I don’t know about you, but sometimes I despair about the quality of online conversations among Christians. I’m sure that every tribe has their issues, but we Anglicans can be particularly menacing in Twitter threads and Facebook comments. We’re trying to chart a better, “clarity and charity” path forward here at Anglican Compass, but it’s tough to do! After all, anger is often the path of least resistance, especially online. (And that applies to yours truly as much as anyone.)
This is why I was so excited to read Daniel Darling’s A Way with Words: Using our Online Conversations for Good. Sure, Darling isn’t an Anglican (yet? Haha) and this book is not about Anglicanism, but it resonates quite well with the “clarity and charity” vision of Anglican Compass. I highly recommend it as a challenging and practical guide to how we Christians should better behave ourselves online.
Here’s the table of contents:
- Introduction: A Book about Words
- Ever Learning, Never Arriving
- Slow to Tweet, Quick to Listen, Quick to Get the Whole Story
- Biting and Devouring
- You Shouldn’t Be Teachers
- More Highly Than We Ought
- Act Justly, Love Mercy, Post Humbly
- Whatsoever Is True
- As Much as Possible
- An Analog Church in a Digital Age
- The Internet for Good
- Appendix A: 10 Things the Bible Says about Our Speech
- Appendix B: How to Read the News
As you can tell from the chapter titles, Darling uses some key passages from Scripture (James 1:19; Galatians 5:15; James 3:1; etc.) as jumping-off points for his chapters. As it turns out, the Bible has a LOT to say about our speech and how we treat each other with the words we say! Darling is a trustworthy guide, making sober critiques of both the Right and the Left on the basis of Scripture throughout this book.
I’ll just mention one point that hit me really hard while reading this book. Commenting on 1 Timothy 1:5 (“Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”), Darling writes:
Paul wasn’t just concerned with the content of the teacher practicing discernment but with the character of the discerner. In other words, when we confront false teaching we must do the spiritual work to allow the Spirit of God to move through us so that when we engage these conflicts we do so with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
In other words, discernment is not an opportunity to show off our theological brilliance or to win arguments or to own somebody rhetorically. Discernment is not about proving our rightness or the rightness of our tribe.
Put differently, the ends of biblical discernment do not justify unholy means. We don’t get a pass to be “jerks for Jesus” as long as we remain theologically orthodox! Our character and our conduct matter, especially when it comes to our speech.
This book would pair very nicely with Alan Jacobs’s How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Daniel Darling’s A Way with Words today, and start using your online conversations for good!
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.