As we consider the nature of being a Christian anon and the dynamics of public debate, I think it is very helpful to remember that for the Christian worldview, anonymity is something that must be looked at differently than from that of the world’s. Part of the mission of every Christian is to not only be salt to the world, but to be light as well. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:14-16 that light should not, and cannot, be hidden, but rather it should be presented to the world. Here is how it applies to Christian debate, Christians cannot separate their character from truth. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people in the world try to separate their leader’s character from their credibility.
The Christian, however, as a light to the world, must recognize that their light is what undergirds the credibility of their truth. Being an anon can potentially, but it doesn’t have to, separate the two like the world does. The temptation behind being an anonymous Twitter handle is that you can begin to think that your character, who you are outside of twitter, does not have any role in the credibility of your opinion or thoughts. I have read many anon tweets and have had many engagements with others in which the “Law of Christ (Law of Love)” is almost completely non-existent. People hide behind their anonymity and even think that somehow the veil of anonymity allows them to say whatever they want without worrying about any accountability. The truth is, being a Christian anon calls for even greater expressions of Christ-likeness. This does not mean that there are not benefits to being a Christian anon, however, what it does mean is that being a Christian anon calls for greater accountability, not less—a reality made more complicated by the nature of being an anon!
As I have spent my time on Twitter, I have come to notice a certain trend with those who are Christian anons. What I observe is that many of them appear to be saints who live in contexts where their thoughts and opinions are not valued. Anon accounts provide a level of anonymity and operate as an outlet of expression for those who feel intellectually oppressed or ignored in their real life. This is where being an anon can be beneficial to one.
Can I be honest with you? As a minority theologian, many times people automatically assume that I am a second-rate theologian. “Reformed?” “Minority?” “Yeah, he is probably new to the realm of Theology.” I can’t tell you how many times I have either heard this explicitly or have experienced actions that spring forth from this mindset. I live and serve within the academic arena where this reality is all too apparent. Particularly within Reformed circles, there can be an intellectual elitism held by my Caucasian brothers that presents itself in the idea, “White theologians are intellectually superior to ethnic theologians.”
Now I am a leader in my church and I have many saints, pastors, and professional theologians who call me for counsel and most of them are white. Please don’t see this as my criticizing white theologians as a whole. Most of my friends are Caucasian and they are faithful men who do not share this weakness. However, as a theologian who practices full-time ministry, though I am not currently vocational, but will be soon in the realm of church planting, I experience these issues regularly. These realities help me recognize the benefits of anonymity.
After establishing a base on Twitter through my articles and tweets, I’m more confident now that people would embrace my alter ego as a credible theologian than they would have without this platform. Ironically, some of the same people who look pass my alter ego actually follow “The Super Theologian.” That’s hilarious! The reality is, I have been able to demonstrate my gifting to people without the stumbling block of my ethnicity. Similarly, anon women are able to demonstrate their gifting without the stumbling block of being a female in a primarily, poorly implemented, complementarian demographic. Reformed saints who are part of Arminian congregations can share their thoughts without fear of being a stumbling block to others in their congregations.
Creativity, humor, and a cool cape have given me a platform to speak to God’s people in a way that my alter ego could not. Let’s be real, it’s none of that—it’s the Super Powers, but it’s all good! This applies to many other people as well. The fact of the matter is, being an anon may make debate easier, but it also makes it easier to separate our personal light from the credibility that re-enforces our opinions. If I was a neglectful husband, bad father, or lazy churchmen, would you really want to listen to me—regardless of what I had to say? If I did not abound in love towards those closest to me or under my ministerial care, would you really want to follow me? The truth of the matter is, I think that there are at least a few anons I have found who use Twitter as a medium for sharing their opinions simply because they lack the credibility to do it behind their real name. I am not accusing anyone specifically, I am just expressing my concern as evidenced by their tweets. I honestly don’t have anyone specific in mind. I am speaking more of a general concern. As a super hero theologian, it is my duty to keep it real, so I must.
What’s the answer?
Well, I think for beginners, all Christian anons should take a personal assessment of their hearts as well as the extent of the credibility they have in their life. The world may not know you, but do those closest to you know your life and your Twitter handle? Can they monitor your tweets in a loving way and keep you accountable to Christ when you tweet something that is unwise? The world may not know you, but are there any other anons whom you have a relationship with beyond anonymity? I’m not saying you should, but its worth considering. Personally, I have always planned on revealing my alter ego to others at some point. Maybe a few at first, and more later. For me, it all depends on how far my reach extends. The more people read my work, the more I am inclined to let the readers know who I am. To me, credibility is that important— especially when people begin asking me for counsel that goes beyond mere theological curiosities.
Let’s make the most of our anonymity, but always seek to make sure that behind the veil of our anons we are living a life that testifies to faithfulness.
Kyle J. Howard aka
The Super Theologian