Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks

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Lone reedI promise my series on "Unshackling the Church" WILL continue, but I cannot write the next installment, which deals with community and fraternity, unless I go back to what is basic. Milk.

The last couple weeks have seen some real rancor in the Godblogosphere and I'll be frank in saying that I'm progressively sickened by the appalling meanness we ambassadors for Christ heap on each other in a sort of theological one-upmanship. I refrained from saying anything about the now infamous Mark Driscoll roasting that began at Tim Challies' otherwise normal site and spread out like so many firebrands to sites across the Godblogosphere. But as no one wants to let this one drop, I can't be silent when brother turns on sister turns on brother.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
–2 Peter 1:5-10 ESV

Many smart people inhabit the Godblogosphere, certainly some of the most knowledgeable people you will find this side of a divinity school. We show off our knowledge of infralapsarianism, dispensationalism, trinitarianism, and a whole lot more -isms than some of us can name, wielding it like a weapon to slay enemies. Unfortunately, too often those enemies are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Peter's progression is informative. The starting point in Christian maturity is faith, then goodness. Most of us are there, I hope. Then comes knowledge.

The problem with those of us who have knowledge is we too often stop there and believe it is the be all and end all of the faith, a dire mistake and the source of much of the pummeling that occurs on the Web. Knowledge must be supplemented with self-control, otherwise we become a human bomb, blowing up and damaging others with what we know. Everyone of us has encountered a know-it-all and few of us like being around them. The reason? They lack an off switch. They also tend to lack all the other traits Peter mentions that follow self-control.

We may think we're mature, but what does Peter put at the end of his list? Brotherly kindness and love, two traits increasingly missing from the Godblogosphere. Instead, we see the spiritual blackjack, the whip to stun our opponents.

Paul spoke of this type of correction, but had nothing good to say about it:

What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
—1 Corinthians 4:21 ESV

Paul seems to be saying the same thing as Peter. Are we Godbloggers listening?

I don't think so. Instead, what we seem to be listening for is our opponents to drop down on both knees and confess that we are right and they are wrong. Strange, I don't see "being right all the time" as one of the qualities in Peter's list. Even if "being right all the time" were in that list, it would be trumped by brotherly affection and love.

We've got to ask ourselves at what point the following verse becomes true:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
—1 Peter 4:8 ESV

Anyone? 

Now some will say that wielding the knowledge of the Scriptures compels us to right bad theology at all cost. Those some would be dancing around the greater meaning of knowing the Scriptures, though. 

A favorite passage of those folks:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
—2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

What is the chief end of knowing the Scriptures according to this passage? For what reason do we know the Bible inside and out? To pummel others with it? No, to serve. The chief end of knowing the Scriptures is that we be quipped for GOOD WORKS. In other words, serving others. Serving others means only one thing: putting others first.

Stephen was a model Christian. His defense of the Lord and the entire plan of salvation before his stoning is a masterful exposition by a man who understood the Scriptures like few others. What role did Stephen play in the nascent Church? He served food to widows and orphans. His godliness was not measured by what he knew but how he served others humbly, lovingly, and without complaining. By esteeming the forgotten and the least of these, Stephen was mourned and cried over by strong men.

The least of these…

Of the Lord it says,

…a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench….
—Isaiah 42:3 ESV

In the house of the pharisee, we see the bruised reed, the smoldering wick:

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner."
—Luke 7:36-39 ESV

In the minds of judgmental men who have no real love of God in their hearts, the first thought is "Who let the filthy whore in here?"

See, these men possessed enough knowledge to rightly distinguish just what kind of woman this was. Not only that, but their own pride that they did guess correctly—while some backwoods rabbi was evidently clueless—puffed them up. I'm certain a few chuckled inappropriately while others seethed.

What was Jesus' response?

Jesus saw the bruised reed, the smoldering wick. He could have easily broken that reed, or pinched out what little flame danced in the core of that smoking wick. He could have wielded the rod that Paul spoke of. He could have come down on the side of the pharisees and recoiled in horror that this used-up hooker touched him. But no, he responded with tender loving grace.

Is this how we respond to others in the Godblogsphere? Or are we the breakers of reeds and quenchers of wicks?

I've written elsewhere that the anonymous nature of the Internet makes us meaner people. Something changes when we have to confront others face-to-face. I read awful things about other brothers and sisters in Christ on supposedly Christian Web sites. What makes me the most downhearted is our selfish frame of reference when we devastate another Christian with our loose words.

You see, I don't know you and you don't know me. One slice of interaction on some tiny Godblog that perhaps 0.0001% of the country reads in a day does not give any of us the right to lay into anyone. Which of us knows another's path? I may have been a heroin addict last year before I found Christ, but I open my mouth to say one thing in the comments section of some obscure blog and a half-dozen fifty-year-old-walking-with-the-Lord-since-I-was-a-toddler Christians savage me because I defend a pastor—the guy who led me to Christ, BTW—who dropped an F-bomb once.

Unless sanctification is instant, who are we, locked away in some office blogging, to take that one slice of interaction and condemn another person? What profound spiritual arrogance! 

What if the Christians we knew who guided us in life quenched our wicks at that one point when our theology was less than perfect? Which of us reached maturity in the blink of an eye? Haven't we all been wrong a million times or more as we grew in grace and put away childishness? Would I assault my own child verbally because he doesn't know about life the way I do after the benefit of 43 years? Yet too often, this is what we supposedly mature people do to those who are still growing in grace.

Wanna know a secret? We're all growing in grace. We will all sin. We will all be found lacking at some point in our walk with Christ. We should all be extending love and grace first.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in his book, Life Together:

Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutory, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together—the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

It's easy to imagine some day that one of us Godbloggers will be standing inside the gates of heaven when a commenter we routinely trash, or a well-known pastor we don't like, or some person of the Arminian/Calvinist/Dispensational/Paedobaptist or whatever ilk should walk through those gates and we say, "Who let this filthy whore in here?"

To which the voice of Jesus says, "I did."

God have mercy on us for our critical spirits and our unloving hearts.

 ***

Previous posts on this sad, recurring topic:

The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole

Hidden Messages of American Christianity: Correctness Before Love

That Other Standoff

Tearing Down the Gallows

Has the Christian Blogosphere Lost Its Collective Mind?

On Consigning Enemies of Christ to Hell

Witch Hunt

Let’s Play “Spot the Heretic!”

Who Watches the Watchers?

48 thoughts on “Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks

  1. Dan:

    If I understand you correctly, I don’t disagree at all with the point you are making , i.e., that we need to be more gracious in our speech and more tolerant of those with whom we differ. As I have said elsewhere, though, there is a time for sharp confrontation and even rebuke of those Pharisaical believers who run roughshod over bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.

    I do not tolerate bullies patiently; gladly, I notice that Jesus did not suffer them well, either. I believe we all have a responsibility to protect the sheep from the abusive shepherds, self-righteous predators, and (sadly) even ourselves at times. We need to do as Paul commands:

    to which he quickly adds,

    There are times when love has an edge and I can think of no times more appropriate to utilize that cutting edge than when the Name of Christ is being abused and/or the people of God are being mistreated. Is this love? Well, if the goal is the restoration of a sinning brother (i.e., the abuser), then it is absolutely loving.

    There are a lot of angry people (including myself at times) online and they/I need to be confronted and rebuked. That is rarely successful if done weakly. Christ has left us an example to follow – which at times involves anger – but wisdom resides in knowing when to speak softly and when to draw the sword. But sometimes to be silent is worse than saying nothing or too much.

    Of course, I mean all of this in the most loving, gentle, metrosexual way. 🙂

    • Mike,

      Have you ever met one of those quiet forceful men, who with a few words spoken wisely and with grace and love, can unite rather than divide? Men who speak much the same way that Jesus did in John 8’s “Woman Caught in Adultery” passage?

      I have. We need a lot more men like that. Their made on their knees and have the knowledge, but they lead with love and the understanding that all men are dust.

      • Dan:

        You wrote,

        Have you ever met one of those quiet forceful men, who with a few words spoken wisely and with grace and love, can unite rather than divide? Men who speak much the same way that Jesus did in John 8’s “Woman Caught in Adultery passage?

        I have met, studied under, and worked with men (and women) like that and aspire to be one myself (well, maybe not the “women part). That does not rule out firm and even forceful language at times.

        Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Jn 8 needs to be emulated, as you say, but so too does His deportment in his numerous confrontations with Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and others. I seek to be very gentle – and firm – with non-Christians or the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks within the church, but more confrontational with people who either do or should know better. Balance is needed, yes, but wisdom, too: knowing when to do what is the key.

        If you come in my office and tell me that you’ve decided to divorce your wife for no good reason, I’m going to tell you that you are wrong and choosing sin over God. Period. An “in-your-face rebuke. I would do that with you because you, Dan, know better. If someone else – young or immature in the faith, trampled by sinful behavior from a now-repentant spouse – comes in saying the same thing, I’ll handle it very differently.

        In either case, though, my goal is the same: the restoration of my brother/sister in Christ. The means vary with the circumstances – there is no “one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with others – but the goal never changes. I think this is very clear in the life of Christ.

  2. Uh, obviously I don’t understand your html.

    In quotes should have been,

    “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”

    followed by, “to which he quickly adds,”

    “let all that you do be done in love.”

    That should make a little more sense, I hope.

    8|

  3. Joy Jackson

    Dan,
    I’m glad to see your thoughts on this matter. It reminded me of a discussion I had with my maternal uncle several years ago. You see, my mother’s family is Jewish. After many years of being married to a Christian, he accepted Jesus as his savior. After a couple of years, though, he left Christianity, returning to Judaism. He shared with me his reasons. The one that struck me the most was that he got tired of all the different denominations (verbally) beating up on one another. He’s now of the thought that we should all “return” to the faith of our fathers – interesting since I was raised in the Christian faith. Yet, I do see his point on how Christians with differing points of view continuously “dog” each other for one thing or another. This is pointless…vanity.

    thank you again

  4. Dan, it has always amazed me that in Christianity we tend to shoot our young, sick, & aged. Most curious is our methodology; we use a circular firing squad…….

    • Jon,

      “Shoot first and ask questions later” is not good theological practice. Even worse is “Shoot first, ask questions later, and step over the bodies without caring.”

  5. Francisco

    Dan,
    I guess the trend of judgmentalism in the Godblogsphere will not die soon as revealed by the number of times you have written on it. Is judgmentalism another mark of inmaturity in believers? The other extreme will be to say “don’t judge” to whoever tries to expose someone who is messing up with the gospel. O, precious wisdom so evasive!
    I made the math and found out the number of readers that matches the percentage you mentioned. Do 300 people read your blog? I did not know that 🙂 (of course, you don’t need to answer, I’m just kidding)

    • The arguing will never stop—this I know. But we simply don’t have to be unloving about it. There are too many people out there who think that by “exposing” error that in itself is love, even if they do it in a vicious way. So much for the Golden Rule.

  6. Anymore I see the Godblogosphere filling itself with Pharisees who have been pushed out of the seeker sensitivity filling the churches. They feel they don’t have any right to judge me (at least out loud) for my tattoo or that I haven’t read every book they have.

    I’ve found myself backing off the blogosphere… I honestly thought I could learn a lot from people who knew more (or so I thought) than I did.

    What I did learn is that although I don’t have a library of commentaries and a head full of knowledge, I do have LOVE. I’m the person people call when their car dies on the road at 3 am. I’m the person who gets emailed or called when they need prayer. I’m the person who went into a strip joint to yank a friend out of there and who invites people I don’t know to my house.

    I’m looked down on because my words aren’t as eloquent or my grammer or punctuation isn’t the most accurate. I’ve stopped reading from the very people I wanted to learn from.

    What I’ve learned is that perhaps maybe I have more to teach them and they have to teach me. I wouldn’t give up the passion and love inside of myself for their doctorates.

    When they are busying arguing with each other, I’ll be busy being Christs arms and hands.

  7. Mr. Edelen,

    That was an awesome post! The more I grow in my knowledge of the Lord the more I find that I need to go back to the basics, back to the “milk” of loving my neighbor as myself, of clothing myself with humility, and retaining the mindset of glorifying God in all that I do. Although I do love knowledge, like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, it’s completely worthless without love. Thank you for posting a loving and gracious response.

    Mr. Ronni, may the Lord bless you for being “busy being Christ’s arms and hands”! It’s really encouraging to hear of people like you. Keep serving!

  8. schizophrenic

    Love and Moderation; the missing virtue.
    Overzealousness and spritual pride; The abundant vice.
    (In christian Polemics)

    What better place than the christian theological world to
    demonstrate mans depravity, people at each others throats preaching about a God who is love.

    We need to pray earnestly and watch that God grants us discretion to know where “rightly dividing the word of truth” stops and spiritual pride begins.

    Who knows, perhaps we need the theologicaly stringent to balance out the theological spendthirfts.:-)

    Keep blogging dan.

  9. You said it, Dan.People forget that love is the number one thing Jesus preached over and over. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Love the poor. I would like to point out that when people speak out of anger, or out of fear, it is not the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through them. Last time I checked, anger, fear and pride were not fruits of the spirit. Love one another…works for me! Great post, Dan! God bless you always!

  10. Diane Roberts

    Since you don’t give concrete examples of what you are talking about, I’m not sure which blogs you are mean. However, that said, I believe firmly that there is a huge difference between a mistake and a continuing pattern. When someone is not only a leader of a church, but also recognized as a world minsitry leader, and continues in an unBiblical and destructive pattern, it would be folly to remain silent.

    On the other hand, if you mean the language and tone used to criticise, then yes, I agree with you. The tone should be firm but polite. For example, I tend to be sarcastic. But I know that is a PATTERN with me and I work on it and look for it in my writing. If someone would criticise my sarcasm, I would appreciate the correction.

    Concerning Driscoll, I see a lot of excusing on his part and not much changing of serious and destructive patterns. As I’ve written at times on my own blog, I have lots of problems withh his “boundaries” of behavior and thought. But I hope my tone is always within its own boudaries.

    • Diane,

      It’s not any one blog. It’s pretty much the whole Godblogosphere. I would say that you tend to see the greatest uproar on those sites that are in the top fifty of Christian blogs, but it’s not just there.

      I’ve done pretty well here in that people who read Cerulean Sanctum aren’t routinely axing people in the back. I’ve had only two posts out of more than four hundred where people got riled up and starting being a little nasty. I let that go and perhaps I should not have, but since the general tone here is very civil, I allowed it as an exception to the general rule.

      So it’s not the blogs, it’s the general way we interact with each other. When we can’t see each other, we tend to say some nasty things we would never say in person. The story in “Has the Christian Blogosphere Lost Its Collective Mind?” (see at the end of the post) about me trying to get all those anonymous Web combatants together proves this. It’s easy to take potshots at people from behind a mask, but not when we have to look them in the eye.

      Jesus looked everyone in the eye. So should we. And we should always put ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we go blasting away, too.

  11. I hope I’m understanding you correctly 🙂 The only thing that concerns me is when people utterly reject knowledge claiming they do so in love. Being ignorant is nothing to be proud of… but being a scholar does not mean you are a Christian (make sense?).

    I agree – I think there’s room for discussions between believers, but how can we sharpen each other when we’re too busy breaking the tips off the blade? We need to love each other – isn’t that what Christ said would differentiate us from the world?

    • Shannon,

      The Peter passage in the post has a good idea of how we grow step by step in the faith. Knowledge is on the early side of that, but that simply makes it foundational. I’m not sure we can even love people the right way unless we have knowledge!

      You’re right in that we can’t ignore knowledge for love, but neither can we ignore love for knowledge.

      Christianity is a tighter balance than most people realize. Every year I learn this more and more. Jesus kept all those opposing concepts in balance, but we don’t always do that right—or even at all. I believe it’s one of the reasons the narrow path is so very narrow.

  12. Dan:

    You wrote,

    Have you ever met one of those quiet forceful men, who with a few words spoken wisely and with grace and love, can unite rather than divide? Men who speak much the same way that Jesus did in John 8’s “Woman Caught in Adultery passage?

    I have met, studied under, and worked with men (and women) like that and aspire to be one myself (well, maybe not the “women” part). That does not rule out firm and even forceful language at times.

    Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Jn 8 needs to be emulated, as you say, but so too does His deportment in his numerous confrontations with Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and others. I seek to be very gentle – and firm – with non-Christians or the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks within the church, but more confrontational with people who either do or should know better. Balance is needed, yes, but wisdom, too: knowing when to do what is the key.

    If you come in my office and tell me that you’ve decided to divorce your wife for no good reason, I’m going to tell you that you are wrong and choosing sin over God. Period. An “in-your-face” rebuke. I would do that with you because you, Dan, know better. If someone else – young or immature in the faith, trampled by sinful behavior from a now-repentant spouse – comes in saying the same thing, I’ll handle it very differently.

    In either case, though, my goal is the same: the restoration of my brother/sister in Christ. The means vary with the circumstances – there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to dealing with others – but the goal never changes. I think this is very clear in the life of Christ.

    • Mike,

      You noted the ultimate distinction here:

      If you come in my office and tell me that you’ve decided to divorce your wife….

      1. If I come in your office, I’m meeting you as another human being in personal contact, face-to-face. You can see my body language and I can see yours. I can see the compassion or distress on your face, even as you’re telling me off. You can’t do that on the Web. It requires even more tact because so much is lost. An emoticon doesn’t cut it.

      2. If I come into your office, there’s an assumption that you and I have some kind of personal relationship. As much as we like to think we know each other via the Web, we really don’t. I’ve met two other bloggers personally and that personal connection is what made it work. We like to fool ourselves into thinking that the Web is real community, but it’s not. Again, for that reason, it requires us to have greater tact when communicating this way.

      3. Real communication can’t happen solely through letters or comment sections on blogs. Paul’s words to the sinning Corinthians would have had little power if he did not personally know the people there. If he had never visited, what force would those words have? Not nearly as much. We have got to realize that we can’t bludgeon people online for no other reason than that we have no relationship with them at all. None. Zilch. Zero. If one of my friends jumps on me for being stupid, that means something (for as the Bible says, faithful are the wounds of a friend). But if someone I know only from a few comments on a blog jumps on me, that means almost nothing in the reality of things. Yet we go haywire over it.

      See the distinctions here?

  13. Dan:

    Thanks for taking the time to interact and facilitate some reflection (at least for me) on this issue. It has not gone unnoticed nor unappreciated.

    But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you!?!) I think you’ve left something (or Someone) out, which I find at once surprising and understandable. You wrote:

    Real communication can’t happen solely through letters or comment sections on blogs. Paul’s words to the sinning Corinthians would have had little power if he did not personally know the people there. If he had never visited, what force would those words have? Not nearly as much.”

    Well, a couple of things first. One, Paul did not know the Romans but I suspect that his letter, while not a corrective, nevertheless had considerable impact. We cannot assume, either, that everyone to whom the letter was written or who heard it read was personally acquainted with Paul. Certainly he knew many, but undoubtedly the church grew between his visits.

    Two, you have no personal relationship with Paul – or any of the other biblical writers – but it would be a total and an utter falsehood to say that there is “little power” or effect on your life. The Scriptures, written by people that you and I would not recognize in the flesh, are not impaired by good, bad, or absent relationships.

    Which leads me to the main point and one which, it appears (although I know you know this), you have not factored in: the reality of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that 99% of the time He works through others to accomplish His purposes in me; thus, a rebuke from a relatively unknown blogger (such as you) can be used by Him to change me. It is His presence that makes the difference, not any deep or actual relationship that exists between the two of us.

    No one in Samaria knew Amos when he went there , but surely you would not suggest that his message lacked power; so, too, with Jonah and Nineveh. It is the Spirit that causes change and it is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, far more than our relationship to one another, that unleashes His power in our lives.

    Have you never gone to a conference at which you had no relationship with the speaker and been edified or convicted of sin? I have, many times. Almost always, despite the absence of relationship, I have been impacted and changed by the power of – not the speaker or our relationship but – the Holy Spirit.

    Certainly none of our words (save when we quote Scripture) are inspired on our blogs or in our comments. But is the Holy Spirited quenched because of it? I have a hard time accepting that.

    So, my beleaguered point is, the Holy Spirit makes the difference and provides the power. Anything short of Him will not be effective.

    To clarify, however, please know that I agree with your overall point that blindly “bludgeoning” people online is inappropriate, unnecessary, ugly, and sinful. Tact is called for far more often than strong language and your rebuke here is both timely and important. No post needs be written encouraging people to be more forceful: too many are already abusive. But the opposite of error (being aggressive) is another error (being too pacific). As I said elsewhere, we need the wisdom to know when to do what; as you have said, we are failing miserably when it comes to speaking in love whatever truth it is we are intending to convey.

    Thanks again for the time and space.

    • Mike,

      Teaching can work without the face-to-face. I can pick up a book and learn. But correction begs for it.

      Something has to be on the line for correction. Relationship is required, if no more than just showing up.

      Amos and Jonah would have been far less effective if they wrote to those they were attempting to correct than if they showed up.God is a God of personhood and meeting. Despite the fact that He is Spirit and we are not, He still finds ways to meet us in person. It’s the whole point of the incarnation.

      The Internet has no face-to-face component that can replace you and me sitting down at a table over a meal. Yet how effective breaking bread with an opponent can be!

      All us Christians are on the same side. If we can’t have a personal component to help us assuage anger, then we need to be exceptionally careful in how we engage others on the Web. We’re not doing that, though. That’s what concerns me.

      I think where we differ is in our perception of how effective non-face-to-face confrontation is compared with the real thing.

  14. Uh oh, I feel another post coming on. Dan writes all the meaty stuff and I come back with the mustard to fill in the crevices in the bread (to beat a metaphor into the ground).

  15. Hang in there

    In the words of the late Jim Valvano when he spoke at the ESPY awards before he died

    Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up

    I do not know if you are thinking about giving up blogging or not, but I just want to encourage you to keep going onward and forward and do not let some ‘Bible Bullies” extinguish the insight you have provided to many (myself being one of them) via the blog.

    • Totem,

      I’m not giving up. I just get upset when we brothers and sisters in Christ go at each other in public places and with such meanspiritedness. I keep hoping that something better will come out of this whole blog thing, but what it seems to be all too often is a way to one-up people.

      I’m not going there, though.

  16. Norm

    The first comment above seems to be the aggressive kind of personality that Dan is speaking out against in this series of posts.

    • Norm,

      Not in the slightest.! Mike’s just engaging me on the level that we both feel comfortable with. Mike’s not perturbed with me at all, nor I with him. I don’t feel either of us has crossed any boundaries.

      But that is not the case with some other comments and posts I’ve seen elsewhere.

  17. Well said. I’ll disagree with you on one minor point. You said:

    I’ve written elsewhere that the anonymous nature of the Internet makes us meaner people.

    I don’t think so. I think the anonymity of the internet allows us to let our guard down, to pull off the mask we wear every day, and be who we are. It’s a scary thing.

    I’ve told my 11 year old daughter as I’ve begun now to catch her slipping and saying things that she normally saves for when I’m not around, the person you are when no one is watching is the person you really are.

    If you are the kind of person who will tear someone down behind the safety of a screen name, then that’s who you are deep down.

    I look at my behavior in the safety and comfort and privacy of my own home and I’m scared at the kind of man I really am. Praise God for his amazing, undeserved grace.

      • Thanks Dan. Oh, and you can call me Doug. Douglas is what Mom called me when I was in trouble. If it was big trouble it was ‘Douglas George!’

        I use ‘salguod’ because I think ‘guod’ sounds goofy. 😛

    • I agree with Dan on this one. I interact with people different than me all the time due to the fact I work for a parachurch. I think many people who blast others do not have someone different in their lives that they care about. You could never rant to someone in real life without being in sin. And certainly you will never, ever win someone over to your side if you are raging and not listening and hurling accusations. Plus, frankly, you come across as immature. Hey, I’ve done some HR work and believe me, it does not fly if you rant without listening or showing some kind of love towards others!

      It is okay to have sane, rational disagreements. But that doesn’t happen much. I do think we need to continue trying.

      It is actually scary to give someone the benefit of the doubt when everyone is having a “pile on”…for example to say something like (over at Challies), “the emergents have this one point that makes sense” without getting labeled as being a heretic. What does it hurt to just listen to a person that has a different viewpoint?

      The comment that one blogger made about you (your previous post where you had us judge for ourselves.) was a good example of being unfair and unloving.

      I have been discouraged as well. Many people I agree with theologically are not who I would recommend to friends to read simply because they come across harsh. It’s sad.

      I have also noticed there are commenters who are followers, not the bigtime bloggers, who just are ready to pick a fight and accuse and think the worst.

      What I hate is when I get sucked into it myself and take on the same attitudes. It is a balance. You want to be “real” and show a little emotion…it makes interesting reading. But at the same time you need to be godly! I haven’t figured it out yet how to do it the right way….still thinking it all through and trying to ask God to help me with things. I want to stay out of places where there is wrangling going on….but like today, I couldn’t resist commenting over at Challies. I made a more conservative (which I am) stance, but someone still found fault. Made me laugh (this time at least).

      I definitely don’t feel the freedom to just comment anywhere.

    • Oh, Salgoud, I reread what you are saying….yeah, that is really astute… I think you are saying that we let down our guard to become the jerks we really are inside! Oh man, we do need a Savior!

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  20. I’ve been targeted too recently.

    I’m trying to maintain a gracious composure through the discussion, I thank you for your clarity in thoughts on the issue, and your links back to your previous posts.

  21. If there were a blog Hall of Fame, I’d nominate Dan and this post for entry. It should be required reading for every blogger who calls him or herself Christian.

    Thank you for the time, effort and careful thought you put into writing this Dan. God bless your efforts.

    Feeble

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