In this week’s episode, I’m going to share an interesting article about Hate-Raids on Twitch – with special contributions from two black streamers who have faced racism on and offline, […]
In this week’s episode, I’m going to share an interesting article about Hate-Raids on Twitch – with special contributions from two black streamers who have faced racism on and offline, continue our interesting study of Pilgrim’s Progress in the beginning of the seventh chapter where Christian meets Apollyon, and finish off with a message entitled, “Who Needs Rules Anyway?”.
Hello and welcome to the podcast, I’m super glad you’re here! How are you doing today? I hope you’re very well – I’ve just got a quick request before we jump in. …
If you’ve been following this podcast for long, or watched my YouTube Video called “Twitch: The Undiscovered Country”, then you know that I believe that God called me to pour my whole self into what I’m calling “Christian Ninja Online Missions” full-time. I know that sounds crazy – and it is – but I believe with all my heart that this is exactly what God wants me to do. I told you last week about some of the amazing ways I’ve seen God affirming this, so I won’t repeat them here.
But one thing that I’m still struggling with is the financial aspect. As it stands right now, even though I’ve tried everything I can think of, I’m scheduled to lose my healthcare coverage in a few weeks – and my EI benefits at the same time. Now, I have no doubt that God has a plan, and will inspire churches and individuals to partner with me in serving and evangelizing this unique people group, but I’m asking you to please keep me in prayer so I can discern how to find those partnerships, share what I’m up to, and for the people that God has prepared – and believe in what I’m doing – to have the obedience to support what I’m up to.
To give you a better picture of the need, I thought it would be helpful for me to take a minute to let you know what this mission work entails – so you can get a picture of why I need to do it full-time.
A big part of the job is the Twitch livestream I do for four or five hours a day, 4 days a week – but there’s a lot that goes into that. Each livestream takes, on average, about two hours to plan and, while I’m streaming, I need to be on, alert, and ready to not only be entertaining and interesting, but also look for moments when I can do some pastoral counselling, evangelism, apologetics, or teaching. I promise you, I use my MDiv and 25 years of ministry experience in every stream. And, by the time I turn off the camera, I’m wiped out.
But, after a couple hours with the family, the work continues in the evenings. Along with the livestream, I’m also creating and posting videos, writing blog posts, writing and recording this podcast, maintaining a presence on social media, doing skills training to improve what I’m doing, and continuing to study culture, technology, and scripture to make sure everything is relevant and biblically sound.
Of course, top of all that are all the personal relationship connections that I’ve made with people during my streams, that need to be maintained. Just like when I was a full-time pastor, the ministry doesn’t just happen when I’m in front of a microphone, a lot of the work happens off-stream as I counsel and chat with viewers, build relationships with other streamers – and develop leadership roles within the Christian streamer groups I’m part of. That’s an almost endless stream of texts to work with.
Now, I also have a 3D printing small-business that I’m trying to grow in order to build more income – and that needs constant attention too.
I estimate I spend 10-12 hours per day, six days per week, working on all of this. And, to give you an idea of how it’s going – As of today, in the last 5 months of full-time work, I’ve made a total of $150 from Twitch, about $2500 from the 3D printing, and about $2800 from donations. So, by my calculations, I make about $4 per hour. Which was great when I was working my first job at wall-mart when I was 16, but not quite enough these days.
So, if God has been moving in your heart to send some support, or tell some interested folks about what I’m up to, please do so. I’ve seen God absolutely changing lives through what He’s called me to do, and I believe that, with your support, a lot of people – inside and outside the church – can experience God in a new and better way.
So, this week’s Interesting Article is entitled, “Marginalized Streamers Beg Twitch to ‘Do Better’ in Wake of Hate Raids, poor pay” and it’s by Nathan Grayson, at washingtonpost.com.
Everyone knows that as amazing as the internet is, it’s also a weird place, rife with dangers and potential for disaster. If you’ve been online for any length of time then you’ve probably seen a post or watched some kind of video about all the terrible things that can happen to you and how to protect yourself from them. And I’m not just talking about that pretend Nigerian Prince who just needs your bank account number so he can send you a few million dollars – I’m talking about some pretty serious stuff.
Yes, there’s all the phishing schemes and scams, and identity theft – which, for most people can be avoided with a few simple things like changing your passwords, turning on two-factor authentication, and not putting personal information onto websites.
But, there’s also some really scary things like “Swatting”, where someone finds out your address and then calls the police and tells them you’re a dangerous criminal and they come busting in your door to arrest you.
Or Deepfakes where someone uses powerful software to take your face, and put it on someone who is saying things you wouldn’t say – or worse, making it look like you’re in a porn video. Or what they call Revenge Porn where jaded exes post the private pictures you sent them on the internet for all to see.
The one that I want to talk about today is something new I only heard about last week. It’s called a “CyberMob Attack”. Or, on Twitch, they call them Hate-Raids.
If you don’t know, on Twitch, a Raid is a way to take all the people that are watching your stream, and bring them over to someone else’s. Say you’re all done for the day and you’re about to sign off. Instead of just saying goodbye and shutting down – a raid allows you to send all your viewers over to another streamer to pick up where you left off.
To be raided is usually very exciting. Streamers have special songs that play and graphics that pop up when someone raids them. It’s considered an act of kindness and support – and there have been streamers whose who lives have changed because a large, established streamer raided someone much smaller – and suddenly that person has more followers, subscriptions, and viewers than they could have imagined.
I stream at a weird time – from Noon until 4pm Eastern Standard Time, so I don’t really get raided very often – because no one is really on. That’s why I picked that slot – so I don’t step on my fellow Christian creator’s toes and can be somewhere people drop in when not many people in North America are on. I catch the lunch crowd, the people working at home alone, the sick and lonesome – and a bunch of people from Europe who are just starting their evening.
I have been raided a couple times by some friends, and it’s always fun. But, I’m the one who is usually doing the raiding – and I think that’s just as fun. I’ll have 20 or so people watching me, we’ll get to the end of the stream, and we’ll head over to a fellow Christian streamer like who is just starting, has like 1 viewer, and needs some support, or head over to a very established streamer like EagleGarret or PastorDoostyn who takes the ball and runs with it for another bunch of hours.
In fact, if you started on my channel at lunch, you wouldn’t even have to touch your computer again, and you’d go from Christian streamer to Christian streamer well into the wee hours of the night – well, for us… more likely than not you’ll be listening to a believer in New Zealand who is just starting their day!
My point is this: All of my experiences with Raids have been positive. But, last week, I learned that raids had a dark side too. It turns out that some bad guys have been using the new tags that Twitch came up with some weeks ago to track down minorities and marginalized people and Mob Attack them with horrible messages.
Ok, so let me take a quick tangent on these tags. At the beginning of July Twitch released 350 new tags, or identifiers, that streamers could use to differentiate themselves. And they were prolific… If you wanted to find a Female Streamer from Argentina, who loves to play Call of Duty while Ballroom Dancing, Dressed up as a Furry – you could find them with tags. You want to find a Costa Rican Cosplayer with Down Syndrome, doing Nail Art – use the tags.
Now, after some complaining, the religious tags came quietly a couple weeks later… but the Christian streamers celebrated them. Finally, we could find each other!
But then the hate-raids started coming in waves – especially against streamers using tags for the Black communities. The LGBTQ communities are getting hit too. And these raids are truly evil.
Let me a clip. This one is from a Black Female Streamer named Ky. So, she’s sitting there on stream, having fun, playing Among Us with some fellow streamers – smiling, laughing, and having fun – the viewers and chatters are having a blast – and then all of a sudden her chat is bombarded by people and bots – sometimes up to 500, though I don’t know how many for her – spewing the most horrible racial slurs at her. Within a few minutes, she’s in tears.
Let me play a little of what she said (Language Warning):
This happens completely at random, and is done in such a way that normal streamers don’t really have the tools to block them. They’re streaming, then suddenly it’s a mad scramble to deal with all the hate and horrible language – and even if you stop it – some streamers are getting hit two or three times per stream.
If you take streaming serious, it’s not easy. It’s really not. A lot of streamers already deal with anxiety, depression, burnout, and the stress that comes from trying to come up with hours of content, multiple times per week, trying to stand out in a crowd of millions, fighting the algorithm, and doing everything else – but they do it because they love it. They love the job, their followers, building community, and the rush of being watched by even a few people.
And your average streamer usually gets some trolls and jerks in their chat. That’s just part of allowing humans to be in contact with one another using aliases. Your average female streamer has an even tougher time on this platform with all the sexism and harassment they get just for being female. And minorities and marginalized people already had a lot working against them just by being who they are. A lot of streamers just see this as the price to pay for being a streamer – and they learn to develop a thick skin, get good moderators, and use tools to cut down as much garbage as they can.
But this is another level of evil, and I feel so terrible for them – and it’s happening to thousands of people. Twitch, for their part, has been talking about using their own system to discover and squash these things before they happen – or shut them down quickly as they are – but we all know that the bad guys adapt just as fast as the good guys plug the holes. It’s not going to be easy.
And Twitch has already been dealing with a lot of scandals over the past year or so. Not to mention a ton of criticism from their creators about everything from lack of discoverability, unclear and ever changing terms of service, and taking way too much of a cut from the people who want to support them.
I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. Everyone knows racism is going to be a problem until Jesus comes back, but I don’t want to end this segment without a few things you can do to make the world a little better – even if you’re not a streamer.
However, if you are a streamer, go to my website and download my streamer safety guide and prepare yourself for a hate raid. Even if you’re not black or lgbt, I can almost guarantee that the Christian tags are going to get hit soon enough.
But, when it comes to the racist aspect of this, I contacted my new friend Jordan, who is a Christian, a black man, and a variety streamer on Twitch at RedeemedJay09 – and chatted with him a little bit about his experiences and tried to glean some wisdom about how to end this segment in a practical way. He faces racism pretty regularly – especially because his wife is white – and he says that when it comes to racism, here’s how he believes a Christian should respond. Just to be clear, some of this is directly quoted from Jordan, some of it a little adapted, and some of it is me embellishing a bit where I can:
First, he says, “Stay humble.” These attacks never come in the way you expect them to come, they’re going to make you angry, and the instinct will be to fire back, but it can actually be an opportunity to find out why they think the way they do. Maybe even shed some light on that darkness.
Which leads his second thing, “Ask Questions” If they’re just hell bent on cutting you to pieces, then just move on. Make the choice to ignore the hateful comment. Don’t acknowledge it, don’t give any kind of validation to that being a comment worth responding to. But, if you can do so rationally and intelligently in that moment, ask them to explain themselves. Most times they have no desire to do so, and leave looking guilty and ashamed.
Third, he says, “Sometimes these interactions become moments we can plant the Word of God into their lives.” These are people who believe lies and need Jesus. Hit them with the gospel. Point them to the cross. Run them down Romans Road. Have a few verses in arsenal. Maybe throw in Galatians 3:20, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How about John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Or, Romans 2:11, “God shows no partiality.”
Fourth, if the interaction turns hostile, logic and reasoning are out the window, do as God commands and return love and grace for their evil. Walk away, because they’re going to try to use that scenario, use you, to prove they are the racist they claim to be. Return good for evil, and walk away.
And fifth, “Stand your ground and call sin a sin. Hate will always be around no matter where you look. As a black streamer I don’t get why there is such a victimization mindset. Yes, there’s going to be racism on Twitch – but how is that any different than the racism you’ll face trying to get a job? Racism is going to be a hurdle that we have to choose to rise above, we have to choose to rise above expectations, instead of caving into the pressure, compromising your values, avoiding the conversation, and making comfort your highest goal.”
If you want to connect with Jordan personally, he streams every night, except Wednesdays, from 9pm to 1 or 2 am Central Time. Find him at Twitch.tv/RedeemedJay09.
By the way, I’d love to hear what you have to say about all this, so shoot me an e-mail, send me a text, join my discord, or come by the stream sometime and let me know what you think.
An Interesting Study – Apollyon – Ch 7
The second part of these podcasts is an “Interesting Study” on the classic book, “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Remember, there’s a link to this book – for free – on my blog if you want to read along. This week we’re at the beginning of Chapter 7, where Christian meets Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation.
So there goes Christian, all alone, into the Valley, and out of nowhere a giant demon stands before him. He’s terrified and wants to run away, but figures that since his armor only faces his front, he’s safer facing the danger than running away and getting shot in the back. And this thing is scary. Scales, dragon wings, lion’s head, fire-breathing… like, scary. And it’s name is Apollyon – who is from – ironically Revelation 9:11 (911) – and his name simply means “one who destroys”.
The monster steps in front of him and says, “Where are you going and where did you come from?” Christian says he’s from the City of Destruction and headed to City of Zion. And Apollyon responds in a surprising way. “Oh, you’re one of my subjects! I should kill you as a traitor and deserter.”
“No way” says Christian, I belong to another King now. To which Apollyon responds, “Yeah, I’ve seen your kind before. They find out how hard it is to follow that king and come crawling back in no time.”
“Actually”, says Christian, “This king is pretty great! He’s got good rules, gives good wages, is good company, and his country is way nicer than yours!”
“I don’t know, man”, says the demon, “You’re all excited now, but when you calm down you’ll realize how rough it is to follow the other King. His servants are always in trouble and keep getting martyred. I at least try to help my servants.”
To which Christian declares, “I will remain faithful!” and his enemy scoffs, “Dude, you’ve already been unfaithful so many times.” And then recounts all the ways that Christian has blown it during his journey already.
But – and this is the part I want to part on – Christian responds, “All this is true, and there are a lot more ways that you’ve left out; but the Prince, whom I serve and honour, is merciful, and ready to forgive. I’ve faced these sins, I’ve groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon.”
I love that. There stands a demon calling him a fool, telling him all the ways being a believer is going to suck, throwing every horrible thing that he’s ever done at his face…
And I think we all know how that feels, right? Everyone who has been walking with Jesus for any period of time has had this conversation. That’s one reason I love Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s like reading a biography sometimes! Every one of us have sinned, or succumbed to temptation, or have been hit with some kind of persecution, or our faith has made our life more difficult, and the enemy is right there rubbing salt in the wound, inviting us to quit, shaming us, guilting us, making us feel unworthy of God’s love and attention.
And many of us have believed him. Maybe we didn’t give up our faith, and crawl back to the city of destruction, but we stopped praying. We avoided Christians for a while. We skipped church. We put the bible in the drawer. Because it made us feel bad, right? We look at the bible and the enemy is there telling us how disappointed God is in how little we read it. We go to church, and the sermon hits us with conviction, and the people around us all look like they all have it together… and the enemy tells us that we’re the only person in the whole church who has buckled under temptation. That everyone else would be mad at us, ashamed of us, reject us, if we said anything – so we just slink away.
But all that is lies! Jesus is merciful. He is ready to forgive. He wants to forgive! Like a good father, he doesn’t want to leave you rolling around in the muck, in pain – he wants to rescue you! He’s available right now. You don’t need to avoid him, because He’s everywhere, and he’s not avoiding you. He love you before you were born, knew every sin you’d commit, loved you anyway, died for you anyway, and adopted you into his family anyway. There’s nothing you can do to disappoint him, shock him, or have him turn his back on you. Romans 8:39 – There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, don’t listen to Apollyon. Don’t fall for his lies. If you’ve been avoiding God, turn back. He’s ready and waiting for you.
Who Needs Rules Anyway?
For the past 14 weeks or so we’ve been working out way through the Book of the Bible called Philippians – or more accurately – The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Philippian Church. We’re taking it slow because there is a lot in the book to unpack and learn from.
The letter was actually written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome, waiting for a trial before Emperor Nero to see if he would be released, or if the false charges his enemies had brought against him would end in his execution. He’d already been there for about 2 years when the church in Philippi heard what had happened to him and sent some help in the form of some workers and some money to pay his rent – and along with all this came a letter from the church.
And it’s pretty clear from reading Paul’s letter that the Philippians were pretty freaked out about having their pastor and friend in the predicament he’s in. Their letter must have been filled with worry, because a lot of what we read here is Paul comforting these people, telling them that God has a plan, that things aren’t as bad as they look, and a lot of good things have happened too.
But, he’s not in denial. He knows he could die any day, so, as a good spiritual father, he tries to prepare them for it. And his message so far has been pretty simple.
First, they should remember that they weren’t saved by Paul, they were saved by Jesus, and even if Paul dies, Jesus will always be with them.
Second, that if he’s not around, they need to work hard to stick together. Don’t let the oppression from the government, their spiritual enemies, and all their cultural differences, drive them apart – but do everything possible to take care of each other. We’ve been talking a lot about that lately, actually. How a diverse group of people, under a lot of stress, can possibly stay together. And the short answer is: be humble and serve one another.
And Paul’s third message to the church has been this: be careful to attend to your spiritual health!
That brings us to our passage today, Philippians 2:12–13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Paul gives them a pat on the back and says, “You are a really good group of people. You are obedient to God, take care of each other, and you are working hard to make sure you stay connected to Jesus. But, he knows that if worse comes to worse and he dies, that there’s a really good chance that it’s going to send a shockwave that could fracture the church. So he tells them to make sure that, “in his absence”, to keep doing all the things that build their spiritual health and keep them connected to God. Or to, “work out their salvation”.
Why say this? Because, when people are left alone, when the person in charge leaves, when an individual – or a group of people – are left unattended for too long, things tend to descend into chaos pretty quickly.
If you’ve been in a classroom you know this is true, right? The teacher is there and everyone is fairly well behaved – but what happens the moment the teacher walks out the door. Immediate anarchy.
Same thing at work, right? When the boss is there looking over people’s shoulders, things are done according to the manual, the tasks nobody wants to do still get done, and people tend to just do their work. What happens when the boss isn’t there for a couple days? Quality slips, the garbage or whatever work no one wants to do starts to pile up, and the jerks come out of the woodwork to make people miserable.
Same thing at home, right? When mom and dad, or whoever took care of you is there, things are very different than when they leave, right? Suddenly all the dumbest ideas come into your head. You start to wonder about what happens when you put various things in the microwave. Your homework or chores suddenly disappear from your mind. Shows and websites you’d never be allowed to look at are suddenly the only thing you want to look at.
Same thing at church too. Or in the military. Or, literally anywhere else. It’s why we have the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mouse will play.”
Why? Why is this true?
Well, that’s my point today: The reason is because humans need rules, authorities, and accountability, — and without them, our lives fall apart fairly quickly.
Now, while everyone agrees with what I’m saying when it comes to family, work, church, and culture – the hard part is getting people to agree on an individual level.
It’s one thing to say, “My work needs a good boss or the place falls apart.” Or “My classroom needs the teacher there or all heck breaks loose.” But it’s totally another thing to say, “I need a good boss or I won’t do my work.”
“I need a teacher, or I won’t learn.”
“I need people in authority over me, telling me what to do, keeping me in line, and forcing me to do certain things, or I’ll hurt myself and others.”
“I need rules in my life, and I need people to make me follow the rules, or I’ll break them all and blow myself up.”
“I need other people around me, holding me accountable, asking me hard questions, making me feel a little guilty, a little ashamed, pressuring me to stay on the straight and narrow, or I’ll veer off in no time.”
My simple point today is this: Everyone in the world – every single person – needs rules, authorities, and accountability in order to flourish in this life. Every group, every organization, every community group, every family, needs to have a set of rules and standards that everyone lives by, someone with the power and authority to enforce those rules, and to have a culture of positive peer-pressure to follow those rules and authorities —- or the group will be ineffective, the job won’t get done, and we as individuals will be worse off.
Now, of course this can be corrupted. I’m well aware that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s why I’m saying that everyone – including the authorities and rule makers – need to have this too. And I’m well aware that we have seen some really terrible, abusive, evil leadership in our time. That’s not who I’m talking about. I’m not saying we should be thankful for the way North Korea is run, or the abuses Amazon employees face, the corruption among politicians and police officers we’ve seen, or the peer pressure that causes people to do dangerous things. That’s all bad, and we shouldn’t be ok with it.
What I am talking about is the human need for good and helpful authority structures to exist – the human need for strong and beneficial rules to exist – the human need for our communities to band together to protect each other from the entropy of sin and raise each other up to a higher standard.
But, it requires quite a dose of humility and self-awareness to agree with this – and it takes courage to seek these things out. It takes character to accept those rules, obey the authorities, and pursue accountability as a gift from God.
My encouragement to you today is to reflect on this in your own life. When you’re life has gone off the rails, is it possible that it was partly because you decided to go it on your own. Were there authorities and rules that were supposed to keep you in check, that would have saved you, but you worked against because you thought you knew better or were strong enough? And, in what ways, right now, are you rebelling against good rules, good authorities, and good accountability – and what can you do to get back on the right track? Who do you need to talk to? What do you need to admit to? And do you have the courage and humility and wisdom to accept that authority, and those rules, in your life? You may just save yourself a whole lot of misery if you do.