Should Facebook be the ‘new church’ and ultimate hate speech judge?


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

FACEBOOK THE “NEW CHURCH”?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, World Magazine ran an article recently on Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It says he believes his social platform will join one billion people in meaningful communities, according to an interview he gave with CNN Tech recently. In fact, he went so far as to say that Facebook very well might be the “new church”.

He also talks about how, in this virtual community, he believes that social media and free speech form an awkward symbolic relationship. He told CNN, “Free speech should be able to get as close to offensive as long as it’s not hate speech or over the line.”

Unfortunately, when people at the top of the communication chain get to define hate speech and determine what constitutes a hate group, virtual or real, Christians tend to get pegged as offenders.

DR. REEDER: Historically, free speech, of course, is one of those six affirmations of freedom in the first Bill of Rights and it’s been given a latitude that, basically, any speech is to be acceptable in the sense of, if you’re free to give it, it may be distasteful, it may be inappropriate, it may be hurtful, or it may be all of those things.

However, the fact is that some of our greatest ideas, when they were first uttered, were hurtful to a segment of people but they needed to be put out there in order to have appropriate discussions in terms of what is valid and what is true. You have to have a free debate of ideas in a free society.

WHO DETERMINES WHAT IS HATE SPEECH?

Once you’ve determined that hate speech is no longer free speech, well, who determines what is hate speech? Up until now, the limitations have been the law — any speech that violates the law or is promoting the violation of the law is speech that you are then accountable for and that can be punished. However, free speech that’s simply hurtful, or coarse, or inappropriate or any of that, we have determined that society can bring pressure to bear that you don’t talk like that, but we do not curb free speech because the free exchange of ideas in a free society is so important.

What he is proposing is that there would be this marvelous “new church” — and the reason he calls this a new church is because his particular perspective on the church is that the church is a place where people develop community and relationship — and community and relationship requires speech but we can’t have hateful speech in this new community. Well, who’s going to determine what is hateful? Well, the head of this new church and whoever that is with Facebook will be the ones that determine whether it’s appropriate or not.

WHAT IS CHURCH?

By the way, whenever we see an inadequate view of the church in the world, we need to realize two things. First, man, in his sinfulness, will never get the church right until God’s saving grace gets into his heart and his life and he sees what the actual mission and the purpose of the church is to be.

Secondly, whenever we see such a shallow view of the church, we need to realize that’s there because of the way we do church and the way people see us doing church and that’s why they have a shallow view of church.

It’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg sees the church as a philanthropic, communal society. Now, does the church do good, philanthropic things? Yes. Is one of the great marks of the church our love for the Lord and our love for one another in that we develop community? Well, there’s a reason that the church is called the “family of God”. There’s a community relationship and, more than that, a family relationship that takes place within the church.

However, that’s not what the church is. The church is actually the people of God — a people who were not a people who have become the people of God because of the saving work of Jesus Christ in our heart and in our life. And He has drawn us to Himself and He has drawn us together in and for the purpose of knowing Him, loving Him and serving Him.

Now, in that, we develop our relationships that are productive, that are encouraging, that are honoring to the Lord and honoring to each other but that is built on the dynamic of the church’s mission, which is to declare the glory of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

ZUCKERBERG JOINS THE LINE OF LATEST “CHURCH REPLACERS”

Therefore, his view of what the church actually is — that something such as a digital platform could actually be the church — it is a declaration that we’re not doing church very well for people to get that idea about the church, itself. Individuals have started organizations that have grown up in our society, become quite the fad and quite the attraction, and it’s not long before they have become “the new church” and “The church is dead, therefore, let’s put aside the church as this banal and antiquated organization that has no place in contemporary society. In fact, we have replaced it with this organization.” And, of course, Mr. Zuckerberg proposes Facebook is the latest in a long list of organizations that will replace the church and bury the church into its grave of antiquity.

It’s really interesting how everyone keeps burying the church for millennia now and, interestingly, there’s Jesus and He stands there with the church alive, and glorious and growing throughout the world while these organizations actually are the organizations that end up getting buried and become irrelevant in society over a period of time as their newness and their faddishness fades away but the church continues.

Therefore, we hear the words of our Savior: “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it,” so, if the church can withstand the assaults of the adversary, Satan — if that is true — believe me, Jesus and the church will be able to sustain its existence gloriously and dynamically, even in the face of Facebook.

DANGERS OF SOCIAL COMMUNITY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, if you look at these communities that come up on social media, one of the common denominators a lack of accountability. We see people saying things and doing things and posting pictures on social media that they would never consider doing in person. Obviously, that is a danger, but is that sort of man’s default mode — that he wants to have this platform in which he can communicate without accountability?

DR. REEDER: Yeah, we want the transparency of others with no commitment of intimacy of ourselves. For instance, the whole industry of pornography: I want the benefits of intimacy, but I do not want to take the steps of relational transparency so people become objects for one’s gratification.

Well, that’s true on a digital platform as well. When you get into a relationship and a group of people start talking, there is a dynamic that begins to take place of the weightiness of various individuals in the conversation and that’s not true on a digital platform. On a digital platform, there is no dynamic of the personhood that is present; there is only the manipulation of words and there is a leveling of individuals that is not based upon equality, but it is based upon banality.

USE MEDIA TOOLS, BUT REALIZE LIMITS

Of course, I do not think that the digital world should be avoided. The reformers used pamphleteering, the reformers used the new printing press, and then came the radio, and then comes television and then comes all of these things. All of these means of communication should be seized and used, but they need to be used within the parameters of their actual effectiveness in life and we need to be able to make those evaluations.

As one writer said years ago, “Christianity is a religion that has a ‘cold message.’” In other words, it requires thoughtfulness. Most media mechanisms require a “hot message” like sloganeering and bumper stickers. Christian theology just doesn’t fit on bumper stickers. It requires communication that is consistently thoughtful and reflective.

Preaching of the word will never be replaced by tweeting. The church will always be the place where we assemble face-to-face with each other — we will see each other, talk with each other, communicate with each other. That’s why the Scripture says we are the ‘ecclesia’, the assembled ones, the called together ones. “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves as is the habit of some.”

COMING UP TOMORROW: DOES THE CHURCH NEED TO GET MORE “THICK”?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, your closing comments today are a good segway into what I want to talk about tomorrow, an article by John Stonestreet out of Breakpoint. “Are our churches truly leaving a mark on people?” He goes to a comment by New York Times columnist David Brooks talking about the thickness, saying, “What’s the difference between a job and a vocation? It is a thick institution,” Brooks writes. And John Stonestreet goes on to say, “Perhaps we need more thickness in the church.”

DR. REEDER: That’s an interesting comment. We’ve said it using other metaphors, but I believe the comment by this well-known columnist, David Brooks, deserves some treatment and I believe they’re actually onto something.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

12 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

108

Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

15 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

537

Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

318

“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

20 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

607

The History of Alabama Marble

sylacauga marble

The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

sylacauga marble

Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

20 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

585

From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.