By Caleb Keith –
Growing up in the Sierra Desert exposed me to annual wildfires. Some fires would last mere days, while others could blaze on for months. Despite the duration for which they burn, wildfires have common causes and consequences. First off, fires typically don’t start out wild. The majority are man-made, caused by accident, carelessness, or arson. After a wildfire has begun, it wreaks havoc. Devastated landscapes, collapsing houses, and charred earth scar the land. Not only do fires devastate the ground, but also the air. When a Sierra fire is burning the sky is thick with smoke. The smoke makes it hard to breathe and sometimes gets robust enough to block out the sun. Even once a forest has stopped burning and the air has cleared out, it can take more than a decade or more for an area to fully heal.
Blogs and social media can often feel like wildfires, especially when the principle of such posts is entirely negative. Just like fire, some of the most popular posts, pictures, and tweets start out as accidents, careless typing, and worst of all, intentional harm. Negative media acts as a spark in a dense, dry forest, and once that spark catches light, there is no controlling what happens next. The casualties of an internet firestorm are reputations and relationships rather than the trees of the forest. Most authors of blogs or posts have no idea that what they type can cause profound and irreversible harm. The fallout chokes everybody involved, pulling some into the darkness of guilt and others into the darkness of rage. Wildfires of both the physical and digital types are something to avoid.
Unfortunately, more and more of the digital media we encounter is negative and builds popularity off of personal attacks. In our sin, humanity looks to cause fires anywhere it can, so men lay into their keys and turn the internet ablaze. This is not only the case concerning secular issues like politics and Hollywood trash, but is a prevalent problem among Christians. Disagreements in doctrine and interpretation turn into digital firestorms. Nobody caught in the middle of an internet wildfire walks away without getting burned. The wounds from these burns don’t go away with time; instead, they remain untreated festering with infection. However, while we sinners keep feeding our own fires and picking at our wounds, Christ comes and removes us from our own destruction. In Baptism, the fire of sin is drowned and we are made whole. Thanks be to God that, in His grace, we are not left to burn.