Christianity, and Internet Chat

Is there a conflict?

One hears well-intentioned comments about many subjects, often from people who have never participated in the subject under discussion. I have been interested to observe the reactions of a wide range of my acquaintance with whom I have shared the information that I participate in reasonably regular "chatting" on the internet.

I have heard the thought expressed that I would be better occupied in communicating face-to face with people. I have heard it suggested that the problem with chatting on the internet is that "they" are all liars. I have heard the opinion that it is very easy to hide behind an alias - or nickname - rather than to be outspoken as who I really am. These are really misconceptions by folk who have either never been so involved, or if they have, it's only been in a very superficial way.

It might be useful to address these points concisely, viewed from my perspective. After all, I can't view them from yours, can I?

Before so doing, there is another that needs addressing. It is the suggestion that there is a conflict between those participating in internet chat and their beliefs if they are Christians. Again, I can only comment from my own perspective as a Christian, as one who openly declares that he is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, who tries to love his fellow human being, whether man or woman, with the purity of the love identified from the Greek word philadelphos, the type of love demonstrated between brother and brother, brother and sister, or sister and sister.

I have briefly looked at several chat venues on the internet not associated with Christianity, and those associated with technical forums I have found interesting, but I don't participate in those which cater for interests that are not mine. I have visited several which are identified as being operated by Christians. This is the closest one can identify Christianity with the internet.

My choice, then, is to frequent one or two which are run by Christians. Those who visit are not necessarily Christians. This is the first mistake of assumption by those who criticise participation in Christian Chat. Many of those who visit, perhaps even the majority, visit for several probable reasons, one perhaps being a more genuine sense of fellowship, rather than to debate Christian topics.

Horror of horrors, I have been known to spend considerable time discussing the merits of one computer operating system versus another in a Christian channel, and I have also been known to exchange comments about international rugby football matches played between New Zealand and South Africa, or other countries!

However where this type of fellowship works is where someone arrives with a personal problem, and don't we all suffer from them? I have observed many times how on the whole the other participants will gather round and offer constructive advice and help once it is established that the person really has a problem, and isn't just "fishing" for a response. I do not see such an activity as any less appropriate for a Christian as anyone else. We are, if we are Christians, our brother's keeper, and should be there to help when it is asked for, not when we feel ready to give it.

Something I have found, interestingly, is the fact that it has honed my relational skills with others, quite surprisingly so, especially when you consider that it is all done by typing at a keyboard.

It also provides opportunity to explain to others why you have the faith you have, and perhaps glimpses of how you acquired it. It is also an insight into the lives and outlook of other participants to see their responses, too.

No, it cannot be described as an Un-Christian activity, the reverse in fact. So what about the suggestion that we hide behind false identities because we all use nicknames? Well there's a simple answer to that one. While I may be known as "eagles" on the channels I frequent, rather than Richard Ashton, my true identity is not in either.

My true identity is that of a son of God, who has been adopted into God's great family. In this life I was born to a Mr and Mrs Ashton who gave me the name of Richard. I'm sure that God has His own name for me, too, in the same way as I have been referred to by many through my life.

I am 'poppa' to several grandchildren. My military service number was seven digits long. I had a combination of letters and numerals when I was a Ham Radio Operator - VK5DQ. My internet service provider knows me by the userid portion of my email address. My bank knows me by an eight digit number. The Social Security department knows me by a nine digit number, as does the taxation department.

So what is a nick, then? Purely a means of identifying me to those with whom I associate in chats. You get to know, understand, and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of those with whom you communicate, whether in 2-way radio communications, across the desk at work or school, or in front of your chat terminal. We are people who relate with each other. Sometimes some of us exagerate things, just like we do in real life.

Concluding then, why wouldn't we be better off just talking to 'real' people, face-to-face? It is a strange thing, but in this age of sophisticated living, it is possible to reach many people who need help just as much, who would not in all probability make contact in a more 'usual' way.

There's another thing, one which is quite a sad reflection on human character. I have heard it said by many chatters that often one with a problem will have more support from another cyber person than they will from a flesh-and-blood family member, or even church attender. One has to wonder why. Perhaps it is because there is less prejudice exhibited in relationships that develop in this so-called unreal world of communication. Small wonder, then, that when a chatter is told by another one (in anger) "Get a real life" - there is not much incentive for he or she to do so.

While it is true that there are those who are desperate for help in more physical ways, please believe me when I say that you would be surprised at how many use this medium to cry out for love (in its true expression), for friendship, for recognition of who they really are, for acceptance, each one being an unique creation. And being a Christian, I would go one step beyond that and say that each one is loved by God just as much as the next, whether Christian or not, whether a vile sinner, or just a 'regular' sinner.

Thank you for reading this explanation. I hope it has given you some food for thought. Please take the link below to go to a page which explains a bit about internat chat in general (without any bias towards any particular subject), how it works, and the options that are available to you for participation, whether using a web browser such as the one you are looking at this web page with right now, or whether you prefer to access the more traditional "nets" with a "chat client". This is all explained on the next page which has a link here. Please browse to this page which has further links on it.

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updated 8th November 1999