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Tough Cookie: Reflections on Message Boarding

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One of the best aromas in the world is that of homemade chocolate chip cookies, fresh out the oven. Ok, for me, itʼs the break-and-bake kind. Go with me for just a second … can you smell them?

Turns out, there is a careful art to baking the perfect cookie. I discovered this the hard way as a kid, ruining entire batches because Iʼd either set the oven too hot or leave them in too long. (Or not long enough; then Iʼd run the risk of burning if I put them back in the oven! Ugh.) As I got older, I learned that depending on your oven, 350 degrees on the directions might translate to 325, or vice versa. To this day, I say a prayer when I put in some Pillsbury cookies.

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I have always loved open forums, almost as much as I love those cookies. Iʼm a great debater at heart – I like having my ideas challenged as much as I like challenging opposing ones.

The Art of Message Boarding

Admittedly, being a debater hasnʼt always fared me well. There have been moments in my experience that didnʼt flow as cleanly as the above statements suggest. Iʼve based my strong beliefs on flawed information I thought was true. Iʼve been embarrassed by people more knowledgeable than me. Iʼve harshly judged the character of those whose thoughts were different than mine.

Lately Iʼve been increasingly disheartened (albeit amused) by what I like to call the “message board culture” of Christian Hip Hop. If youʼre on this website youʼve probably seen it. Your favorite CHH affiliate posts an editorial, interview or album review. In only a matter of minutes the comments come pouring in – from the hype encourager to the questioning skeptic to the zealous critic … and everyone in between.

Iʼm not posting on message boards anymore, but Iʼm still reading them. I cringe when I see prideful judgement and name-calling that is reminiscent of crunchy, overdone Tollhouse – hard to swallow. Half-baked thoughts based on false information and proof-text-ed scriptures are just as distasteful. It makes me nervous to think that a safe place intended to nurture courteous, open dialogue can quickly turn into a battleground; tightly held ideas get thrown around like grenades and anyone can be a potential target.

I hope youʼre not hearing me say that posting an insightful comment or encouraging word on a message board is a bad thing. I just wonder if we are being as careful with our words as I try to be with my cookie baking. Thereʼs an art to this, and Iʼd hate for someone who might be drawn to our community be just as quickly turned off by it. Like Jesus tells his disciples in John 13,“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Yep, even on social media.

Romans 14:19 says that we ought to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Are we crying “Controversy!” so we can create some? Or playing devilʼs advocate because we donʼt have anything better to do? Are we checking our motives before hitting ʻsend?’

The beautiful thing about peace and edification is that they donʼt depend on us agreeing on everything. The believers in the context of Romans 14 were learning to respect the convictions each person held (as long as they werenʼt opposing the fundamentals of the Gospel). No need to get worked up about something thatʼs not central to our faith, right?
Iʼm just saying: Sometimes the most peaceful and edifying thing might be to not post anything at all … and send up a prayer for all the cookies to come out smelling good.

Shai Linne Responds
Bizzle and Willie Mo

Candace Jones currently lives in Westfield, Indiana where she serves as a vocalist in the group Level 3:16. She loves Jesus, music and expressing herself through written word. You can follow Candace on Twitter @canned_Ace or subscribe to her blog (www.creaceive.tumblr.com).

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