Responding to Ed Stetzer, Defending Gab from a Christian perspective

I really enjoy taking the Right to task for their unbiblical ideas because it requires measured discussion and nuance. However, today I am going to deal with a liberal Christian’s perspective because I simply can’t let it pass with the subject matter being so close to my interests. Tuesday this week, Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer made the unfortunate choice to join the mainstream media in piling on Gab.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/october/gab-pittsburgh-shooting-danger-of-echo-chambers-ed-stetzer.html

In light of yet another act of hate, we must understand and process the events leading up to the expression of such vitriolic hate. This depraved way of thinking and acting doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t randomly appear. This type of hate forms over time and within a supportive community that normalizes and cultivates this evil into a fever pitch.

It’s important to examine the terms he’s chosen to use. It is obvious Mr. Stetzer is using “hate” in the secular humanist context, which is simply thinking negatively of any particular minority group for their attributes or normative behaviors.

It is true that echo chambers can have negative effects, such as people who already agree with each other serving to amplify each other; however, the opposite is also true.

The insinuation here is that rather than joining a free speech community such as Gab, one should instead stay on Twitter, where interaction with the Left in the context of the Left’s rules is appropriate because they would not allow the sort of talk to take place that radicalized this individual. While I have my problems with Jewish belief as I’ve addressed earlier on this site (and really more with the way they’re regarded by Christians than Judaism itself), there is an inconsistent standard being held here:

Basically every mass shooter of the past ten years had a Facebook account and had significant troubling material there. A good number also had Twitter accounts.

Why does Gab deserve to be literally removed from the internet and not these sites?

The answer is simple: We are living in the Left’s world and the presupposed standard of morality isn’t the Lordship of Christ anymore; it’s the Secular Humanist dogma of No Place For Hate, especially when it comes to matters of special victim classes such as Jews. Because Gab decided to deviate from this dogma, they became effective endorsers of violence in the Left’s eyes. The same thing would have happened if a Gab user had beaten a same sex-attracted or trans-confused person.

I don’t know much about Mr. Stetzer’s politics prior to this post but I do know that Christians should not be working off the Left’s presuppositions when they are not stated in scripture.

In August 2016, the social network Gab was formed in response to censorship of hateful speech on popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Popular alt-right leaders were being banned for harassment and hate speech, and Gab was formed with the misnomer of “protecting free speech.”

Once again, we see Mr. Stetzer loading his writing with the Left’s language. “Harassment” is simply “speech directed at me I find objectionable.” “Hate speech” should send alarm bells off for any supposed Christian, because this loaded phrase typically encompasses core doctrines of ours, such as the idea that sodomy is immoral and harmful. Codifying “hate speech” into law is being used to strangle off proselytization all over Canada and Europe. Prominent Christian media accounts such as LifeSiteNews have faced censorship by Twitter and Facebook for factual reporting on homosexuality and abortion. So quite obviously, there is more at stake here than simply the banning of “alt-right leaders.”

For what it’s worth, many of the actual “alt-right leaders” (and not charlatans like Milo Yiannopoulos, to whom Mr. Stetzer is likely referring) are quite aware their behavior on social media is being watched carefully and so are typically mild-mannered. They get banned and censored anyway.

Free speech is presented as a “misnomer,” as if that doesn’t need qualified or explained. While I typically point back to the Bible as my authority, this is an American company, and so pointing back to the First Amendment is appropriate. Was it a misnomer there? No, once again we are presupposing one of the Left’s unwritten doctrines: “Hate speech is not free speech.” Of course, it is a laughable one, as free speech is worthless if you can’t say unpopular things.

But, long before Bowers picked up a gun and put Gab on the front page of the news, the social network was known for being a safe haven for neo-Nazis, those posting perverse pornograhic material, and others promoting hate speech against African Americans and Jews. Gab’s domain has been threatened and moved multiple times in 2016 and 2017, and Apple and Google have denied their app both on pornographic and hate speech grounds.

If one’s authority is Newsweek, it’s no wonder Mr. Stetzer is stuck with a Leftist lens when looking at current events. The mainstream media don’t like Gab because they challenge left-wing corporate hegemony over social media, which they are using to control and influence public opinion. Therefore, a string of hit pieces have been written over the past two years by mainstream sources, such as the one linked.

This is not a place where free speech is protected. Instead, it is a social media outlet for hateful, bigoted racists to share and encourage one another to maintain these beliefs.

Once again, completely unqualified, anti-factual, and a double standard as Twitter and Facebook have no problem with Leftists insulating themselves and encouraging each other to maintain Leftist beliefs. (They do it at their company meetings every day.) Free speech was flourishing on Gab. How do we know? Because things were being said that couldn’t be said elsewhere and it made the corporate authoritarians upset.

Despite being dropped by their content hosting providers, Gab has still been posting defenses of its structure and defending its policies. They are re-tweeting quotes from Winston Churchill about fighting on the hills and the beaches, claiming their social media site did nothing wrong, and using the language of uprising.

And they post even as 11 people are laying in a morgue after being brutally murdered by one of their users who wallowed in the same anti-Semitic pool of waste that is so common at Gab.

I followed about 70 people on Gab. Most of them debated theology and posted pictures of hillsides and animals with the caption “have a good day #GabFam,” along with the occasional pro-Trump article. The Jew-hating stuff existed, I did see it occasionally. I ignored it and understood that if I wanted the ability to profess my unpopular Calvinist Christian beliefs, I also had to be able to tolerate other things I didn’t agree with. I never once thought “by allowing people to say negative things about Jews, Gab is endorsing mass shootings” any more than I thought Facebook was endorsing anarchist violence by allowing pages for its organization, as they often do.

We must courageously stand up to this hate and call it what it is: evil.

It takes absolutely no courage at all to agree with institutional worldliness that what they define as hate is bad. What takes courage is defending the ability to say unpopular things even when you don’t agree with them.

But people are influenced, encouraged or discouraged, validated or repudiated by the social circles in which they run. Society affirms or condemns behavior. We have all seen it happen, and perhaps even done it. Perhaps we don’t like when our ‘friends’ on Facebook continually post about something we don’t agree with. So we unfriend them. And then someone else posts a comment we are offended by. So we unfriend them.

Before we know it, we are in a bubble of like-mindedness which feeds and affirms our own beliefs and actions. Don’t get me wrong. I love having my Christian friends fill up my Twitter feed. It feeds my soul, giving me food for thought when the darkness of the world seems so blinding.

Mr. Stetzer doesn’t realize that his post is a reflection of his own bubble. He’s been immersed in unbelieving circles so long he doesn’t realize he’s adopted some of their categories and language, such as the aforementioned “hate.”

But, as I explain in Christians in the Age of Outrage, echo chambers amplify and then often radicalize those who are stuck in them. And when this echo chamber isolation works itself into fever pitch (like it did with Bowers), we can feel our opinions are normalized enough to act.

This normalization of hate is the underlying danger of social technology that allows us to choose what circles we run in and block anyone who believes differently than us. That’s exactly what Gab does. It is not a place for discourse and discussion, but a place to spew hateful ideas and be encouraged in doing so.

What he fails to explain is why Gab is any different than Facebook or Twitter in this regard. I assure you, I had plenty of “discourse and discussion” on Gab with people both to my left and my right, both politically and theologically, yet Mr. Stetzer, who obviously hasn’t spent any amount of time on the site, has no problem smearing all their users as hateful Nazis.

You see, this is not the first time I’ve run into the cowards emboldened by Gab.

I have been on the receiving end of too many emails which have come from Gab enthusiasts. They post my email address at Gab, encourage their friends to jump on, and it begins.

Just a few days ago I tweeted out an example:

[Language warning]

I see that trigger warnings and safe spaces have also worked their way into his writing. This would suggest that he needs to stop insulating himself within the Left and be exposed to other ideas, like perhaps believing Christianity.

Really, this was a very mild version compared to ones I get which talk about killing me and harming my family. Indeed, words like these are very disconcerting, but when they have the potential to translate into action, that’s a whole different story.

So it seems this article isn’t really about anything but Mr. Stetzer having a bone to pick with Gab for one of their users sending a mean email. Perhaps the IETF should pull RFC 5322, as it seems email is being used as a platform for spreading hate as well.

We cannot be in silos and echo chambers of thought and ideas. Like a tornado in a valley, being in a thought bubble turns normal ideas into extremes, creating an echo chamber where a fringe idea can be perceived as normal because the few people in your chosen circle all say and believe the same thing you do.

Actually, we can and we should, to some degree. It’s these “echo chambers” that allowed the good news of Christ, foolishness to the world, to give you faith by hearing, save your soul and undergird your life. The Church is an echo chamber, and rightly so. Spending too much time immersed in the world allows one to start adopting the world’s outlook and language, as we’ve seen with Mr. Stetzer here.

And the belief that we are right can drive outrage towards anyone who might feel differently. This is how someone like Robert Bowers can express his views, become validated and encouraged in his ideas, and then cultivate a more extreme ideology that reaches a point of no return.

We cannot dehumanize those who have a different political or social bent than we do. That’s what places like Gab do. This is not the free speech cause you are looking for, friends. This is a cesspool that festers hate until someone gets hurt.

Obviously ethnic and religious violence isn’t good and nobody should condone it. But the opposite side of this statement is true as well: Christians, far more than they should, are passive in the face of threats to their way of life and won’t speak about them, even embrace and condone them because they prioritize worldly acceptance higher than the teachings of scripture.

We live in an age of outrage. But we can’t let that be the end of the story. We must shed the light. John 1:5 reminds us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

May the darkness of Gab flee away as we shed the light of truth.

Again, the “light of truth” is Christ, not social media giants that tell us what we are and aren’t allowed to say and believe. May Gab make a swift return as a viable alternative to corporate Leftist thought policing. You can find me there when it returns.