The Blue Check Scandal

Every move Elon Musk makes on Twitter seems to cause the little birdie to fluff his (or is that her?) feathers. I must say, there have been one or two moments where I’ve noticed myself smiling.

When Elon Musk moved to buy Twitter, he lost his left-bending trophy. When Musk announced a more even handed Twittersphere, voices tweeted that they would abandon the social media platform…they haven’t.

Twitterers are once again squawking out loud and threatening to fly away because of  Musk’s latest announcement that blue check accounts will be accompanied by a monthly fee of $8 (the price of 1 ½ coffee in Melbourne). 

The blue check accounts are meant to signal importance and substance. They are supposedly verified accounts as opposed to the mindless bots that attach themselves to all manner of Twitter threads and accounts.

According to Twitter, “The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be authentic, notable, and active.”

In practice, the blue check has morphed into a status symbol, elevating popular Twitter accounts into the stratosphere of importance and self definable class snobbery. Social media followings, like sneakers, handbags, and the car you drive, are all status symbols, elevating one’s worth above the peasantry. The worth, in this case, may be little more than popularity. And sometimes it’s the pretentious megaphone of opinion making: ‘Look at me, I have another big, bold, or brave 280 characters to spell out to you, so listen up!’

I guess people are willing to pay for status. While a lot of blue checkers are complaining about the $8 Elon charge, as do virtue signallers whine about everything from Van Gogh paintings to the cost of buying a Tesla, I suspect most will eventually pay up. Status is, after all, something many a person is prepared to sell their soul for. To be wanted, to be respected, to be influential, are ambitions coveted by human beings since the dawn of the age. 

Twitter has always been and will continue to be a wild land where all manner of crazy things are said and suggested. And yes, at times quite appalling and wicked things appear. Twitter has never been a magical land of propriety and constructive social engagement. I’m sure there are examples of this and I have benefited from such moments, but the fuel is almost always outrage and oneupmanship.

There is an entire industry today dedicated to influencing and changing the world; sometimes known as Instagram or TikTok, If Instagram exists like a fashion label and TikTok designs lifestyle envy, then Twitter serves to promote ideas and information that shape, challenge, or irritate the mob. 

Social media is of course a fool’s paradise. In his book, ‘How to find yourself’, Brian Rosner explains, ‘Social scientific research indicates that “increasingly, many young people are sourcing their identities from social media and advertising, and in the process losing their self-esteem”.

I have no plans for ditching Twitter and other social media. It still serves a purpose to share events and ideas, and to find out about events taking place in our world. We should, however, should at least lower our expectations and not connect our own value or the benefit of our views by coloured buttons and the number of engagements and followers. We’re not meant to be like a flock of seagulls fighting over some tossed out chips. 

Let the blue chips have their $8 price tag. Most of them are probably spending more on their coffee every day. 

It was Jesus who said, “the meek will inherit the earth”. It was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The confidence and attitudes and manner flowing from the Beatitudes won’t win you many arguments on Twitter and it probably won’t gain you much for following either. That’s okay. Avoiding the hyperbole of both left and right is the Jesus way. Steering away from cheap shots and nasty caricatures is a better way. Presenting a different kind of conversation is by far more interesting than the taunts and shouts being lobbed between the blue chips. Grace-filled truth; that’s something worth tweeting about. It probably won’t trend and grab the attention of the self appointed Twitter royalty, but it may well reach that one person who needs to hear good news. 

Outrage or empathy? A President’s brother dies

President Trump’s younger brother died today. As the news broke on Twitter, the phrase ‘The wrong Trump’ started trending. This was among the less ghastly things being said about the Trump family this afternoon. Take for example The Washington Post who chose this headline for the obituary, “Robert Trump, younger brother of President Trump who filed lawsuit against niece, dies at 71”.

As Jesus once said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:32)

Let’s be honest, we live in a world filled with hate. Twitter is a dumping ground for all manner of human bile. Twitter has become a place where people go to vent and speak the words they dare not speak to another in person. It’s a verbal firing range, often committed in anonymity. 

It is one thing to affirm and speak kindly of people you like and who agree with you, but what about people with whom you share less in common? What about people with whom you disagree on religious issues or political matters? How hard it is to find kindness and understanding across the political divide. 

The Bible, as it is so often, turns the world the right way round and flattens human wisdom and ego. The Scriptures say, ‘mourn with those who mourn’. 

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:14-16)

Granted, these words are written to Christians (and I hope they take them seriously), but they’re not a bad set of suggestions for anyone.  

In our polarised age, it’s evident that many people no longer even pretend to express sympathy. In the game of cultural power play showing niceness to ‘opponents’ is a sign of weakness. The cultural clappers want outrage and fighting words, and anger and verbal diarrhoea aimed at all those social heretics. 

The world is returning to a fragmented past where tribalism is triumphing. We’re jumping into Lord of the Flies and instead of being repelled we’re enthralled. The President of the United States’ brother dies and it is too much for to simply offer a word of sympathy. Instead, it is an excuse to pile on a family because of political dislike. This shouldn’t be about politics. This isn’t about approving of Donald Trump’s character or his polices. It’s about treating fellow human beings with a degree of respect. If we are unable to choose a word of empathy to a family who have lost a brother, we have lost one of the most basic aspects of our humanity and become truly pathetic. 

Yes, President Trump’s behaviour has often added to the social mess in which we are squelching and churning, but the origins of our situation are far older and deeper. Both Twitter and the real world need more kindness. We need grace and mercy to cut through the vitriol that is consuming and destroying societies before our very eyes.

Imagine if God treated us the way we deserved? He didn’t wait for us to treat with with honour. Instead, he pursued us in love even while we were sinners. This God of the Bible is patient and longs to demonstrate grace and kindness, even toward the wicked, and even for you and me. 

“ ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11).

What I’ve observed from an exchange with Peter FitzSimons

Last night Peter FtizSimons tweeted an article that was published in the Fairfax newspapers, written by Monash University’s, Associate Professor Luke Beck. With the headline, “Religious discrimination bill backfires on Christians”, Beck mounted a shallow and rather silly case in which he not only threw paper-thin arguments at Christians but also managed to insult everyone else.

I wrote a letter to the Editor, which was published in The Age yesterday (see below), and I tweeted my response to Fitz last night. He asked a couple of polite questions which I responded to with the brevity that Twitter only permits. But then, with a mountain of surprise as thick as thin a slice of toast, the retorts came thick and fast from twitter’s moral mob.

Following this brief exchange with the Fitz, I have been reminded of the following:

1. Ignorance of Christianity is sky high in Australia.

2. Churches failing to deal with sin in their midst have done enormous damage to the Gospel

3. Churches who protect bad theology and promote false versions of Christianity have caused huge social confusion and damage.

4. The sins of the past are not forgotten

5. Lots of people must be learning their history from the back of cereal boxes or from National Geographic rather than from, you know, actual history. (I speak as someone who studied history at university)

6. People are prepared to whitewash the historical record in order to sustain their point of view.

7. People are getting their information about the religious discrimination bill from the media outlets who propagate their already formed views. Responding to or challenging misconceptions is like trying to roll a boulder up a mountainside.


What should Christians do?

1. Own our sins, confess them and repent of them

2. Stop protecting and promoting garbage theology that comes from Marx’s cell in hell

3. Don’t whitewash history. Some people have done horrendous things in the name of Christ

4. Remember the Gospel is good news. It really is true and good and beautiful and life changing.

5. Become more like the Lord Jesus: Love God and love our neighbours

6. Do good to those who don’t like you

7. Twitter is a poor platform for exchanging ideas and having meaningful conversations

Finally, I’m reminded of these words spoken by the Lord Jesus,

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7)



My letter in The Age (Feb 21):

Luke Beck’s attempt to scare Christians away from the religious discrimination bill amounts to shooting blanks; noisy but harmless. Firstly, Christians are quite used to people insulting their faith. It’s been happening for 2,000 years and there’s little reason to think that will change.

Second, I suspect many unbelieving Australians will be surprised by Beck’s small opinion of them, suggesting that they would stoop so low that “Employers will be able to ridicule Christians in the workplace” and “Doctors will be able to humiliate Christian patients.”

If you’re mean to us, we’ll be mean to you! While Beck seems content to attribute that modus operandi to our society, I much prefer Jesus’ ethic, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”.



The Age published a response to my letter today (Feb 23):

“Pastor Murray Campbell knows his theology but perhaps not his history. Christians, over many centuries, have not merely insulted, but tried to obliterate the faiths of others. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the burning of witches, missionaries as agents of the colonial power in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia…the list goes on.

It’s difficult to reconcile the pastor’s words of love and tolerance with the history of the institutions he represents

All over the world, Christians have attempted to wipe out cultural and spiritual practices and even committed genocide in the name of their God. Take a look at the record. Christians are not the victims here

Susan Green, Castlemaine”

3 brief responses to Susan:

Hi Susan

  1. Like I mention above, I studied history at university. In fact in both of my degrees I have studied lots of history.
  2. Your examples go some way to demonstrate the kinds of issues I have raised in this blog post about popular history telling.
  3. Perhaps you could have read something I’ve written before declaring my ignorance of history.

When you are insulted

Did Turnbull Malcolm speak too soon?

As the Dean Smith Bill was about to be receive its final reading in Parliament yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed,

“Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect.”

It’s attractive rhetoric, and perhaps Mr Turnbull really believes what he said, or maybe he’s just hoping for the best. Whatever is the case, Australia hasn’t disappointed because soon after he spoke these words, trending across Australia on twitter was hashtag Lyle. Even out doing many hashtags dedicated to celebrating yesterday’s decision, thousands of people are sending offensive tweets to Lyle Shelton, using all kind of base language in order to offend. Telling a fellow human being to eat excrement, in my opinion, is shameful. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Shelton’s views or not, it is simply disgusting.

For those who may not be aware, Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of ACL (Australian Christian Lobby), and he took a key role in the national campaign to uphold the classical view of marriage in Australia.


No doubt Lyle Shelton is a controversial figure. Not every Christian would agree with everything he says or how he has said it, but his view of marriage is certainly in keeping with the Christian understanding. More than that, he is respectful and gracious when interacting with people, even those who send him verbal parcels of expletives and insult.

This national pronouncement of love and respect isn’t only being directed toward Lyle Shelton, but it has been a sad the trend throughout much of the debate on same sex marriage. Gay and Lesbian Australians have have been subjected to awful mud slinging, and many supporters of classical marriage have had all manner of insult and assault aimed at them. The difference between the two is that the latter has often found public and media support. Remember when Bill Shorten and other Federal members equating opponents of same sex marriage with haters and bigots?

Remember when comedian and Fairfax columnist, Benjamin Law, threatened to sexually assault Government MP, Andrew Hastie? Apparently, it’s not only ok, but it’s funny to make a joke about raping a politician. More humour from Mr Law last night,

“Now I am become Lyle, the eater of shit”

Even before the vote was taken on Thursday, throughout the day’s proceedings, the public gallery in Parliament continually interrupted MPs who dared suggest that Australia is likely to see a reduction of religious freedoms in light of changing the Marriage Act.  It was impossible not to see the irony, while fellow MPs referred to concerns over religious freedoms as “baseless”, the choir sitting in the public gallery repeatedly applauded and cheered in triumph when any MP suggested religious freedom would be reduced.

No doubt there have been many people from across the opinion divide who have expressed their views respectfully and who have been quick to speak against those who are hateful. Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect that our Prime Minister’s words are already destitute. A truly pluralist and tolerant society is able to handle rigorous debate and can avoid jumping into the sewer. Last night and again today, thousands of Australians can’t contain their eagerness to take scoop down and start throwing it at high profiled defenders of classical marriage.

It’s not nice, it’s awful, but should we be surprised? Didn’t Jesus tell us in advance that this would happen? The final vestiges of our Christian culture have up til now served as padding against some of the slings and arrows of social outrage. Yesterday’s Parliamentary “victory” has been interpreted by thousands as justification to knock down those who didn’t support the cause. I suspect that for some, they’re simply letting off steam following months of anger and frustration, although I’m not sure that a justified reason.

While this was unfolding, I was preparing my sermon for Church this Sunday. At Mentone Baptist we are looking at Matthew ch.10. While the context of that passage is mission, and Jesus instructing his disciples how to go about mission and what to expect when they are sent into surrounding towns, it’s hard not to notice some relevance.

Jesus is forewarning his disciples that not everyone is going to welcome them and welcome their message. In fact, at times it’s going to be incredibly hard. People will turn on you, insult you, and even take you to court.

Jesus says, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matt 10:16). The combination of both qualities is essential: shrewdness without innocence can lead to deceitfulness and unkind methodology, and innocence without shrewdness can lead to naivety or to a foolish bravado. In other words, don’t be stupid and don’t be sinful. Don’t respond to trouble in kind.

While many Australians are today celebrating, many others are today disappointed and saddened by how easily our Parliamentary representatives dismissed the genuine concerns about religious liberties, don’t leap onto social media and say something stupid and sinful. Stop, think, and read these verses:

“8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech”. (1 Peter 8:10)

20 Guidelines for engaging in social media

Social media is not your best friend and neither is it the bastion of everything evil. Platforms like facebook and twitter are tools that can be used for good, for non- good, and for the plumb-inexplicably weird. And whatever the motive, every post and tweet is like throwing a paper airplane outside in the wind, you might throw it in one direction but you have no control over where it will end

My use of social media has had its shares of successes and derailments, there have been moments of punching the air with elation and wanting punch someone up close, of feeling like I’ve done something and disappointment at the fact that no one has noticed how smart and whimsical I’ve just been.

Hence, I’m writing a post about how to participate in social media. This is as much a personal guide as anything. Many of these points may be useful for anybody, and others are specifically for Christians, for Christians can be particularly constructive on social media as well as rather embarrassing.


Here are my 20 principles for participating in social media:

1. Facebook or Twitter? Both, either or none. They are useful tools but life will go on quite happily without them. Twitter is useful for gathering and promoting information about events, news stories, hot issues. Facebook is great for connecting with people, and sharing more personal moments (although don’t ever think that facebook is truly private).

2. Before you post/tweet/comment, ask yourself, will this adorn the Gospel, confuse the Gospel or betray the Gospel?

3. Ask yourself, how will people interpret this tweet/post? How will non Christian read it, as well as Christians, and friends. For example, if you decide to skip church in order to enjoy a Sunday morning sleep in, is it helpful to tell Facebook? What are you communicating to your unbelieving friends? What are communicating to your church family?

4. Be careful about engaging in hashtag. People love getting on the bandwagon, but sometimes we do it without knowing the facts.

5. Don’t say something if you’re not prepared for commentary, both positive and negative, and the unexpected.

6. Be truthful. Titus 2:8 talks about, ‘soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.’

7. Not everything we read on social media is true!

8. Be gentle and kind, especially toward people who disagree with you. ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ (Prov 15:1)

9. In an attempt to be ooze normalness, some Christians think that we should avoid quoting Bible verses and offering Gospel thoughts. Don’t be awkward or artificial, but don’t hide the wonders and beauty of the good news of Jesus Christ. We have something to say.

10. Don’t be one dimensional. You’re not always chipper. We’re not always angry. We’re not always talking about football or church or what the kids have achieved this week

11. Regularly check your security settings

12.Be careful about posting photos, especially of your kids.

13. It’s ok to block someone or to decline a friendship invitation.

14. appreciate that issues are almost always more nuanced and complex than 140 characters will allow.

15. Social media is meant to be spontaneous, but it doesn’t hurt to think before you tweet

16. Don’t read everything literalistically; rhetorical devices such as hyperbole, irony, sarcasm, are not only found in books.

17. If you’re really mad at something, it is generally a really good idea to cool off before pressing enter on your over the top vent.

18. If you think you’ll regret it tomorrow, don’t say it today

19. Don’t be a single issues person: exception to this with the accounts that are used for a business or special interest group.

20. Stop trying to be a prophet. Aussies don’t like tall-poppies and you’ll end up frustrated at the fact that Australia isn’t listening to you.

What would you add to this list?