Sometimes watching the interactions of Christians online is very telling about their ability to deal with people. I wonder if some of them skipped the day the churches taught things like compassion – because sometimes I don’t see even an ounce of it in their conversation. It’s as if they have a list of what to do in order to ‘win’ the conversation, but ‘lose’ the person on the other side:
1.) Put them on the defensive by going on the offensive. Attack them personally for being weak, emotional, etc.
2.) Tell them that they’re wrong and you’re right often. Do it over and over again for them as long as it takes to get the message across.
3.) Be disrespectful of them, belittle them, use baby language, and ignore them. That’s just how you win the favor of other lurkers.
4.) Don’t answer their legitimate questions, this might be mistaken for caring about them. Instead, answer questions they didn’t ask with your far more important information.
5.) Don’t give the appearance of sympathizing with them after they discuss a bad experience. Tell them that they’re being emotional and misrepresenting what really happened.
6.) Don’t believe anything they can’t back up with a scripture verse – if it’s not in the Bible, it never happened.
7.) When they inevitably show frustration at having been disrespected, point out how they’ve been wrong all along and this just proves it. Congratulations! You’ve won the argument and the other side lost faith in Christianity, which is so much the better because they weren’t a real true Christian anyway.
I really don’t like it when Christians make it their goal to win the debates and conversations on the internet because so very often they come across as not the nicest people in the world. Then they wonder why Christianity has the reputation it does. It’s not because a church building is big and grand that a church has a reputation for excellence – it’s the outreach to the community that sets them apart from the rest.
You don’t gain the favor of a complete stranger by completely disrespecting them, miss-characterizing them, or ignoring them. You don’t help people who had a bad experience by making their experiences even worse. So many of these conversations lack grace, compassion, kindness, or even patience. Is it too much to respond with something like this:
“Hi, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about what Christians have put you through. Many people can probably name a few bad experiences with other Christians that have shown us what the worst of Christianity has to offer. I’ve probably been the bad experience that has lead you and others like you to doubt your faith. There are words I wish I hadn’t said, things I wish I hadn’t done, and times when my frustration and anger got the better of me. To this day, I play those moments again and again through my mind wondering what I could have said that would have changed things to make them better for everyone. I’d like to think that the Christians who gave you your bad experience were having a bad day like I was, but the scary reality is that they were taught that they weren’t doing anything wrong. They were taught that it’s their duty to turn you from what they perceived to be error according to those teachings. Thankfully, they’re not representative of all of Christianity, but they’re a rather vocal minority that often says some harmful things. The rest of Christianity has good and bad people alike, some are barely hanging on out of the hope that things will improve. I value your perspective and I truly believe that were you to leave, the chances of that improvement will decrease. We need you and those like you to hold the rest of us accountable and help us to see when we’re being unreasonable and judgmental and hypocritical. I totally understand if you’re not ready for that – but I want you to know that no matter what you choose, you’ll always find a friend in me.”
Sure, such a conversation would have to concede the argument that churches aren’t perfect, there are people there who rightfully give Christianity a bad name and too few people who can step up and do anything about it. You’d have to be willing to ‘lose’ in order to win the favor of the other side. Which, I think, is something of the point. Because it’s not as if when we get to heaven there will be a list of conversations we won, but of people we could have helped but chose not to out of our own arrogance and pride.