Welcome to the Fishbowl

Welcome to the Fishbowl

The good news about living in a world where every word is public and permanent is that we have the opportunity to have conversations with those whom we would never be able to have otherwise. And there is the ability to live out the authenticity of our faith to a watching world.

Not long ago, Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson was ousted from his post at Southwestern Seminary.[i] The firing began not with a dramatic revelation, but with a public statement Patterson made some 18 years ago. In that statement, Patterson said that he had never counseled couples to separate or divorce.[ii] The trickle turned into a stream and then a torrent as other statements and counsel surfaced (including discouraging a female student from reporting a sexual assault on his campus). The external pressure from the mounting claims made Patterson’s firing all but inevitable.

I believe the outcome was just. Paige Patterson’s record is marked with ongoing abuses of power. And yet, there was a time not so long ago when he wouldn’t have lost his job. It is only in today’s world that the voices of those injured by Patterson or upset with the trustees at Southwestern Seminary would have been heard so quickly and had such an impact.[iii]There are benefits to the age of the fishbowl.

But there are dangers of fishbowl living as well. We live in a day and age where every statement is public and permanent.

Every word is public.

Every word is permanent.

I grew up in a mega-church. From time to time our pastor would reflect on the difficulty of his family living “in a fishbowl” where everything they did was monitored. As someone who felt a call to ministry, I took note. Such would be my life one day. Little did I realize that one day we would all live in that fishbowl.

There are obvious dangers of this reality in the world we live. But there are also wonderful opportunities.

Who could disagree with James’s admonition about the tongue? “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.”[iv]

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