“I just signed up to #CofECharter,” tweeted the former Times religious affairs correspondent (and quite delightful) Ruth Gledhill, precisely 48 seconds after the Archbishop of Canterbury had announced his initiative to bring more love and peace to social media. “Fantastic and much-needed initiative. Please everyone sign up and follow through,” she urged. “Together we can make change and help bring about a kinder world. Thank you @churchofengland.”
And so they flocked, Anglicans from the four corners of the United Kingdom, to pledge their allegiance to this CofE Charter aimed at “tackling offensive behaviour and misleading content and encouraging a positive atmosphere for online conversations”. It is a wholesome, laudable pursuit.
Until you study the details (and ponder the implications). The Charter’s basic guidelines are perfectly straightforward:
But the last one is interesting. The Archbishops’ social media guidelines are:
Setting aside absurd known unknowns like ‘What would Jesus tweet?’, consider the second commandment: ‘Be respectful’. If signatories to this Charter agree not to post or share content that is “hateful”, what does this mean in a legal context where ‘hate’ is in the feeling of the beholder? May not an assertion of morally orthodox doctrine may be ‘hate’? The assertion that marriage is between a man and a woman is ‘hateful’ to some. Consider one of the responses to Ruth Gledhill’s tweet:
What happens when ‘Truth’ is deemed to be ‘unkind’ or ‘unwelcoming’? What happens when it impinges upon ‘Togetherness’?
‘Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell‘ isn’t very ‘kind’, is it? A bit ‘disrespectful’, isn’t it? Possibly a tad ‘inflammatory, hateful, abusive, threatening’, don’t you think?
‘But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ The #CofECharter nullifies the prophetic because it demands that everyone be unfailingly courteous, respectful and ‘nice’ to one another. If the Bishop of Leeds believes and preaches from the pulpit that Boris Johnson is an “amoral liar”, why may he not say so on Twitter? Doesn’t Twitter just speak what the heart is full of?
‘And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many..‘ How does the #CofECharter permit these false prophets to be called out? Isn’t Mohammed a false prophet? Is it “inflammatory, hateful, abusive.. or otherwise disrespectful” to say so? Is it “inflammatory, hateful, abusive.. or otherwise disrespectful” to declare that salvation is to be found in Christ alone? You may believe your tone to be respectful and your language perfectly loving and your whole demeanour the very incarnation of the fruit of the Spirit.
But ‘hate’ is in the feeling of the beholder.