When I began this blog, six years ago next week, it was in response to a call from the Lord. He had instructed me to write, and so in obedience I began to write. I began blogging here at Mustard Seed Faith, then working on a book, then another book, then another blog, and so forth and so on. Any discipline pursued over time will change you, and over these past years writing has become such an integral part of my life that I have trouble now imagining life without it.
My call to write has remained unchanged these past years, but my focus has begun to shift. The lodestone that has guided this shift has been my pastoral call, and, more specifically, my people. It is impossible to ignore today the increased prominence given to the life we live online. I first joined Facebook as a ministry tool, in order to keep abreast of what was going on in my people’s lives. Their likes, dislikes, and comments gave me a snapshot of what was going on socially, politically, ideologically, and theologically. And in the midst of observing their information, a new burden began to grow in me. The burden was about bad information.
Let’s face it—there’s a whole lot of bad information out there, and it’s not just bad, but often deceptive and dangerous. A byproduct of our media obsessions is that very often it is the loudest voice that wins, or the funniest, or the most vulgar. These factors highlight the shocking lack of serious thought, critical inquiry, and Christian witness in the public sphere. I quickly began to realize that, if no good information were being injected into the feeds of my people, the bad information would certainly win the day. Psalm 12:8 observes that “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men,” and Psalm 11:3 asks the question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” There is so much bad information strutting about, unopposed and unchecked, eroding the foundations of what is often a regrettably naïve Christian faith. Where are the righteous voices? Where are the people championing the complexities of Christian orthodoxy? Where are the men and women of faith who are standing up to speak the truth in a measured, ordinary way? I am challenged by that old dictum—that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Recently I’ve been reading a biography of German pastor Martin Niemöller, who although a retired U-boat captain and fiercely patriotic, and although he initially supported Hitler and the National Socialists, and although tacitly participating in Germany’s pervasive anti-Semitism, nevertheless came to change his mind. As a pastor he began to recognize the dissonance between the vision of Christianity presented by Nazi Germany and the one represented in the historic Christian faith. Taking stock of the two, Niemöller began to question what was going on in Germany. Bristling at State interference in matters of doctrine and practice in the Church, he helped to organize with other pastors a resistance to National Socialism, and an attempt to call the conscience of Christian Germany to rethink its racism and nationalism. In this way Niemöller was instrumental in founding the Confessing Church, and for his efforts was confined to prison for eight years, many of those at Dachau. At the end of that time Niemöller was uniquely poised to address not only the wrongs done in Germany, but to seek a new way forward. He played a key role in the composition of a document called the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. The following words are from that document:
Through us infinite wrong was brought over many peoples and countries. That which we often testified to in our communities, we express now in the name of the whole church: We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Socialist regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves for not standing to our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.
We fought, Niemöller confessed—but not hard enough, not loudly enough, not joyfully enough, not courageously enough. I am convicted by Niemöller’s example. He is a pastor, like me, called, like me, to voice genuine Christianity in the midst of chaos, distraction, and falsehood. He speaks the truth in a prophetic way and pays a great cost for it. He is a spiritual hero for an age of deception and informational chaos. I am coming to pray, as I write, that I will have spoken faithfully, loudly, and boldly, and will not have to apologize later for not having spoken enough.
This, then, is the altered shape of my call to write—at least as I write here and offer comment online. I feel a burden to be a voice for orthodox, rational, traditional Christianity in the public sphere. To do this I keep a public profile, so that almost every post, comment, and interaction is visible for all to see. My motives are not combative (I enjoy a good debate, but not controversy), and nor are they particularly apologetic—in fact, in almost every case I am writing not to non-believers, but to the Church. Throughout, my underlying attitude is deeply pastoral. I read popular content online and consider how it might affect my people. I write about and address issues of public concern because I am motivated chiefly by compassion for my people who may have access only to inferior interpretations of events. I grieve the situation of modern information, and feel compelled to attempt to do my small part to stand for the truth in the midst of chaos. I pray that, when I look back at my life later, I will be able to stand with a measure of the integrity of my fellow pastor Martin Niemöller. May God grant that it so be.