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Social Cross, a Facebook alternative, seeks to provide Christians with space for free speech

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The founder got fed up with censorship on the world's leading social media site.

Aletetia: There are lots of alternatives to Facebook, many of them for specialized communities, such as military personnel, Lego Fans, or beer connoisseurs.

And there have been many Christian alternatives as well, such as Christians Like Me and Awestruck.

Now there’s a new one, which was founded because of what the developers saw as an increasingly hostile atmosphere for Christians on Facebook.

“Conservatives and Christians are constantly getting banned [from Facebook] for saying biblical truths,” says Rich Penkoski, founder of SocialCross. “While other groups can spout their hate, and Facebook does nothing.”

Penkoski said that when he posted his biblical-based beliefs about homosexuality on Facebook, the social media behemoth banned him for 30 days, and he was under fire from many LGBT activists. He said he and his family had to move out of their home because of death threats.

“So a lot of people asked me, since Facebook is really turning anti-Christian more and more, why don’t we create our own?” Penkoski, pastor of the nondenominational Warriors for Christ Ministries in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, said in an interview. He, his wife, Amanda, and two colleagues founded Social Cross, hiring India-based Pas Softech to build the site.

But Social Cross is not merely a reaction to a negative experience. It has a positive reason for its existence as well: To “connect believers around the world to unify in our faith,” in Penkoski’s words. “To have a conversation without fighting, without arguing… to rip apart these walls that have divided Christians for all these years, so we can finally get to a point where we can unify our faith in Christ.”

“Theological debates on Facebook can turn nasty very quickly,” observed Penkoski, a Navy veteran and father of six young children. “There’s a lot of animosity, a lot of anger. We don’t have any of that on Social Cross. It’s been pleasant. We have Baptists and Catholics and Mormons, Born Again Christians, Methodists. Everybody gets along.”

Penkoski estimates that 70 percent of the interactions on Social Cross are related to theology, and 30 percent consists of people sharing about their families.

He said that the network expects members to abide by “basically biblical standards. The site’s code of conduct prohibits any use of profanity, racial epithets, sexually explicit adult material, or “hateful or derogatory words or phrases.”

“We’re not going to threaten each other. We’re not going to hate each other. We’re not going to name call,” he said. Also prohibited is censoring others based on disagreements. “There are obviously disagreements across denominational lines. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to hate somebody or silence someone. We want people to honestly be open about saying what they want to say. I think we’re grown adults here. We should be able to conduct ourselves in a biblical manner.”

“And there absolutely is zero tolerance for promoting any LGBT stuff, any adultery or things like that,” he added.

In its four months of existence, it has already attracted 12,000 members, Penkoski says. One challenge his team has had to overcome, he says, was “getting Christians to join the site and open up and share because of the lack of trust” they had from their experience on Facebook. “We’re pretty active in making sure that certain trolls and certain elements be removed right away,” he said.

Social Cross has a “Bible Search” on its homepage so users can look up Scripture without having to go off-site. It also has a real-time live chat to facilitate fellowship among members.

This reporter signed up and was soon “friended” by Penkoski and another person. The site had a Facebook “feel” about it, with a news feed, “People You May Know,” and suggestions for joining groups and specialty pages, which included “End Times News,” “Bible Prophecy,” and “Ex-Gay Christian.” A search on the site for the term “Catholic” turned up no results. A search for “Orthodox” turned up a page apparently created by another member called “Orthodox Christianity,” which had 11 “likes” but no posts.

But, the site is only four months old.

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