From the Email Bag with Comments about the Comments from Yours Truly Again

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Kendall, Bless you for your work and ministry, but I'm having to take your site out of my news reader and of my bookmarks. The anger of so many commentators has become too much for me, and anger is contagious.

The sheer hatred directed against ++Rowan is especially depressing, at a time when I don't need anything else Anglican to lower my spirits. I don't know how we reasserters expect others to be attracted to the Gospel if in "standing firm" for it we exemplify so few of the fruits of the Spirit.

We are going through another one of those cycles again where some commenters are failing to observe the blog guidelines. I know there are stresses in the Anglican Communion and the global economy, and that a major election is roughly a week and a half away. But if you wish to comment could you please--PLEASE--stick to the topic of the thread and keep in mind that what matters is not simply what you say but how you say it. Disagreement--including with yours truly--is fine; I am not running a blog echo chamber here, I expect people to think for themselves and understand I post things I agree with and those I don't. What I refuse to give up on is the need for courtesy and civility, and with some commenters it is once again falling by the wayside. Thanks--KSH.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * By Kendall* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet

Posted October 25, 2008 at 6:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

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1. Kendall Harmon wrote:

from Karen B.:

Kendall, I’ve been reading with interest the various e-mails you’ve posted in recent days and wishing you would open one of these threads for discussion.  I share some of the concerns and frustrations that your e-mail correspondents have raised.  With rare exceptions, I don’t find myself eager to read or engage in the comment threads most of the time.  Part of it I think is due to serious “Anglican burn out” after 5 years of pretty intense blog engagement. There’s a strong sense of “same old same old,” of knowing what I’m going to read and what others will comment even before I open a thread.  But I do think there’s also a real issue that the quality of the conversation at T19 has declined in the past 8-10 months.

I confess I’m personally somewhat torn and confused myself about the blogs and to what extent I should participate and comment.  On one hand, I believe that the blogosphere plays a hugely important role in connecting orthodox Anglicans and getting out important information and alternate perspectives.  (i.e. no longer allowing TEC and the diocesan offices to control news & spin.)

But on another level, I am beginning to wonder if reading the blogs isn’t a bit like continually picking at an open wound.  Doing so just invites toxicity and infection by causing us to dwell on so much that’s negative (either in TEC / the Anglican Communion, or in our country or economy). It’s been good for my spiritual health in recent months to pull way back from engagement in the blogs.

And yet as I write this, I’m reminded and have to confess that I’ve been a frequent commenter over at SF’s “document the heresy” thread lately, and consider that one of the most important blog entries of recent months.  How do I balance that (i.e. valuing the information that is made public by that thread) with my concerns over tone and content?  I honestly haven’t a clue.

And yet I do believe T19 and StandFirm and several other orthodox Anglican blogs are extremely important resources and ministries.  I’m not advocating a return to head in the sand days.  I don’t know what the answer is.  But as I’ve been mulling this question, I do have a few ideas.  Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking about.

Firstly, I’m increasingly sensing that somehow there needs to be some POSITIVE way of using the blogs to build community,  some way of helping us focus on what we are for, rather than what we are against.  Right now most of the commenters are united in their opposition to TEC, and I think that is unhealthy.  Often reading the blog(s) feels like rubbernecking at a fatal and gory car accident.  It’s compelling, hard to “look away” and yet so unedifying so much of the time.

There was a comment posted by an anonymous commenter at BabyBlue a few days ago.  I find I can’t get it out of my mind:  It was on her post about driving by Shrinemont and seeing barbed wire.  Mary tried to connect the fact of the barbed wire fence to the situation in the diocese of Virginia, except the fence had been there for years and wasn’t new.  Here’s what a commenter wrote:

Barbed wire has been there for years. Comments like these are beneath you - and I fear they are hurting your credibility. For instance, your perhaps overly quick (speaking frankly, and I regret saying this - know it comes in a spirit of truth and love) headline regarding the Bishop of Virginia seizing control over all of the property of Christ Church, when it was simply a deeding of whatever interest they might have in the Falls Church) - it doesn’t help our cause. The revisionists look for any factual error, or failure to correct one, to drive a wedge into our unity. I urge you to take a deep breath, check your facts, and stop reacting. We need your voice for truth.

Frankly, you and I have left the Diocese. Let’s leave them be. They’ll implode on their own. You tell the Good News of Christ, Truro, ADV, CANA and Common Cause. They need positive proclamation, not being seen as simply a negative reaction. Even George Will’s column, as wonderful and blessed as it was, framed us too much as a negative reaction to the Episcopal Church.

We’re much more.

I urge you to move on, leave them be, and tell our story of love and faithfulness.

I love Mary and her blog, yet I did find that comment struck a chord with me.

Is that part of the answer?  Kendall is your calling to help us reflect more on what we’re FOR as opposed to what we’re against? 

Secondly, I wonder if it might help to redefine or tweak your vision for the blog a bit.  (I’m speaking pretty much exclusively re: the Anglican content here.  I appreciate and learn alot from some of the other articles on economics, etc. that you post, but don’t comment on those so much.)  Right now there is a lot of overlap in the Anglican content of T19 and Stand Firm.  It often means that the comment threads just mirror one another.  Usually most of the same people saying the same things.  Would it be possible or helpful to take T19 in something of a different direction?  Can T19 become a blog to discuss Anglican theology more than TEC current events? 

I think if you want the tone of T19 and the quality of discussion to be different, you need to provide more personal commentary and more explicit directives in terms of suggestions for discussion.  Don’t just post the article excerpt, but at least on some important threads, pose some leading questions to get the ball rolling in terms of the issues that interest you in an article.  Set the tone of the discussion.  Otherwise it’s too easy for us commenters to be lazy and merely say “oh isn’t this awful” or worse to become extremely snarky & sarcastic.

I was reminded of how a discussion about even a disturbing article can be edifying in a recent thread over at Stand Firm a few days ago.  We all (myself very much included) first started out attacking the awful theology found in an article written by a retired TEC priest.  But somehow we turned it around and it became a positive thread where we shared how we wrestled with Scripture or the lessons we’d learned on the topic of apparently “unanswered prayer” and theodicy (i.e. how can God be either good or omnipotent when we see so much suffering?)  It’s been quite a while since I so enjoyed and profited from a discussion thread.

Basically, I think the bottom line is that by posting so many stories without any commentary, you give too much control to the commenters.  The blog becomes reactive.  I think to change the tone it will require more active participation (comment) from you.  I think if you do start providing more serious and “value added” commentary, you will find that some commenters who have drifted away will return and that the level of discourse will improve.

I know right now many of your more serious devotional pieces or “notable & quotable” entries get few comments.  It won’t be easy to turn around the blog.  But I think it can happen if that’s the vision you espouse for the blog and if it becomes clear to commenters that such is your priority.  I expect it will take some time, but I think it can happen.

One idea might be to devote less space to some of the TEC news articles.  Perhaps instead of posting them each as stand-alone entries you could do one daily “Today’s Anglican headlines” story or something.  That way the links are there for those who want to read them, but they wouldn’t dominate the blog.  You could give “pride of place” to the stories that you really believe are important to discuss and want folks to comment on.

I hope and pray something I’ve written here might prove helpful.  Please know I will be intentionally praying for you about these matters!  Thank you for all you do.  And thank you for inviting and listening to our feedback.  You are extremely generous to solicit our opinion about your blog! 


October 26, 7:43 am | [comment link]
2. Kendall Harmon wrote:


Brother Kendall—

There’s been a bit of an uptick in testiness and maybe a quantum of nastiness, but if i discern that i’m not up to it, i just don’t read comments.  The beauty of any blog, let alone how yours is structured, is that i don’t have to look at ‘em if’en i don’t want to.  Usually, i don’t; in fact, i rarely comment any more, since i leave the “notify followups” clicked, and when i do that, see fourteen bounces of the ball in the echochamber and little new content to consider.

The fact that someone felt they had to delete your blog because of the comments says they need that help to manage their emotional reactions building onto their inability to self-edit clicking “read comments.”  Too bad for them, but a fairly self-aware step for them, too; perhaps they’ll return and practice the monastic “discipline of the eyes” blog-style.

Thanks for the ongoing diligent work you and the Elves do for us all, and for the Kingdom.

October 26, 7:45 am | [comment link]
3. Kendall Harmon wrote:

From CH:

Below is a delightful prayer which hangs on our refrigerator for my husband and me to be reminded of.  It was shared with me by a much older friend in seet humor, a friend whose Christian demeanor could be an example to some of the contributors to your blog as well as to me:

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old.  Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.  Release me from craving to straighten our everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.  With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thous knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains.  They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweet at the years go by.  I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ 
pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessing cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.  Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to life with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.  Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people And, give me, 
O Lord, the grace to tell them so.  Amen.

October 26, 7:47 am | [comment link]
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