The article you are about to read has received a tremendous response, ranging from those who agreed, those who liked parts of it, and others who took issue with the topic. As you read the article, please keep in mind that it was written specifically to the youth of The Restored Church of God, with the purpose of setting an internal policy.
While many religious organizations routinely set unbiblical internal policies for their membership (such as “dancing is prohibited” or “drinking is a sin”), The Restored Church of God sets policies founded on basic biblical principles as taught by Jesus Christ. In this case, our intent is to explain the widespread misuse of blogs.
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In the last five years, a new phenomenon has developed. The Internet has given birth to a world within a world. Now millions around the globe have their own websites, where they detail their lives, interests, opinions, random thoughts, and much more. These personal web pages are called blogs (derived from the word “weblog”), a phenomenon that has coined the term “blogosphere.”
While many were originally created for professional duties and jobs (for example, some journalists log their work for other professionals to read), blogs have morphed into something far different. From ages six to 60, millions are starting their own blogs. Some parents want their children to blog so they can improve their writing skills. Others want their college children to blog so they can “keep tabs” on their lives away from home.
Websites hosting these or similar pages are called social networks or online communities. Some examples are MySpace, Friendster, Bebo and Facebook. Those who have a blog on the same network can interact in various and creative ways. This has become so popular that MySpace is one of the most well-known and frequently visited websites on the Internet!
Here are some facts of how pervasive this trend has become:
• There are an estimated 40 to 70 million blogs on the Internet
• As many as 75,000 blogs are created every day—almost one per second
• Some estimate that the blogosphere is doubling in size every 200 days
• 12 million teenagers create content online
• According to a 2003 study, about half of all blogs are authored by teenagers
• A majority of the top 15 sites visited by teens in January 2005 were either blogs or social networking sites
(Before we proceed, allow me to clarify a technical difference. When truly understood, social networking pages and actual blogs are slightly different, and it is sometimes hard to distinguish the difference between the two. Therefore, in the case of this article we will consider them all blogs.)
Since blogs are so popular, how should those striving to live God’s Way view them?
One of the reasons personal weblogs have made news headlines is because child predators and pedophiles use these pages to chat with and get to know young people. These sick criminals will often portray themselves as fellow teens trying to build friendships with other teenagers. Their schemes are so elaborate that a predator will sometimes script webcam (camera) footage of a real teenager so he appears as if he is that young person! Before long deceived teenagers become comfortable with this other “teen” and agree to meet with him.
This has caused another term to be coined: cyberstalking—a very real danger in the 21st century. U.S. News and World Report states, “1 in 7 young people ages 10 to 17 acknowledge receiving an online sexual solicitation in 2005”! It is an ever-changing dangerous world out there! In effect, personal blogs are becoming a shopping catalog for pedophiles!
Perhaps the biggest reason predators descend on teens and pre-teens through blogs is because many young people unwisely post all sorts of private information about themselves, including full names, addresses, pictures and even phone numbers! Often this is posted in the blogger’s profile. MSNBC reports that 60% of bloggers offer their location and contact information. Many do not realize this information is publicly available. Because of these dangers, experts have said that people should not post pictures of themselves.
Another reason blogs have generated headlines recently is that many parents have no idea what weblogs are, or that they exist, or that their children have one. Parents assume their children are innocently spending time on the Internet or doing schoolwork, when they are actually posting to their blogs. Parents have no idea that when they ground their children to their rooms with their computers they have, in effect, created an environment ripe for online chatting and blogging. Since these networks are so connected, kids who are not allowed to go to parties simply create online parties, unbeknownst to most parents.
Another concern, especially with the sexual pressures of today’s society, is that many young teenagers or children are pushed to grow up faster than they should.
Yet another obvious danger of blogs is the endless amount of inappropriate content often spread throughout them. This happens on a host of levels: filthy language, risqué pictures, etc.
Bullying even takes place between blogs, with some using them to defame or attack other people, or spread other forms of hatred.
Then there is the danger of addiction. Literally some become so addicted to blogging, posting and instant messaging that other parts of their lives are neglected. Even when such people are away from their computers they will post updates through their cellphones.
Truly, blogging is a 21st century communications tool carrying great impact—and many dangers.
So what can we conclude? How should youth in The Restored Church of God approach blogs? Are there biblical principles that apply? Some teenagers in the world admit that blogging is pointless; should RCG youth feel the same?
The dangers listed above are the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” Because this article is extremely important, some may need to read it twice and use it as a stepping stone to further study on this subject.
The Church of God is made up of seven separate eras, recorded in Revelation 2 and 3. Today we live in the Laodicean era (Rev. 3:14-21)—the seventh and last era of the Church. Last century was, for the most part, the time of the sixth era, Philadelphia.
To understand Church eras, you can read their descriptions. Another way to gain knowledge of a particular era is to examine its name. For example, Philadelphia means “brotherly love,” a trait of that era.
The name Laodicea means “the people rule, judge and decide.” This is because the people of the Laodicean era have taken on the conditions, attitudes and actions of the society in which they live. This trend is seen in the splinter groups, where lay members dictate how their church is run and what they are taught. Obviously, democratic governments and their leaders are held accountable by the people. Corporations are often owned and directed by the people at large (stockholders). Families today are directed by the impulses of children—another form of the people ruling.
In such a climate, politicians must cater to the whim of the people’s demands—in other words, the people have a “voice.” Parents will have talks with four year-olds to get their opinion on something. CEOs must keep their shareholders happy. In an age when people expect to be listened to, everyone believes their opinion counts. For example, every citizen in the United States—no matter his experience, qualification or stature—can criticize his leaders and vote them out of office.
But what does this have to do with blogs?
The Internet—and more specifically blogs—has enabled everyone to have a voice on any matter. Now everyone’s thoughts are “published” for all to see. Whether or not it is effective, as soon as something is posted the person has a larger voice. It often makes the blogger feel good or makes him feel as if his opinion counts—when it is mostly mindless blather!
Here is the definition of a blog from a highly popular blog provider: “A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules…blogs have…enabled millions of people to have a voice” (emphasis ours).
Ask yourself, “Do I have a tendency to want to have a voice?”
This has grown so out of control it is routine for a person to start a daily blog entry with a single word that details his or her mood. A blog entry will start: “Current mood: ____” The level of shallowness and emotional immaturity this represents is astonishing! In the grand scheme of things, why would the world at large care?
People naturally want to make a mark in this world; they want to make a difference, and many believe blogs will allow them to do this. However, most blogs, especially by teenagers, serve as nothing more than public diaries. (Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a personal diary, as long as it is kept private.) Certainly, professional weblogs can make a positive difference within some elements of society. However, teen blogging does not.
Stop and consider. The biggest mark you will ever make is to build God’s character and be born into the God Family. Blogging will not help you achieve this.
A related problem is that many in society believe they should be 100% open. Certainly some forms of openness are correct, but openness has been taken to a new and wrong level. Everything is out in the open. People will now do and say things that should only be done in private—or, frankly, should not be said or done at all. For example, how many times have you seen a couple inappropriately kissing in public, and felt uncomfortable? This should be the same feeling generated by the many things said or pictured on blogs. Yet such things have become so prevalent that they are commonly accepted.
Some things in one’s life should simply remain private, information that should be kept to oneself or shared only within one’s family.
Propriety, decorum and decency are not elements considered on blogs. People simply blurt things out, without considering the contents or consequences.
Ask yourself: Why would you have the need to share personal things with people you don’t even know—i.e., the world at large? Many of the things shared should not even be read by close friends, let alone strangers! Be aware and avoid the thinking that “everything is up for discussion”—it isn’t.
Perhaps the largest problem with blogs is they cater to one’s vanity. Human beings are naturally self-centered and proud, and young people are certainly no exception! Note how the Bible describes this generation: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up” (Prov. 30:12-13).
If you post mundane details of your life, you are in effect saying that your life is important and that people should read about it. Also, whether or not you admit it, having a blog with your name, your picture and your opinions strokes the human ego—it lifts you up. It essentially advertises the self! Many teenagers say, “Listen to me, world, and what I have to say,” when they should be focused on changing and cleaning up their lives.
If you blog, are you sure you do not partially enjoy it because your carnal nature is inclined toward vanity? (To learn more, read Did God Create Human Nature?)
The book of Daniel describes our age: “…even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (12:4). Through the Internet, mass transportation and other technological advancements, people truly do “run to and fro” throughout the earth, with knowledge increasing. With this increased knowledge comes increased opinion and words.
In this time when people exhibit the least amount of character in history, there is more communication than ever before. Often this is simply blathering on blogs—mindless words and idle communication. Most blogs can be summed up as people talking about almost anything, but really nothing. There is no purpose to much of the contents—no direction.
Look at what the Bible says about idle words: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). Who would want to give account to God about how many hours a day he rambled on about his favorite pizza place, what brand of jeans he wears, the girl he thinks is cute, when he woke up on a particular morning and in what mood, etc.? If one has visited many blogs, the list above contains some of the “deeper” issues endlessly discussed.
Job 35:16, which talks about multiplying words without knowledge, summarizes the mindless, mundane nonsense found on weblogs.
Then there is the language itself. Here is a mild example: “If your a hater then whateva i dont have time 4 your negativity in my positive world.” Phrases such as “screwed up,” “I dunno,” and every type of swear word are commonly used. One blog by a young twentysomething in a splinter church group used the acronym “OMG,” which is a shorthand way to take God’s name in vain.
Restored Church of God teens have been pushing this envelope, and it must end. They should represent God’s way of life. There should never be a need to use slang or any type of wrong words. We are commanded to put off filthy communication (Col. 3:8). What type of communication have you used? Certainly not all of it could be considered clean and pure.
Now consider the quizzes generated by different sites that people can post so others learn more about them. Some surveys detail every vile preference under the sun. Here is a sample question: “If you had one day to live how would you live it?” Among the options given, one was, “I’d kill myself and get it over with.”
What!!? Other questions ask about lying; which teachers are hated the most; how many boyfriends or girlfriends one has had; and so much more. Let me stop and say this: Young people who strive to live up to Christ’s standards CANNOT get involved in such things! Not even a little!
The contents of blogs can often best be described as “trashy” and express shallowness. What is deemed as a higher level of communication is simply a mindless form of entertainment.
Everyone following Christ should follow these scriptures:
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer” (Psa. 19:14).
“He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Prov. 17:27-28).
Idle words can make you appear foolish. How do you think God feels about the mindless blogging that is occurring? Do you believe His Word? Notice how God cares about the words He wrote: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psa. 12:6).
How many blogs follow this example?
Have you ever been in a heated argument with someone and then said something you later regretted? Anyone who is honest with himself will recall such episodes. When you think back, you often say, “I just wasn’t thinking…”
Failing to think before one speaks happens all the time, especially among teenagers, who are still maturing mentally. In fact, in this age it is even worse because of degenerate character.
Many teenagers do not stop and think about what they are to represent. Some have their tongues sticking out; others are dressed inappropriately. One young person who apparently attends a splinter group actually states on her blog, “I used to wait tables at Hooters”! Although she may not have been familiar with God’s Way at the time of that employment, and so may not have known that this was wrong (I Thes. 5:22), she still should be discreet. This is a perfect example of speaking (posting) before thinking.
Some teens and young adults come into The Restored Church of God with old information on their blogs—such as a favorite movie filled with sex, drugs and violence. I ask: What are they thinking? The answer—they aren’t.
The Bible calls those who speak before they think fools. Notice: “See you a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 29:20 – NKJV). Also read Ecclesiastes 5:3: “For a dream comes through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.”
A major reason for blogging’s appeal is that it provides an opportunity for people to spend time doing something viewed as entertaining. Teens spend hours on these blogs searching, reading about other people and writing their own thoughts. There are even different online whiteboards where one can scribble a picture down and post it to a friend’s site. Boredom in action.
Young people should spend time doing things that are productive. Our goal in life is to become a more effective person—to get baptized into the Church and build holy, righteous godly character for the rest of one’s life. But what does personal blogging ultimately achieve? Nothing!
Some claim blogging is therapeutic. If that is the case then here is a classic example of someone “therapeutically” expressing himself: “Im feeling sad again…so many things I can’t tell anyone and so many feelings I need to cope with…don’t even try to ask me why, and start telling me it will help if I let it out. I know it won’t help. Trust me, telling will make me more troubled than I already am. but just ur listening/reading my [expletive] posts is enough to make me feel better. thanks…”
With God’s laws and His personal guidance, you can and should live a totally different life. There should never be a need to prattle on about your life on the Internet. Yes, there may be a time when you would want to write a list of things you need to work on about yourself, or maybe a list of goals. But these things should be done in private.
Blogs being labeled as therapeutic is merely a shallow excuse. Some say illicit drugs are therapeutic—does that mean they should be used? Obviously not.
In the end, blogging for personal expression is a waste of time. Of course, communicating one on one with people and building friendships and your personality is not a waste of time. (More on this later.)
I Thessalonians 5:22 states, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Not only are you to avoid wrong conduct, you must avoid the appearance of wrong conduct. There are two reasons for this direct instruction.
First, we are to be ever mindful of how our actions are perceived by other people. Even if we have every good intention and we don’t do something wrong, if someone can draw the wrong conclusion of a certain action then it could be the appearance of evil. (Of course, there are times when the problem is with the viewer jumping to wrong conclusions.) We must do everything in our power to be concerned with how we appear to others. If they come to the wrong conclusion, it may hurt your reputation or badly reflect on God’s people.
Second, God gives us a “buffer zone.” He wants us to stay away from actions that may look wrong. Often, and this is especially the case with teenagers, human beings will put themselves into situations in which they convince themselves they are not in the wrong and will not do anything wrong. However, once in the situation, Satan tries to pull them into doing something wrong—and he often succeeds. So, if you avoid the appearance of evil, you avoid even “gray” situations.
In light of the scripture above, people often do not consider the appearance of their actions. Sometimes questionable photos are posted. People can easily draw conclusions about a person by his photos—whether they are right conclusions or wrong ones. For example, what would you conclude if you saw multiple pictures of a person holding up a beer bottle? You might assume he is someone who spends a lot of time partying. It doesn’t matter whether the person is of drinking age and that they had only one drink—there is no way to know the context when only looking at a series of pictures.
Another element is that inappropriate advertisements can show up on one’s webpage. An example would be “Are YOU a good flirt?”, with hearts dancing around the ad. While most Internet users would know that you can’t control the showing of certain ads, others would not know this and would assume you are responsible.
Blogs can easily link to each other. This social network allows people to become “friends” fairly easily with another blogger. As soon as this happens, the person is viewed as a friend by anyone who visits the blog. Whether or not the person is a friend, the appearance of evil is glaring in such situations. Young people in the world are far different then those in the Church of God. The things most will say and do—even on someone else’s blog—will make one blush.
This “friends” problem goes further than just appearances. Just as in person, such people will pull you toward the world and its temptations. This is just another reason blogs are unnecessary for God’s youth.
So what have we learned? Recall that a blog provider stated, with blogs “there are no rules.” This is obviously not true with God. He does have rules and guidelines, but not everything is spelled out in the Bible. We must take principles and consider the overall big picture.
Should teenagers and others in The Restored Church of God express themselves to the world through blogs? Because of the obvious dangers; the clear biblical principles that apply; the fact that it gives one a voice; that it is almost always idle words; that teens often do not think before they do; that it is acting out of boredom; and it is filled with appearances of evil—personal blogging should not be done in the Church. It is clear that it is unnecessary and, in fact, dangerous on many levels.
Although useful for certain business and professional purposes, this article makes the point that RCG youth, and even adults, should not personally blog or maintain the type of personal websites described above.
As has been said before, Jesus Christ and His Church have standards. Those who desire a more permissive group or lower standards should look outside The Restored Church of God.
When trying to justify something, teenagers will often narrow in to specific areas, and say, “Well this particular thing isn’t wrong!” They will then use this as proof that the larger thing is okay. Do not allow yourself to think this way. Consider all the elements we have discussed.
Blogging has become a socially accepted practice—just as are dating seriously too young, underage drinking and general misbehaving. But just because someone else “jumps off the cliff” does not mean you should do the same.
Some questions naturally arise: “Can I have a photo gallery?” For example, maybe you visited an exotic country and want to share your photos with close friends. This can be done, but certain guidelines apply. Of course, there should never be any inappropriate pictures (again, be careful of the appearance of evil); it should be private and password protected, and only shown to family and closest friends.
Is this article saying that every blog in the world is wrong? No, of course not! Again, there are professionals and specialists who use blogs to serve a proper and beneficial purpose.
All that said, you can—and SHOULD—maintain friends the “old-fashioned” way, through actual personal contact, as well as letter writing, emailing or instant messaging (see related article).
God’s Church is growing quickly, with many young people coming aboard. Be sure to reach out and get to know them. You will benefit and so will they, as you continue on the path toward the kingdom of God.