On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther plunged a nail into the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, attaching his 95 Theses. Though a familiar cliché, the image of a defiant Luther shoving guards out of his way to the church door and, upon arrival, piercing the illuminated wood with a large rusty nail is not exactly accurate. The doors of churches served as public forums, with pamphlets commonly displayed among other announcements.

Public discourse has always occurred in a “town square.” The earliest of these were, literally, square-shaped open spaces in the centers of urban areas. With increasingly literate societies and the advent of the printing press in early modern Europe, this “town square” evolved to include openly displayed written publications, like political pamphlets or scholarly theses for disputation. Such a forum is not a legal “town square,” but public discourse did occur in these modes. Twitter functions like a de facto “town square,” only digitized. Creating a Twitter account is easier than marching down to the Castle Church door to read the week’s notices or “posting” yourself.

In our democratic society, the intrinsic desirability of robust public discourse is taken for granted. Even so, the nature of public discourse is, to some degree, necessarily combative. Twitter, for example, is infamous for bringing out the worst in people, with Christian Twitter being no exception. Whether it’s some dust-up about gender roles or a debate about the perpetual virginity of Mary, something is always up and it changes by the hour. Should we all rescind Twitter and “touch grass?” It can be tempting to think the platform is a net-negative for Christendom because of the division it can cause and its propensity to melt away our ability to interlock civilly. Yet, despite these problems, we need not “black pill” (become overly pessimistic) on the platform just yet. Twitter can be a net-positive for Christendom if used correctly. Frequently I’ve encountered Christians who view Twitter with scorn, citing the platform’s ability to sow division. But, if a platform challenges us to be more socially disciplined and we fail to do so this seems to be operator error — not an error in the platform itself.

We live at a time in history when technology cannot be ignored, lest it be exclusively utilized by oppressors of the church. Academic institutions, including all levels of education, have largely been captured by forces ideologically hostile to public Christianity at least somewhat out of the church’s idleness. Is there any evidence that surrendering internet space will not lead to a similar end? Particularly, a social media platform with immense communicative ability?

Complaints levied against the bird app during its infancy were that 140 characters is not enough for proper expression. This format has not held back Twitter, however. Instead, the platform has become a powerhouse platform for broadcasting, sharing, acquiring, and consuming information. Writers, thinkers, publishers, influencers et al. of Christendom have caught on and formed a formidable content mill on the site. Christian users will find they can hand-select from the content that flows from it. Moreover, group chats present themselves as gold mines filled with nuggets of information that are accessible with nothing more than a few touches on the finger. Usually, these chats are organized into niches, allowing a user to mine for information across a variety of topics organizationally.

Twitter is also a way to access explicitly Christian discussion, a blessing to believers who might be isolated theologically in their congregation. It’s unlikely the nondenominational church down the street will discuss “infused grace” or the validity of a preterist reading of Romans 11. But on Twitter, these topics occur frequently. Isolated Christians hungry for this kind of conversation can readily find it. I suspect even educational content will become popular on Twitter now that it’s moving towards a subscription model, which allows creators to manage their own “communities.” Discord, another discussion-based platform, will have to keep an eye on Musk’s venture here.

The platform’s ability to foster fellowship is unparalleled as well. Twitter “Spaces” (voice chats)have become immensely popular. In a Space, it isn’t rare to interact with influential writers and podcasters, and simply making friendly connections with other Christians is easy. Surprisingly, despite the acrimony that can often accompany online theological conversations, these conversations tend to be casual. There are no other platforms available right now with this kind of interaction. Obviously, reason suggests Christians should be aware that virtual relationships are no substitute for the relationships God has providentially and physically placed one in obligation to. But, there is not anything inherently wrong with fellowship ipso facto being online, especially at times like this. Whether we like it or not, the internet has become a tool in how people build and keep relationships, which, the bird app excels in.

While Twitter will never be a substitute for “real life”, it does not mean the bird app’s capabilities cannot be harnessed. If we are to regain culture for Christ, ignoring online communication hubs because they require discipline adds no benefit to completing that task. We should exercise some maturity, squeeze the good out of this technology, and master it. If Twitter is dismissed as only capable of causing strife and exciting sinful urges owing to our undisciplinedness, someone else will take advantage of this growing cultural institution. Twitter will not remain in the abstract, unwielded by actors.

As Christians, if we affirm there is no neutrality, that means there is also no “net neutrality”, right?