By / Mar 12

Twitter, Facebook, the comment sections of blog posts and YouTube videos, and all sorts of Internet meeting places have turned into nothing more than virtual gladiator arenas in which we fight to the death about stuff we forget about the next day.

It’s easy to get caught up in angry Internet discussions. But I think everyone, Christians especially, really ought to consider the ways in which they communicate with others online. You don’t win an argument by being the loudest person in the room. You don’t win an argument by being the biggest jerk in the room.

On the Internet, you win an argument by keeping the discussion civil. Here are five tips to dialoguing on the Internet in a respectful way:

1. Treat others like you want to be treated.

When it comes to the standards of the Bible, I try not to get angry at my non-Christian friends when they aren’t living up to them, even though I wish everyone would try to hold to biblical standards.Christian, your job is to make disciples, not win arguments. Don’t pursue the latter at the cost of the former.

The Golden Rule, however, is a biblical principle I think everyone, regardless of religion or lack thereof, should hold to when it comes to Internet dialogue. It’s really simple: you don’t like it when you get yelled at, so don’t yell at people. The following four points fall under the umbrella of this point.

2. Lead with humility.

If I’m debating with someone online about a political, spiritual, or an otherwise controversial topic, it can be easy for me to argue relentlessly without even the slightest consideration that I may be wrong.

What if, no matter how sure we are about how “right” we are, we approach every online discussion with a posture of humility that assumes the other person may be just as right as we are? I think this would radically improve our tone on social media and otherwise.

3. Don’t use polarizing language.

I cannot stand shock jocks on TV and radio. I find them to be wholly unhelpful to intelligent, effective communication in the realm of controversy. Even if I agree with folks like this, I find them to be shrill and nothing more than caricatures of legitimate, honest ideas and positions.

Here are some examples of polarizing language:

“He is the worst!” “She is the best ever!” “I hate this!” “It’s always like this.”

When you use polarizing language like in the phrases above, you naturally limit conversation because you pushed the superlatives as far as they can go.

Polarizing language limits conversational progress.

Related note: Only one “?” or “!” will suffice. When you use “!!!” or “???” people think you’re either angry, impatient, or way more excited than you need to be.

4. Assume the best in others.

This point sorta goes back to point number one: treating others like you want to be treated. When I am talking with someone on the Internet, whether or not I know them, I do everything I can do to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that not everyone in the world is looking to better humanity (see ISIS), but most of the people I am talking with online, even if I vehemently disagree with them, are simply trying to do what they think is best.

For example, I am pro-life. However, you will never hear me call people who are not pro-life “pro-abortion” or “pro-death.” I think to call pro-choice folks as any other name than that which they call themselves is inherently disrespectful and un-Christlike.

Polarizing language limits conversational progress. Many of these folks are truly trying to do what they think is right, and though I think they are very wrong, I owe them my respect, and I need to treat them as I think Christ would. Assuming the best in others, paired with an attitude of humility, will go a long way in effective, civil, and even encouraging dialogue (in person or online).

5. Respond as if you’re conversing in person.

This is a fitting final point because I think it does a good job of summarizing the previous ones.Too often, we discuss stuff differently online than we would in person—usually, we’re more polarizing (see point three).

It’s difficult to articulate volume and tone via static text on the Internet. Because of this, we should consider how we might phrase something to communicate with the most love and grace so as not to be heard as angry and unloving. As you’re crafting that tweet reply or that Facebook comment, pretend you’re speaking to the person. What if you were asked to read your comment aloud to the person you’re writing to? Consider these things.

Christian, your job is to make disciples, not to win arguments. Don’t pursue the latter at the cost of the former.

Originally posted here

By / Jun 30

"Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.” — Justice Samuel Alito

Today, the Supreme Court took necessary steps to clarify and re-assert America’s lasting commitment to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court announced  a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Both for-profit companies took issue with the Obama administration’s HHS Mandate—an odious provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires all for-profit companies to cover abortion-inducing drugs—even against the religious objections of these businesses’ owners. What was at stake in this ruling is whether the government could force private citizens to pay for medical devices that some fear cause abortions. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood stood for their conscience, while the coercive nature of the HHS Mandate sought to pave over the religious and moral conscience.

The Green and Hahn families’ (the owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, respectively) objections to the regulation stemmed from the core principles of their Christian faith, and their desire to “operate their company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” While willing to provide coverage for 16 of 20 contraceptives, the Green family felt they could not, in good conscience, provide their employees with free access to four contraceptive devices that they fear could cause an abortion.

In affirming Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood’s right to a moral objection to certain contraceptives, the Supreme Court affirmed religious liberty for all Americans, not just for Christians, not just for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, and not just for the Green and Hahn families.

The ruling was narrowly tailored to include only closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Moreover, the decision keeps in place the Health and Human Services Mandate—which faces continued legal opposition from organizations such as Little Sisters of the Poor.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion and offered key arguments in defense of religious liberty.

The majority opinion found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applied to closely held for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby. According to the opinion:

Congress provided protection for people like the Hahns and Greens by employing a familiar legal fiction: It included corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons.” But it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings. A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends.

The Court also rejected claims that corporations can’t act in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction. As the majority opinion goes on to say,

While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives.        

Alito’s argument also factors in the government’s inability to have met the least restrictive means test of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Because the government could not cross this threshold, Alito and the other justices were insistent that other steps could have been taken by the government to prevent infringing upon religious liberty.

The least-restrictive-means standard is exceptionally demanding… and it is not satisfied here. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by the objective parties in these cases.

In one section of the majority opinion, the Supreme Court refused to play the part of a theological referee by refusing to adjudicate highly complex issues related to theology and ethics. As Alito writes,

This belief implicates a difficult and important question of religion and moral philosophy, namely, the circumstances under which it is wrong for a person to perform an act that is innocent in itself but that has the effect of enabling or facilitating the commission of an immoral act by another. Arrogating the authority to provide a binding national answer to this religious and philosophic question, HHS and the principal dissent in effect tell the plaintiffs that their beliefs are flawed. For good reason, we have repeatedly refused to take such a step.

Similarly, in these cases, the Hans and Greens and their companies sincerely believe that providing the insurance coverage demanded by the HHS regulations lies on the forbidden side of the line, and it is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial. Instead, our “narrow function… in this context is to determine” whether the line drawn reflects “an honest conviction,” and there is no dispute that it does.         

There’s a lot more that could be said about today’s historic ruling in favor of religious liberty—for the decision is multifaceted. But the implication of today’s ruling is this: Religious liberty isn’t something that can be checked at the door just because someone decides to open a business.

Lastly, the optics outside the courtroom are also important. The irony of today is that opponents of Hobby Lobby cast their lot in making this yet another plank in evangelicalism’s supposed “War on Women.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Outside the Supreme Court, those who spoke up in defense of religious liberty were not spokesmen, but spokeswomen. Those opposed to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga want to make this an issue about denying access to contraception, which simply isn’t true. As previously mentioned, Hobby Lobby is willing to provide 16 out of 20 contraceptive devices. When opponents insist that this is an issue that belittles women or puts bosses in place of women making their own healthcare decisions, don’t believe it for a minute.