kind.” It is so good to read about someone saying “nice” and “kind” things about a candidate rather than “slurs” and “slanders.” Unfortunately, the latter soon sought to drown out the former.

We all ought to be able to agree that we would have a more civilized and decent society if, as the professor said, we could strive to be like his friend, nice and kind: “that’s how this should work, people.” Ah, but it is not how it works when a professor suffers a blistering attack and is bullied into deleting his innocuous words and even apologizing to a vitriolic mob. That is so sad, and so indicative of our fallen and falling society.

We are reminded anew how there is no better replacement for our Judeo-Christian civilization, no matter the many inherent weaknesses that are part of our sinful human nature.

How easy it is to give in to slurring and slandering people with whom we disagree – on many sides of the political, racial, socio-economic, religious, and national spectrums! And it can be so hard to take a stand – a firm stand – against such antics and tactics. However, we must if we want a more civil/civilized society.

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