I cannot imagine what life would be like without the internet. I use it constantly for all kinds of searches. I use it even for publishing this blog. I use it without knowing how the internet works, how the rules are made, and who ‘owns’ it.
Unfortunately, there is, besides useful and reliable information, an immeasurable heap of cyber-rubbish. Occasionally, I ‘google’ my own name, curious to find out what people say and write about me and my activities. On some sites I find statements and accusations in which I cannot recognize myself. When I google on the term ‘Seventh-day Adventist, the number of sites that attack my church and spread all kinds of nonsense about it, seem to outnumber the websites that have reliable and useful information.
The number of internet sites that are initiated by ultra-conservative groups of Adventists, or by individuals that fit into that category, seems to increase daily. There are a few that I visit more or less regularly, mostly out of curiosity and to take the pulse of what is happening at the ultra-right (and sometimes not so ‘ultra’) fringe of the church. A few weeks ago I landed on a site with a discussion forum and read a rather loaded question: ‘Do you think that someone with an eye-piercing can be an Adventist pastor?’ Apparently, this was about a real-life situation in which an Adventist youth pastor had a small ring through his brow. I was so foolish to post a reaction and asked: ‘Does this pastor preach good sermons?’
For days the discussion went on with dozens of replies. Some suggested that my counter-question was irrelevant. Surely, having an eye-piercing would immediately disqualify a person for the pulpit. After some time the discussion swerved to the issue of having a tattoo. Could someone with a tattoo be a pastor? Again I was so foolish to respond and asked a counter-question: ‘What if he acquired the tattoo before he was converted?’ There were numerous unkind and even abusive reactions. And it did not take long before the topic shifted again. Someone suggested that the real issue was, of course, that the persons we were talking about were gay! And that would naturally answer once and for all the question whether they could be pastors!
Let me be clear: I do not like eye-piercings, nor tattoos. And I would certainly counsel pastors not to acquire them. For one thing: these adornments would easily become a matter of controversy in their church(es) and thus impede their ministry. But I was very unpleasantly struck by the harsh words and by this judging of people by their appearance! Whatever one may think about the esthetical aspect of such things as piercing and tattoos, no one gives us the right to judge people by their outwards appearance. The strongest argument for this is the fact that God has clearly indicated that he does not judge people from the way they look but by taking stock of their heart (1 Samuel 16:7). A judgment based on appearance has driven many people away from the church!
But the shift from piercings and tattoos to homosexuality upset me most. Gay and lesbian people apparently, in the minds of at least some of the people who were active on this site, are immoral men and women who play loose with anything. You may expect them to behave in ways that are unchristian and deplorable! This attitude manifests a tendency of passing judgment on a category of people, that displays an immense degree of ignorance and prejudice. And the sad thing is that this attitude is not limited to just the (ultra-) conservative fringe of the church.