We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians. Christophobia is on the rise and it isn’t always overt or intentional.
Just last week another prominent Christian became the latest to lose his job, due to expressing his faith. Israel Falou, Australia Rugby superstar, was fired and dropped from sponsorship deals worth close to $4m AUD.
His crime? He shared, among others, social media posts that stated hell was awaiting sinners.
As a PR and Social Media Consultant I wasn’t surprised at the action taken, many employers are now paying attention to their staff’s private social media accounts. Their reasoning is clear and makes sense, but it should be a warning to us Christians who use our social media accounts to share our faith.
Social Media Policies are a standard part of many employers’ contracts. HR departments will have likely already implemented them, or are looking to, where you work. These documents appear innocent and well meaning at first. They are intended to ensure that your employer is not brought into disrepute. Photos of you behaving inappropriately in your uniform, for example, could harm your employer’s reputation. I’ve had to, on some occasions, advise staff to cover their company logos as they entered casinos or similar venues in their uniform.
But these are loosely-worded documents and are being used to control the way that we behave outside the workplace.
Some members of the LGBT community are redefining the traditional definition of hate speech. Many are targeting companies with financially damaging boycotts if they express a view that the lobbies find unpalatable. Individual employees can be called out and the companies face embarrassment and a loss of income. This is where Christophobia has crept into the corporate world and is costing good Christians their jobs.
Your employer likely doesn’t want to face these groups or have to deal with an internal HR investigation. It is, therefore, in their best interest that you don’t express controversial views in public.
It follows a growing trend online, with conservatives being silenced and ejected from social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others are regularly banning or supressing those they deem as ‘hateful’ (with the definition of hate often being set by liberal atheists). This may sound like a conspiracy, but the evidence is there and the occasions of it are growing. We are already seeing occasions where police are being asked to investigate comments made on social media, with one incident seeing a Catholic journalist questioned after ‘misgendering’ a transgender person.
While scripture tells us to expect to be hated, it is not a comfortable place to be in.
So we, as Christians, need to become wise about how we use our platforms. We need to be wise about what we say and how we say it. We can’t become silenced and forced to hide our faith under bushels.
The future of social media is going to force us, as Christians, to ask some tough questions of ourselves. With our employers watching and monitoring, we will have to juggle between finance and faith. I applaud Israel and others for their decision to not shy away from the truth. But it isn’t going to be an easy decision for many of us to make.
We need to pray. Pray for wisdom, pray for protection and pray for those who stand against us.
These are my top social media safety tips, to help you navigate the difficult social media contracts and to make sure that you get the best out of your social media experience.
1. Remember that everything you do is public
We have a phrase in the PR world “The Daily Mail Test”. How would it look if your tweets appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail, or any other newspaper?
2. Don’t feed the trolls
One of the biggest dangers online are trolls. No, not the ugly things under bridges nor the brightly coloured hair dolls. Internet trolls are looking for a fight. They will ‘bait’ you with a comment that they know you dislike, just to make you respond. Don’t. They are not rational, forgiving, or open to having their mind changed. One of the posts that got Israel Falou suspended was a reply. He posted “All God’s plans are good”, and was then asked “What are God’s plans for Homosexuals?”. They didn’t like his response.
3. Create carefully
A lot of social media is poetry. You are often restricted by a limited number of words or characters and so have to be creative with what you say. This can be fun, but it can also be dangerous. It’s possible to sound a lot more aggressive than you intended. Consider what you are writing. There is no context outside of the post you are working on.
4. Be gracious
I’m often reminded of how Jesus responded to difficult questions designed to trip him up. He responded graciously and in love.
5. Tell your employer
This is crucial if you have signed a social media policy. You must highlight your accounts to them, if you feel there is any chance you may be identified as their employee. Go to them for advice and make sure nothing is hidden.
6. Don’t neglect offline evangelism
We are commanded to share the good news and the Great Commission applies to all Christians. In the age of the internet it’s easy to forget that you live next door to someone who, statistically, isn’t a Christian. Consider your offline options. There are many ministries who’ll help you.
7. Keep Jesus at the centre
If we use our social media to glorify ourselves, then we should expect a fall. When looking to win a debate or hammer home a point, consider who it is that gains the glory at the end of it all. Does your social media glorify God? Do you tell others of the wonders he has done for you?
David Taylor is a PR and social media consultant
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