Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I Picked a Fight With Atheists on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know about this little drama that unfolded this week. I've received several messages and emails from people, concerned about ramifications -- both for my personal safety but most importantly for how Jesus is represented.

So let's address it here at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, the blog for Christians to vent with each other and pray for each other. I'm open to your constructive criticism, observations and, most importantly, would appreciate your prayer for wisdom.

What went down?

My presence on Twitter is strong. I use it as a launching pad for conversations with non-believers and to promote my other blog, Kingdom Treasures.

Now some background for you non-Twitterers:

Twitter has a little tool called, "hashtag." You get people to comment on a particular subject by writing a phrase and putting a # sign in front of it. This is what is called, "a hashtag campaign." People look up that phrase and then send out Tweets on the topic.

So on Monday, I saw a hashtag campaign begin with the phrase, "You might be an atheist." (#youmightbeanatheist) Atheists followed this phrase with derogatory comments about Christianity. That was fine with me. I see that all of the time on Twitter.

But then something else happened. Some of the hashtag Tweets started attacking Jesus. And these weren't just casual phrases like, "You might be an atheist if you don't believe in Jesus." These were an all-out blasphemous assault. I then clicked on some of the Tweeters' home pages to read what else they were saying about Jesus.

It turned my blood into ice.


I decided to do something about it.

I decided to send out my own hashtags on "You might be an atheist."

In short, I dished it right back at them. I sent so many out that I flooded their hashtag stream. And these weren't innocuous, either. I decided that to get my point across, I would speak their own language.

I taunted them.


We're talking ... 5th-grade-on-the-playground-bully-you-into-hysterical-anger taunting.

Some of my atheist friends on Twitter -- those who engage with me positively and email me occasionally -- expressed concern. They understood why I was doing it, but, rightly so, pointed out that I might be goading people who would take their anger a step further.

They were right. I started receiving anonymous messages on Kingdom Treasures, which included my home address and direct threats to rape and kill me.

I know we're supposed to turn the other cheek. I know this.

When do we stand up for Jesus's Name, though? And in what method?

This story isn't over, though.

My incredible leader from Bible study called me in the middle of this drama. After listening to my rant on the phone, she wisely suggested I do one thing: Pray before I send out each and every Tweet.

So I did.

And of course, you know what happened next, if you're a strong prayer.

Some of those following the hashtag campaign started sending me private messages.

I now am constructively engaging in email conversations with five of those who were originally hostile. I discovered they are really hurting people. They have anger against God for reasons they don't understand.

And their hearts are searching.

I no longer saw them as "Enemy," but as those who were POWs in the Enemy's camp.

Their hashtags were in fact calls for help.


How do you mix it up with unbelievers? Do you? What are your approaches? What are your struggles?

And you can tell me flat out what I should've done differently. We're all in this together. We're all on the same team.

Will you pray for me?

How can I pray for you?


  1. I think you need to be strong to engage in any sort of conflict; strong not just in faith but in mind, heart and body, because all are needed.

  2. Heidi
    Your experience is similar to mine. I preach to atheists on twitter. How I started was I read some of their 'timelines' that list the things they write. The were challenging everything I stand for -- and were virtually unopposed! So I, too, went on the offense. And, I, too have had much push back plus real legitimate conversations.

    God bless you for participating in the battle - for being a Kingdom Warrior!

  3. Thank you, sweetie. You are my inspiration, too. And for those of you who are wondering ... Juanita is NOT my mother. She just happens to have the same name! Ha ha!


  4. Then again, you could just be target of one or two zealots (there are ALWAYS zealots in any movement) If you believe that a few Atheists sending twisted messages is too much to bear, you really shouldn't be playing around on the Internet. I'm truly sorry to say that, because I know how cruel others can be online. One of my favorite sayings is "Jesus' turning the other cheek principle only becomes truly ethical in an online setting." In short, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    With a wee bit more tact, just for you: The Internet is the new free market of ideas. We who have been 'online' before there was e-anything learned how to be wise shoppers early. This education has payed dividends often. If you are offering something for us to buy into, you should know there will ALWAYS be one or two jerks who'll try to kick the lemonade stand over. But what is critical for your success is to avoid 'ripping people off.'