The Gospel and Blog Slander: Blog Slander Will Cost More Than an $11.3M Court SettlementWednesday, October 11, 2006
Over a half rack of ribs tonight I spied an article in the USA Today entitled, "Jury awards $11.3M over defamatory internet posts." Unable to find it online, I did find the article posted by WebWire. The courtcase is a blockbuster for bloggers...and especially so for Christians who so freely and flippantly gossip and slander about others (Christian and non). While blogging Christians may not sue each other (though that's not unheard of...speaking from personal testimony), there is more to keep in mind than millions of dollars in jury awards for defamation of character.
The Bible is clear that those who act like this will not go to heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 makes that clear enough. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Interesting, isn't it, how Paul puts slanderers among the others listed there. The other sins sound "bigger" don't they?
The fact of the matter is that the gospel cannot reside in the heart in any continuing parallel fashion alongside slander. The gospel is the truth. Slander is a lie. And gossip usually associated with it usually comes from it and is fueled by it.
What is slander? Bottom line it is either a false statement made about someone else, or it is an insulting statement made to hurt or defame their character and/or reputation. It also means to malign, to purposefully injure someone else with words, stories, or the promotion of concepts, ideas, or thoughts which bring harm on another. Those are my definitions. See Dictionary.Com's definition here.
Slander is verbal murder...destroying the image of God in someone else with the words we use, just because we're mad at them, don't like them, or are frustrated with them. Jesus' words should shake us to the core on this matter. "But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell" (NLT). That's what blog slander will cost some people. That's a lot more than $11.3 million bucks.
The etymology of the word is interesting. The Middle English used the word slaundre years ago. This word came from the Old French word esclandre which was an alteration of escandle. The Old French comes from the Latin scandalum, which means the cause of offense, stumbling block. The Bible has alot to say about causing offenses and stumbling blocks.
Luke 17:1-2 is a good place to start, especially given the context. The New King James translates the Greek appropriately: "Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." Mark 9:42 uses the word stumble in the parallel context. Yikes. Ever thought of your slander that way before? When you slander, you are one through whom offense comes and you can read for yourself what Jesus thinks about that.
Are you the one offended? Read on. "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).
If you slander, stop it or Jesus will judge you Himself. If you are slandered against, rebuke and forgive as many times as you are offended. I didn't find a footnote about any exceptions such as in the case of bloggers...even in the modern study Bibles. Blog slander is a sin. It causes offense and makes others stumble. Jesus' judgment applies no less to blog slander than to any other kind of slander. Slander doesn't stop being slander just because the fingers are saying it on a keyboard.
The gospel simply doesn't allow that kind of communication to anyone, regardless if they are Christians nor not. The gospel is truth. It is fueled by truth. For goodness' sake, the gospel is the hope of Christ Jesus in us, as Paul says, and Jesus is truth, as John writes it. How can slander and Jesus live inside the same person at the same time? They cannot. The heart of slander is not the heart of the gospel. Doesn't matter how mad someone makes us. We are not to return slander for slander, or gossip for gossip, or offense for offense. Forgive. Forgive x 7. Forgive 70 x 7. Put it on the cross along with all of your own sin. But don't feed sin exponentially by allowing your sinful heart to leak out in your words about others.
Following are some helpful blog posts on this subject. I recommend a thorough reading of everyone of them toward a hearty-gospel reminder against slander.
- Biblical Advice for Bloggers
- Changing the Christian Blogosphere Forever by Dan Edelen
- Blogging to Worship God by Bob Kauflin; Part 2; Part 3
- Confessions of a Blogger by Mark Lauterbach
There are specific bloggers I have in mind right now whose posts, some frequent and some not, warrant this rebuke. You know who you are...then again...maybe you don't if you don't read this blog. I'll leave it to the readers to establish the fabric and pattern of your posts. And I'm just simply asking that you at least begin by questioning whether or not (1) what you feel about someone or something else is motivated by God's Word or your own traditions, feelings, interpretations, etc.; and whether or not (2) what you feel like you need to say needs to be said at all or can be said in a different way so that it is seasoned with grace, like Colossians 4 teaches us.
To those who read this blog...forsake and abandon altogether bloggers who slander. Choose not to read them anymore. Remove them from your RSS feed. It's dangerous stuff. The more you read them the more you think like them and it's only a matter of time before you begin talking, thinking and blogging like them. Stay away from them. But don't slander them or gossip about them!
May the gospel shine in, on, around, by, and through our words...whether from our mouths or our fingers.