The Survival Guide for Apologists Online

by Matt Rawlings

Have You ever heard of “Bread-truck Monday?” That’s when a pastor suffers from “Post Sunday Sermon Depression” and seriously considers quitting the ministry to do something like drive a bread-truck.  After all, everything smells like bread and you can listen to sports talk radio all day! I’ve had several of these over my fifteen years in ministry. But heart wrenching disappointment is not just reserved for pastors within the Kingdom–Christian apologists, especially those with a  presence online, often suffer the same type of depression.

How many of you have started online dialogues with skeptics that begin strong but devolve quickly as the atheist or agnostic retreats from questions to attacks? How many times has a fellow Christian attacked you online for disagreeing over secondary issues like the age of creation? How many Facebook groups have you left because atheists make nasty remarks or ask snarky questions about one of your posts and the Christian moderator chides you for not responding to these pointless questions and comments? Oh, and is anyone else freaked out by the number of atheists who haunt Facebook apologetic groups just looking to pick a fight? (One ironically told me he was a perfectly fulfilled and happy person but what kind of perfectly fulfilled happy atheist spends all of his or her time on Christian Facebook groups?)

The online life of an apologist can be nasty, brutish and short! So what should we do?

First of all, set some clear parameters for your time online.  I like what Melissa Cain Travis wrote some time back about what an apologist’s job is NOT.

Second, if you are like me then you feel like whatever else you are doing, you need to be reading, writing or listening to a podcast.  I have to constantly remind myself to carefully engage in the spiritual disciplines that God has given us all in grace upon grace.  Your prayer life, your worship, your care for the least among us and perhaps even an exercise like fasting is perhaps more important to your work as an apologist than how many books, blogs and podcasts you are digesting.

Third, remember the name and profile pic you are engaging online is a person.  As Jaron Lanier argued in his odd but provocative book You Are Not a Gadget (Knopf 2010), the anonymity and pack mindset of the internet can easily lead normally nice people to be exceptionally cruel.  Please keep this in mind…

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