Internet and Politicians: On Sins, Mistakes and Correction

Darrell L. Bock's picture

My wife and I have been watching the drama unfold around former Representative Weiner and his foibles in the use of the Internet. Last week the Dallas Morning News' faith blog asked us, In what ways does the Internet force us to rethink ethical standards?

Here is the blog link:

http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/

Here was my reply:

"The Internet does not so much force a rethink on ethical standards as on its application. Sin is still sin. Lust is still lust. There are just more ways to engage in it, heightening the temptation to go there. Greed is still greed. But identity theft can take place in ways not previously possible.

Because so much of the internet is thought to take place in anonymity (but not as much as people think), people see their behavior on the net as private. But being ethical means being ethical when no one is believed to be watching. That shows real character.

Of course, God knows what we do, so we are always accountable, even if we fool ourselves into thinking we are not. That false impression is what makes the internet an ethical challenge."

 

Now the aftermath of all of this has also been interesting. Albert Mohler has caught a great deal of flack (Including on the CNN faith blog) flack for simply suggesting that what Weiner needed to consider was a genuine spiritual solution, coming to Christ. What else would a Christian theologian say? The reason Mohler faced reaction is that Weiner was Jewish. The suggestion was seen as an insult to Jews. But Jesus and Paul and Peter were Jewish. Asking a Jewish person to consider Christ is asking them to consider who their Messiah is and to seek the enablement that God gives by His grace through Jesus. Organizations like Chosen People Ministries or Jews for Jesus reach out and ask Jews to consider Christ regularly. So clearly this complaint against Mohler is off target. There should be no offense in asking someone to consider a spiritual solution to a human failing. It is a helpful invitation for one to consider. One can say yes or no to it. There is no need to overreact.

Representative Weiner, upon resigning, called it a distraction and a mistake. His explanation is reflective of how many face their failings. They fail to see it for what is. This was not merely a mistake.  It was a betrayal of his wedding vows and what the Bible calls sin (so would Judaism, by the way, just check the Ten Commandments).

One of the failings in our culture today is that we often do not face up to sin. The failure to do so and to see a spiritual problem in it is part of the reason we continue to fail and our culture drifts. The more secular we become about human failing that reflects sin, the less likely we are to heal what ails us or to seek help in the right kinds of places. We all need the remedy God offers. We all sin. Weiner is not alone in this need. (Just read Romans 3:9-18). We need to be honest about sin. God was so honest and serious about it He showed that it was worth the death of His Son to offer a way out in terms of forgiveness and the Spirit that give new life to those who turn to God for help. As long as we see these issues merely as mistakes, we will not try and come to God for help. If we learn to see them as sin, then maybe we will seek the spiritual remedy the failing really needs and not criticize those who say that is where the best long term help can be found.

Comments

I certainly agree with your remarks about Weiner's sins. You are also right about the reaction against Albert Moehler, who did the right thing.

What this matter touches in my thinking is the whole idea of virtual behavior. What is your take on people participating in an "internet church service" as opposed to attending a physical church? How about "community" on the internet? Is it possible to have internet fellowship that is of equivalent value as in-your-presence fellowship? Does your answer change any is I replace the word "fellowship" with the word "relationship"?

Clearly it is possible to sin and do unethical acts in the virtual world, but my mind keeps trying to tell me that sins apart from the internet are worse.

It's confusing, or perhaps I'm just getting old.

:)

-Barry

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Barry:

My take is that virtual relationships are like relationships between friends who live in different cities. They do not get to be physically present with each other but stay in touch by mail, phone etc. It is not the same as being present, but it is better than absence. The ability to connect and see each other over the internet gets close to being physically present. We older folk (!) just are not used to this kind of immediate communication. It seems less to us. 

However, I do think it is hard to have deep community only virtually. There is something about being there in a group that is different. But again an analogy may help. There is a community experience that takes place in a city when a team wins a championship and yet only some were at the game. So there is some level of community possible in a group when they share an experience or set of beliefs. I just do not think it can quite equal being there and being alongside someone in that experience. So this may be an issue of a degree of experience versus being all or nothing. 

As for sin and the Net. I still think sin is sin. Its form may change or be different than direct adultery but it still falls short when one is unfaithful over the net.

Finally, I am a little uncomfortable trying to rate sin as bad and worse (although I understand our tendency to do this). Sin falls short of God's desire, period, When we start to rate it, we risk suggesting some sin is better than other sin. Yet Paul can mention gossiping, greed and idolatry in the same list (See Eph. 5:1-6). I think it is because each one demeans others in its own way and is damaging. 

Dr. Bock, when I read this,

"Of course, God knows what we do, so we are always accountable, even if we fool ourselves into thinking we are not." 

which was part of your response to the article linked in your post, it reminded me that we serve a God who sees.

See Jeremiah 23:23, 24

Dr. Bock- if you have the time I'd be interested to see your critique of a new book coming out next week called Erasing Hell by Francis Chan. It's sure to deal with various gospel texts and it'd be good to hear some more from your perspective.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Adam:

I am not sure. I am at the end of my Sabbatical and am deep into editing some stuff for it.

Thank you for pointing out that sin is sin, not just a mistake.  Our society is suffering from a disgraceful lack of accountability.  Doing what is wrong is not just a mistake, a slip-up, or a do-over.  Sin is wrong, and it has both immediate and eternal consequences.

We will continue to see shameful behavior perpetuate as long as our culture continues to excuse such behavior as merely a faux pas, rather than calling it what it is and asking individuals and groups to own up to what they have done.  Sadly, there are few willing to call this out, and they are often marginalized if they do.

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