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Feb 19

Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot?

Regardless of whether either of these scenarios is true of our offender, thus making him not a true troll, it's certainly not the first time such undesireable behavior has been observed on blogs and comboxes. It's a pervasive problem.

"Reinforced negativity, reflexive commenting, and a relentless appetite for gossip are all found in unhealthy concentrations in St. Blog's. In part, that's the nature of Internet communication, but I think there's a belligerent spirit swirling through American Catholicism these days that amplifies the belligerence. If we see the church as 'Us' against 'Them,' then the more 'Us' gather in one circle of blogs and 'Them' in another, the more polarized and less charitable the discussion becomes." – Tom Kreizberg, Disputations, via Ignatius Insight's "The Problem With Blogs"

"A sense of superiority—my own need to be right—can actually be completely divorced from truth, and still give one the euphoric feeling that God is on their side. I’m sorry to say that I’ve justified things to myself—and to others—that were not only wrong, but harmful and destructive. I’ve tried to persuade myself and people I knew that my way was right, even when it clearly wasn’t." – Sean Herriot, Meet Joe Convert

"Barbarism likewise threatens when men cease to talk together according to reasonable laws. There are laws of argument, the observance of which is imperative if discourse is to be civilized. Argument ceases to be civil when it is dominated by passion and prejudice . . . when dialogue gives way to a series of monologues . . . when the parties to the conversation cease to listen to one another, or hear only what they want to hear, or see the other's argument only through the screen of their own categories; when defiance is flung to the basic ontological principle of all ordered discourse, which asserts that Reality is an analogical structure, within which there are variant modes of reality, to each of which there corresponds a distinctive method of thought that imposes on argument its own special rules. When things like this happen, men cannot be locked together in argument. Conversation becomes merely quarrelsome or querulous. Civility dies with the death of the dialogue." – John Courtney Murray via Christopher Blosser

Just because it's common, doesn't mean it's right, though. This kind of nastiness ought to have no place in the Christian sector of the blogosphere. To say otherwise would be like saying that since roaches are unlikely to be eliminated any time soon, we should stop trying to rid our homes and businesses of them. Again, Rey agrees.

"Brothers and Sisters, this should not be the case with we who believe! We are in the world, yes, but we are not of the world. We are to remain different from the world, keeping the flavor of our profession before men – otherwise what use are we? We must not appear like other men, who professing to be wise do horrendous things in the name of their wisdom, following their own so-called knowledge and desires. Let us stand apart from the crowd evidencing the light of the life of Christ within us. This light is not to be hid, but to shine – not so much the light of 'my-knowledge' or self-proclaimed wisdom but the love of Christ that abides in those who are saved."

"Fellow brothers and sisters, I beg you, control your tongues in this public forum. Those words you type are your only testimony here in the virtual world. It is your only tangible evidence of Christ in you – why trample it underfoot and unleash all those prohibitions that are so evident in scripture?"

"I don't speak of 'testimony' only towards those who are in the world. I imagine if they stumbled on one of these sites and saw the way that Christians call each other everything from 'unwise' to 'blaspheming heretic worthy of hellfire' they would sit in their scorn saying 'ah, they're no better than me.' This is sad in itself. Rather I speak of the fellow believers who may not be as strong as the rest of you. Christ spoke of washing each others'; feet not simply in keeping each other's doctrine or walk pure, but in loving each other as Christ Himself has loved us, set aside the joy that was before Him and humbly gave Himself for us. "

[…]

"If you offer correction, do it in wisdom and honesty of your own predispositions. Christ heaps a heavy warning at the person who decides to judge another: the same scale will be used against you, He says. If you're to look at another believer's actions and you tear into him with violence, Christ might call that a beam in your own blurred vision. If you offer a perspective, do it with honesty knowing that the Holy Word of God is inspired—but your interpretation and mine may not be."

Such undignified behavior could indeed be a scandal, a stumbling block, to fellow Christians and those who we'd like to become Christians.  Pondering similar thoughts, Richard Hall once asked an important question. "How should Christians respond to one another when we find that we have deep disagreements that apparently cannot be reconciled?" His answer was so good, I'll quote it here in full (I hope he doesn't mind.).

"One response is simply to shrug and say it doesn't matter. You go your way and I'll go mine. Live and let live. In my view, ignoring our differences this way is dishonest and unwise. We may be able to travel that way for a while, but eventually a point will be reached where to ignore the opinions of another would be a betrayal of our own integrity. Everyone, even a horrid namby-pamby, hoity-toity, keep-your-voice-down, don't-upset-the-neighbours, pink's a -nice-colour-isn't-it liberal has their limit."

"There's another way, of course. Denigrate your opponent. Pour scorn on his arguments, but in no circumstances address them directly, because to do so concedes that there is a debate to be had. I'm right. I know, because God told me. If you disagree, you're either a fool or an apostate or both. I must say, this is a very satisfying way to conduct an argument, because you begin with iron-clad defences and a fully-stocked ammunition cabinet. Shouting louder usually does the trick, and if you really want to press home a point, crank up the anglo-saxonisms a notch or two. You can emerge the victor every time and it feels great. I know. The trouble is, for every person that shouts 'Amen!' there's another shouting &#
39;No way!' The Body of Christ is divided and weakened. ('Can the eye say to the hand, I don't need you?') If we fall out of fellowship with one another, we all lose."

"The better way is to face our disagreements openly, with the humility to be willing to learn from one another. Of course, in any argument I'm going to be sure I'm right. And I've got an opinion about everything. But I hope I've acquired sufficient wisdom to know that I won't be right about everything. It's in dialogue with one another that we learn and grow – that's how the Church has always operated from its beginning. Talk to me. Say your piece and, I hope, let me say mine. The internet offers us more channels for communication than we've ever had before, more opportunities for individual Christians to 'meet' across geographical and cultural boundaries. It's up to us whether we use the opportunity to promote growth or deepen our divisions."

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