MACON, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- Noting the teenage son of a Georgia Baptist leader may have been the victim of cyber-bullying just weeks before he took his own life, Georgia Baptists voted unanimously Nov. 11 for a resolution against cyber-bullying and online predators.
Expressing "profound concerns" over cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention annual meeting held at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, with over 1,200 registered messengers, voted to commend "Braxton's List" for social media behavior as an "exemplar model for Christians everywhere."
Chairman of the resolutions committee, Ken Hall, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lilburn, told Christian Examiner the resolution was the longest of six that passed unanimously and that no one asked a single question of it.
"For years a leader in the Georgia Baptist Convention had been dealing with this and then his child committed suicide and cyber-bullying may have been a part of it," Hall said. "There was a lot of sympathy for the family and a lot of people identified with it and felt empathy for the family and felt something needed to be said and done."
Hall said the resolution was submitted by Allen Rea, pastor of Dunn Memorial Baptist Church in Baxley, Georgia, to the 6-member resolutions committee who well received it and whose only concern was for the family's well being.
"We did not feel like it was controversial," Hall said.
Bucky Kennedy, chairman of the board of Brewton-Parker College and pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, told the Examiner he wrote "Braxton's List" after meeting Jill Caner, the mother of Braxton Caner, at the memorial service for the teen.
Braxton's father, Ergun Caner, is the president of Brewton-Parker College and has been the target of blog and online Twitter attacks by critics for years. Just weeks before Braxton's death, a pastor-blogger was the antagonist in a heated social media exchange.
In October, a week after Kennedy announced a memorial scholarship fund at Brewton Parker, a seminary student and blogger took the opportunity to denounce "Braxton's List" and the scholarship. In the process, he made unqualified medical diagnoses of members of the Caner family and ridiculed the biblical response.
Hall said Georgia Baptists overall are very sympathetic to the Caner family for what they have experienced.
"This was fresh on the hearts and minds of people," Hall said, acknowledging the "great love" Georgia Baptists have for Caner.
The full text of the resolution and Braxton's List, as adopted, follows:
RESOLUTION ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND CYBER-BULLYING
WHEREAS, The Bible is clear concerning affirming positive, Christ-like interaction with all people whether verbally in person or using modern digital means such as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter; and
WHEREAS, the New Testament specifically exhorts believers to be kind to those who abuse them, revile them, and even condemn them (Matthew 5:11; Luke 6:11; 31; 2 Peter 2:3; Romans 12:17-21); and
WHEREAS, along with the rise of advanced internet technologies spawning new methods of human socializing and personal interaction has come the increasing presence of social media abusers the occasion of which has forced lawmakers to write new criminal laws against social media abuse like cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, and cyber-harassment; and
WHEREAS, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 1 of 3 students report being bullied during school, with over 16% of all students having considered suicide, 13% creating a plan to commit suicide, and 8% making a serious attempt to commit suicide; and
WHEREAS, cyber-bullying has been named by leading analysts as a major factor in considering teen suicide, the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds; and
WHEREAS, Studies in Britain have found half of the suicides among youth are related to bullying, and in this country, analysts report that cyber-bullying leads to thoughts of suicide more than traditional bullying; and,
WHEREAS, on July 29, 2014, Braxton Caner, oldest son of Ergun and Jill Caner, and older brother to Drake Caner, tragically died by a self-inflicted wound at the age of 15, a teen who may have only a few weeks earlier been victimized by cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, cyber-harassment, or the like; and
WHEREAS, a memorial fund was established by concerned fellow believers entitled The Braxton Caner Memorial Fund for the Prevention of Suicide and Cyber-bullying as a means to address, inform, and educate the public on both suicide and cyber-crimes like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, and other social media abuse; and,
WHEREAS, the Christian Index published a document entitled "Braxton's List," a posthumous memorial for the late Braxton Caner describing acceptable Christian etiquette believers might observe on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the messengers to the 2014 Georgia Baptist Convention meeting on November 10-11 in Macon, Georgia, do hereby express its appreciation for social media platforms as appropriate means for Christians to communicate, in addition to its profound concern over the rise of cyber-crimes like cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, and/or cyber-harassment; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we express our deepest sorrow for the tragic and untimely deaths of the younger citizens in this country, deaths caused and/or attributed to suicide, and we deplore any and all contributing factors leading teenagers to take their own lives; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we commend those concerned believers who established a memorial fund for the prevention of suicide and cyber-bullying which now reportedly leads to thoughts of suicide more than traditional bullying has done, and further encourage believers everywhere, especially our sister Southern Baptist state conventions, to commend those establishing similar funds in their states to raise awareness and educate the public about bullying of any sort, whether on the school-yard or on the internet; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the messengers of this convention hereby commend "Braxton's List" as an exemplar model for Christians everywhere to adopt and adapt as their personal social media etiquette:
Braxton's List for Social Media Conduct
- If you can't post something nice ... ask yourself if you should post at all.
- Don't let momentary anger become a permanent post.
- Remember, the people you want to attack have a family that feels their hurt.
- Public people can have personal problems that the public doesn't know. They may be closer to the edge than you know because you don't know them. Stop before they drop.
- God says "Vengeance is Mine" so it's best to let God do best what He knows best to do.
- Christians never have the right to be unkind, not even once. Mean posts about an individual multiple times is harassment.
- Post above reproach. If in doubt, don't. Be a building block and not a stumbling stone.
- There are two sides to every story and the Internet is not the best place to tell the difference between the two or the best place to settle the difference between the two.
- It's better not to post and let people think you're a fool than to post and remove all doubt.
- Nobody wins on the Internet but lives and families can be lost because of it.
- Satan is the accuser of the brethren; he doesn't need our help.
- Praying for our enemies accomplishes more than posting about them. Remember, because we pray for them doesn't give us the right to post mean and hurtful things about them.
- Believers are best dealt with by the local church. Determining their salvation is the role of the Holy Spirit and not social media. If you don't like how the local church handled the situation see #5 (see more at Braxton's List).
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we the messengers commit ourselves to honest Christian discourse and communication which best honors our Lord, edifies His church, and leads toward a healthy, effective witness for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.