We all know the internet is a horrible place most of the time, though occasionally I forget that. I read mostly charitable Christian blogs and avoid the comment sections on most news articles because, well, I generally understand that people can be terrible. That said, sometimes I’m still struck by how utterly gross we can be.
This week Lauren Mayberry, member of the band CHVRCHES, wrote an excellent op-ed over at The Guardian about the misogyny she has to put up with online. She makes a basic, common-sense argument: Her being online and famous doesn’t make that misogyny okay. It’s never okay. Here’s an excerpt (WARNING: explicit and offensive comments ahead):
There are, however, downsides to being known on the internet. Last week, I posted a screengrab of one of the many inappropriate messages sent to the band’s social networks every day. After making the post, I sat back and watched with an increasingly open mouth as more and more people commented on the statement. At the time of writing, Facebook stats tell me that the post had reached 581,376 people, over five times the number of people who subscribe to the page itself, with almost 1,000 comments underneath the image. Comments range from the disgusted and supportive to the offensively vile. My current favourites from the latter category include:
“This isn’t rape culture. You’ll know rape culture when I’m raping you, b#$#h”
“I have your address and I will come round to your house and give u anal and you will love it you t@#t lol”
“Act like a slut, getting treated like a sluy [sic]”
So, in case you didn’t know, that’s bad. That’s really bad. Actually, let’s upgrade that to wicked. In fact, let’s go further and say comments like that are straight-from-the pit-of-hell wicked.
Instead of continuing on a rant about how wicked this is, I just want to make three basic points—and really, they are kindergarten basic—on why Christians, and especially Christian men, need to never participate in anything remotely resembling this behavior, and furthermore, why they need to step up and say something about it whenever they see it happening.
1. Image of God – Right at the very beginning of the Bible God creates humans, and when he does he makes them in his sacred, inviolable Image. Now, please note that in the text he makes humanity in his Image, and that the text specifies “male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27) So, just in case you’ve forgotten, women are made in the Image of God every bit as much as men are—and in case you can’t immediately draw out the implications of this, Jesus’ little brother James tells us:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:9-12)
Women are not objects for lust, punchlines to jokes, or props to a deformed male ego. They are made in the Image of the creator, judge, and redeemer of the universe. This means when someone curses a woman, that person is cursing the holy, beautiful, and just God in whose Image she is made. This is not only foul and blasphemous, but thoroughly unwise. Really: Think about the ‘just’ part for a minute.
2. Your Mom’s a Girl – No, but seriously, men: your mom, your wife, your sister, your daughter. All women. Yes, I already reminded you that women are made in the Image of God as much as men are. But let’s put a living human face on that. As Mayberry says:
It seems almost too obvious to ask, “Would you condone this behaviour if it was directed at your mother/sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend?” but maybe going back to basics is what the trolls or 4chan addicts need. To learn a little empathy. To have a little respect for other people. To think before they speak.
I’m not a violent, macho, or aggressive guy, but honestly, if I ever heard some jerk say something like what was said to Lauren Mayberry to my wife, my mom, my daughter, or a woman in my college group, that jerk would be in for a quick back-hand to the mouth. I think most men feel the same. So why would a guy ever sit there with crossed arms when some jerk says such foul, offensive things to a woman online?
3. The Internet Is Still a Place – People have this silly idea that the internet doesn’t count. Whether it’s the anonymity that allows people to let out whatever foulness they usually keep inside, or simply the facelessness that encourages us to forget our common humanity, we seem to forget that the internet connects living, breathing humans across spaces. This goes beyond misogyny to general interactions, but even so: If you wouldn’t say something to a person face-to-face, then don’t type it either. It’s that simple.
One of the most terrifying lines in the Bible comes from Jesus’ lips: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:3) That’s true not only of the whispers of dark rooms, but the anonymous comments left by cowards online—or courageous ones left unwritten.
God cares deeply for the women of this world, so do not for an instant imagine that misogynistic words will go unanswered. There are only two options:
- Repent, turn from wickedness, and trust in Jesus’ work on the Cross to undo evil words and redeem sinful hearts.
- Keep at it and give an account for them at the judgment.
This is our choice.
Soli Deo Gloria