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.

13 hours ago

A victory in court for school choice

The U.S. Supreme Court recently delivered a “big win” for school choice and religious freedom. School choice enables competition, which economists find generally improves the quality of goods and services. I believe that this result will apply to education, and specifically public schools.

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue involved 2015 legislation allowing tax-deductible contributions for scholarships to private, non-profit schools. The Montana Supreme Court struck down the act in 2018 as an unconstitutional use of public funds for religious purposes, including any school or college controlled by a church. Montana’s constitutional provision is a “Blaine Amendment” dating to the 19th century to prohibit state aid to parochial schools; 37 states, including Alabama, have Blaine Amendments.

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The constitutional issues involved were the First Amendment’s separation of church and state and religious discrimination in government policy. Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion found the Blaine Amendment discriminatory: “A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

The Montana Supreme Court struck down the entire school choice program based on the Blaine Amendment. Although Montana’s legislature could have enacted a scholarship program applying to only non-church private schools, this would have significantly restricted parents’ choice. According to the Institute for Justice, which litigated Espinoza, Blaine Amendments are often used to block school choice. Only a narrow interpretation of Alabama’s provision allowed the Alabama Accountability Act to withstand challenge.

Separation of church and state is wise constitutional doctrine. Still, I do not see the scholarships as violating separation of church and state. The public “dollars” involved are taxes foregone. Church-affiliated schools often operate at a loss, so tuition scholarships will not yield profits to support other activities and presumably provide enough education to qualify as schools.

George Mason law professor Ilya Somin offers an illustrative comparison. No one worries that tax exemptions for religious charities or police and fire protection for churches constitute state support for religion. Tax deductions for scholarships do not establish a state religion.

Church-affiliated schools provide a variety of education consistent with their doctrine and moral teachings. The goal of school reform should be, as economist John Merrifield emphasizes, a diverse menu of options to suit students’ varied learning styles and parents’ values. Church-affiliated schools accomplish this.

School choice policies will make Americans more equal. Affluent Americans, who can afford private school tuition, have long enjoyed school choice.

American higher education features school choice. Alabamians can attend any of the state’s 14 four-year universities or more than 30 two-year colleges at in-state tuition rates. These institutions offer diverse educational options. Two-year colleges offer vocational programs and inexpensive core classes. Four-year universities include one modeled after a liberal arts school, large and small campuses, and numerous online degrees. Federal student aid and loans help make private colleges affordable.

By contrast, K-12 public schools require students to attend their assigned school. After paying taxes to support government schools, many families cannot afford private school tuition. The economic case for public education stresses ensuring all students can afford schooling, which school choice accomplishes.

Choices unleash quality-enhancing competition. Some of America’s best public schools are in affluent suburbs where districts must compete for students because parents can afford private schools. It is tempting to attribute suburban districts’ quality spending, but statistics show otherwise. In 2018, Baltimore city schools spent $250 less per pupil than Montgomery County (Maryland) and $1,000 more than Fairfax County (Virginia) in suburban Washington, two of America’s most affluent counties.

In time school choice will force beneficial changes in public school curriculum. Currently, the curriculum is a political football which both parties seek to control. Teachers educate children in classrooms; politicians in Montgomery or Washington shape learning only through bureaucratic controls forcing a curriculum on local schools. School choice will empower parents to find schools that help their children learn. To successfully compete for students, control will need to be devolved to schools and teachers, which I see as a very good thing.

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.

15 hours ago

VIDEO: More municipalities opt for mandatory masks, schools head towards in-class instruction, Sessions/Tuberville race nears the end and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Governor Kay Ivey consider a statewide mask ordinance as more municipalities adopt ordinances and pressure continues to mount?

— Are parents going to feel safe sending their kids to school in the Fall?

— Who will win the Republican runoff between former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville?

Jackson and Handback are joined by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the runoff election for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

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Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at people who think the government can’t put in more restrictions when they have shown they can, and probably will, do more if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t get under control.

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

16 hours ago

Alabama sisters continue their family’s farming legacy

Sisters Allie Corcoran and Cassie Young loved growing up on a farm in Eufaula, but once they left home and earned their degrees at Auburn University, they realized their hearts were still at the family farm.

“I always knew I wanted to come home and be part of the farm, but I didn’t know where I would fit in,” Young said. “The only things I have ever felt close to, or had a desire to be a part of, were farming and working with people. At Auburn, I considered a career in family and adolescent counseling, but I knew it would be difficult to find work in this field near home and I was unwilling to move.”

When the sisters were growing up, their family raised crops such as cotton, peanuts, soybeans, corn, grain sorghum and wheat, along with cattle. The family managed a peach orchard.

Their childhood experiences and love of farming pushed them to find their eventual calling, and they opened Backyard Orchards near Eufaula in 2010.

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“Our father had the idea to start a u-pick operation,” Young said. “We had an exciting concept for a new family venture and found the perfect location, so we decided to become entrepreneurs.”

Backyard Orchards gave the sisters the path they longed for in fitting into the family business. They offer u-pick and freshly packed produce.

Fruits currently ripe for picking are peaches and blueberries. There is a variety of fresh vegetables available, including potatoes, onions, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, field corn, sweet corn, peppers, peas and okra.

There is an onsite cafe that serves homemade pies, fudge and ice cream – the perfect end to a day on the farm. The barn, pavilion and grounds can be rented for weddings, birthday parties, corporate events and more.

Under COVID-19 safety measures, visitors are not required to have a reservation, but should follow these guidelines:

  • Stay with your group and remember to social distance while in the fields and store.
  • When the store is busy and social distance is challenged, send one group representative into the store to pay for and/or order food and ice cream.
  • There are sinks for handwashing located in the restrooms. Hand sanitizer is located throughout the store.
  • Pick up café orders from the window located outside on the front porch.

The orchards allowed the sisters to carry on the traditions from childhood that they always dreamed of passing on to their own children.

“Some of my fondest memories are the simplest ones involving our whole family: playing in the cottonseed and corn, jumping on hay bales and cotton modules, riding around with my dad to check on pivots or crops and playing in the irrigation with my sisters and cousins,” Young said. “Farming is a difficult life, but the family experiences have made it a wonderful life.”

Young and her husband have three children: Gardner, 10, Sterling, 7, and Cade, 4.

“Gardner has been picking squash with me since he was a baby,” Young said. “He now helps his dad pick and sell watermelons. Sterling wants to start helping me at the local farmers market. Cade is still too young to help on the farm, but he loves to eat the ice cream.”

Young sees them creating memories and experiences like she had with her sister as a child.

“I hope they all want to play a role in either the orchard or the family farm one day, but only if that is where their hearts lead them,” she said. “Right now, they are growing up the same way I did and enjoying the simple joys of childhood on the farm.”

The sisters continue looking for ways to enhance the orchards and develop the business. Plans are in place for planting blackberries, expanding the peach orchard and increasing the strawberries plants.

To learn more about Backyard Orchards and plan a family outing, visit the website or follow them on Facebook.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

21 hours ago

Alabama native Rachel Baribeau is Changing the Narrative and expanding her own

Sportscasting is a tough business for anyone, but has been traditionally even more difficult for women. That’s why the change in direction for Rachel Baribeau won’t make sense … until you hear her explain it.

“I am always evolving – as a woman, as a queen, as a daughter and a friend and as a fiancee and a future wife – I am always trying to be better. I’m a lifelong learner.”

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Rachel Baribeau is Changing the Narrative in college sports and beyond from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Auburn graduate and former Pell City resident had a career many would consider perfect: covering SEC football and other sports, from the sidelines and from her college football talk show on Sirius/XM (where she was the network’s first female college sports host).

Baribeau was well-respected enough among her peers to be granted a Heisman Trophy ballot. But it was her work away from the microphone that made the most noise.

“The idea that there is royalty inside of all of us; that there is legacy and purpose and greatness.” Baribeau beams as she describes the impact of the conversations she had been having with college athletes.

Changing the Narrative” was Baribeau’s passion project – a movement that promotes positive mental health and inspiring people to build a positive legacy for others. She took her “Purpose – Passion – Platform” message on a nationwide tour of college football programs, filled with candid heart-to-heart conversations.

After spending four years on this consulting journey, Baribeau announced last October that she would be walking away from sports to concentrate on Changing the Narrative full time.

“I started with this desire and belief that athletes could trend for something other than bad news,” Baribeau said.

Now a nonprofit, Changing the Narrative has expanded further. Baribeau is now in demand in locker rooms, board rooms, law enforcement agencies and entire athletic conferences. “We already have the Big Ten on board; how great would it be to be in all of the Power Five conferences?”

Baribeau is scaling the program in several ways. First, the pandemic has forced a shift to more online training and modules. Second, the material is being tweaked to skew younger for high school audiences. Finally, Baribeau is training a network of other speakers including former athletes who can bring their own experiences of Changing the Narrative to even more audiences.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

21 hours ago

Alabama entrepreneurs can apply now for Walmart’s Open Call for products

Walmart’s seventh annual Open Call is underway for entrepreneurs dreaming of landing U.S.-manufactured products on Walmart shelves by successfully pitching their wares to company officials during online meetings.

“Walmart’s Annual Open Call event gives us a unique occasion to identify new suppliers who can meet our customers’ needs with unique and innovative products manufactured or produced in the U.S.,” said Laura Phillips, Walmart senior vice president for Global Sourcing and U.S. Manufacturing.

“During this year of unprecedented challenges for U.S. businesses, Walmart remains committed to sourcing products made, grown or assembled in the U.S.,” Phillips said.

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In 2013, Walmart announced a 10-year commitment to help boost job creation and U.S. manufacturing through buying an additional $250 billion in products supporting American jobs. Walmart’s Open Call is one way the company continues to invest in the commitment.

“By Investing in products that support American jobs, we are able to bring new exciting products to our customers, support new jobs in our local communities and invest in small business across the country,” Phillips said.

The Open Call, scheduled for Oct. 1, kicks off Walmart’s celebration of U.S. Manufacturing Month and will include programming similar to previous years. In addition to one-on-one pitch meetings with Walmart buyers, participants will have an opportunity to hear directly from Walmart executives and learn from company leaders during small breakout sessions designed to inform, empower and encourage suppliers.

“For the first time, this year’s Open Call event will be virtual, enabling even broader participation from potential new suppliers,” Phillips said. “We know how important this opportunity is for many small businesses, especially this year, and we are looking forward to seeing the new product submissions and meeting potential new suppliers.”

This year’s Open Call attendees could secure deals ranging from a handful of stores in local markets to supplying hundreds, or even thousands, of stores, Sam’s Clubs and on Walmart.com.

Gwen Hurt, owner of Shoe Crazy wine, participated in Walmart’s 2018 Open Call, where a Walmart buyer decided to test her product in 66 stores.

“We were walking into an entirely new and welcoming world,” said Hurt. “Everyone was so professional and kind throughout the process.”

“We’ve been thrilled to work with Walmart and are excited about the continual growth of our product,” Hurt continued. “Thanks to this relationship, we’ve been able to expand our operations to 15 employees while reinvesting in our community through the purchase of a once-abandoned warehouse and additional resources.”

“It’s a dream come true for our family,” Hurt said. Walmart is expanding Shoe Crazy Wine to 118 stores across Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.

The deadline to apply to participate in this year’s Open Call for U.S.-manufactured products is Aug. 10. The application and information about the event are at Walmart-jump.com.

Information about Walmart can be found by visiting corporate.walmart.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/walmart and on Twitter at twitter.com/walmart.