From the Email Bag (II)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From Irenaeus

Dear Kendall:

I've been deeply troubled by the extent to which rage drawn from secular politics and culture wars has shaped comment threads on T19 and some other orthodox Anglican blogs.

We dishonor the gospel by conflating it with our own conventional secular politics. We also impair the unity so sorely needed among Anglican reasserters when we treat the theological divide as a subset of a hackneyed secular political divide---as though secular divisions were paramount.

We should take to heart these wise words from Thomas Merton:

In our refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them (of course prudently and with resignation to the inevitable imperfection of the result) we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery. Perhaps in the end the first real step toward peace would be a realistic acceptance of the fact that our political deals are perhaps to a great extent illusions and fictions to which we cling, out of motives that are not always perfectly honest: that because of this we prevent ourselves from seeing any good or any practicability in the political ideas of our enemies---which may of course be in many ways even more illusory and dishonest than our own. We will never get anywhere unless we can accept the fact that politics is an inextricable tangle of good and evil motives in which, perhaps, the evil predominate but where one must continue to hope doggedly in what little good can still be found.” ---New Seeds of Contemplation, ch. 16.

Oswald Chambers sounds a complementary warning about our own cozy ways of thinking:

“Our Lord never tolerates our prejudices [i.e., our preferences or our customary ways of thinking]. He is directly opposed to them and puts them to death. We tend to think that God has some special interest in our particular prejudices, and are very sure that He will never deal with us as He has to deal with others. We even say to ourselves, ‘God has to deal with other people in a very strict way, but of course He knows that my prejudices are all right.’ But we must learn that God accepts nothing of the old life! Instead of being on the side of our prejudices, He is deliberately removing them from us. It is part of our moral education to see our prejudices put to death by His providence, and to watch how He does it. God pays no respect to anything we bring to Him. There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.” ---My Utmost for His Highest, Oct. 23

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I join with Karen [in the earlier thread] in affirming that “there needs to be some POSITIVE way of using the blogs to build community” and that providing some personal commentary (if you have time) can help counteract the tendency for readers to react to stories with the same old predictable rancor. It is a bad witness. It is also spiritually unhealthy.

We as T19 commenters also need to be mindful of how we represent a narrow and oddly self-selected slice of Anglican Christianity. Most of us are American; most Anglicans are not. Most commenters are politically conservative; most Anglicans, including those in the Global South, hold views well to the left of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair. Most of us feel betrayed by ECUSA. So do many other orthodox Anglicans, but we differ from them in our willingness to spend time keeping informed about ECUSA’s latest misdeeds. A similar self-selection occurs among T19 readers: those of us who comment actively are more likely to be opinionated and even judgmental than those who read without commenting. We are who we are, and I’m part of it.

But we need to make a conscious effort to avoid bitterness, self-righteousness, and xenophobia. We need to take care that we do not confuse the gospel with our own preconceptions, predilections, and affinities. We also need to take care that we do not, in our zeal, drive away gentle commenters with whom we disagree.

I differ from Karen in hoping you won’t curtail T19’s coverage of Anglican developments.

My decision in June also reflected my conclusion that participating in these blog debates was taking a toll on my devotional life and my witness for orthodox Christianity. (For example, one of my brothers said he enjoyed talking with me about anything except current disagreements in the Episcopal Church.)

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Posted October 28, 2008 at 6:29 am

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1. boularderie wrote:

“In our refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them (of course prudently and with resignation to the inevitable imperfection of the result) we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery”

Thank you Irenaeus. Thank you Thomas Merton. Thank you Titus One Nine.

October 28, 6:42 am | [comment link]
2. MargaretG wrote:

... we represent a narrow and oddly self-selected slice of Anglican Christianity. Most of us are American; most Anglicans are not. Most commenters are politically conservative; most Anglicans, including those in the Global South, hold views well to the left of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair.

Very well put Irenaeus ... and there seems to be an alignment of christian left and right with political left and right in America which many of us in the rest of the world find at best strange, and actually often disturbing. When non-US people comment on US politics, many on the blog do not seem able to understand that political views and religious views are not aligned in the same way in the rest of the world, and often interpret a criticism of right-wing political stances as a failure to adhere to conservative christian values.

October 28, 7:10 am | [comment link]
3. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

Having been raised by a very orthodox father, whose writings on Augustine are held in high esteem, but who shocked my Tory grandmother when she discovered that he had been reading Aneurin Bevan’s In Place of Fear (a defense of the English Welfare State), I echo the sentiment expressed above.

Whether we take our cues from Archdeacon Grantley or Bishop Proudie, there are few Anglican precedents for an entirely hands-off approach to the free market.     

Catholic and Reformed

October 28, 9:20 am | [comment link]
4. Karen B. wrote:

Helpful comment Irenaeus, and much food for thought.

Just a clarification.  I wasn’t necessarily encouraging Kendall to curtail Anglican blogging.  But perhaps suggesting that he treat different stories differently.  Right now the latest articles from the mainstream press, which may or may not be accurate, and which may or may not have inflammatory and misleading headlines, etc., get treated almost identically to serious scholarly & theological reflections, etc.

Kendall posts an excerpt with a suggestion “read it all” and commenters are left to make their own judgments as to what is worthwhile reading.

I was hoping that Kendall may give the pieces that might prompt more reflective debate and discussion “greater weight” by posting them with commentary, and/or some “questions for reflection and discussion.”  Otherwise, even on the most worthy articles, the comment threads can get totally pulled off topic by someone’s knee-jerk reaction, someone with an agenda, etc.  If Kendall has provided clear commenting guidelines, suggestions, questions on some of the most important pieces I think it would help folks stay focused, and also know how to best invest their energy.  I’m much more likely to take the time to carefully read one or two pieces Kendall recommends as important and worthy of reflection, rather than trying to read 10 or 12 different articles about the Anglican situation.

Does that make sense?

October 28, 9:36 am | [comment link]
5. Marion R. wrote:

Where is this “rage”?  My impression of T19 is that comments in general have dropped off precipitously. Perhaps the enraged are merely the last people left with anything to say.

People who try to steer the direction of blog comments are inevitably disappointed.  Dr. Harmon has done quite well at times to simply shut comments off. This could be done more often.

There is a consensus that we have reached the end of the beginning, though I doubt we have reached the beginning of the end.  If the content of the site is to be tuned, it should be to articles dealing with What Should Be Done.  This is distinct from articles dealing with What Is Being Done, which invariably have a horse race element to them that lends itself to sniping remarks in the comments.

October 28, 10:37 am | [comment link]
6. Jeffersonian wrote:

Is this the same Irenaeus with whom I have had many spirited exchanges on this blog??  Speaking for myself only, I’ve enjoyed them immensely.  Nor did it seem that my friend was shy about joining the fray so this jeremiad is, shall we say, puzzling.

It’s your blog, Dr. Harmon, so you do what you want with it, but don’t be shocked when opinions are vigorously offered, defended and assailed when politics is at issue.  I’m all for regulating form in such a debate, but regulation of content is, quite simply, impossible.

TEC delenda est!

October 28, 11:07 am | [comment link]
7. Larry Morse wrote:

Irenaeus, it is not sufficient to “hope doggedly” that everything will work itself out, To be sure, the rules of civility need to be applied -  that’s what the elves are here to police - and we need to exercise self-discipline, for this last is fundamental to all good character. But, whether you like it or not, we have to be ready to fight and fight hard when the dark side of the force has the greater troops and and momentum, which is the present case.

    God isn’t going to see to it that Prop 8 in California passes. Prop 8 is Caesar’s world, and you and I live in it. Prop 8 is deadly,. Its massive effect can be seen in yesterday’s NYT in the news piece, “A Line Drawn in the Sand…” (I asked Kendall to publish it and he didn’t, for what ever reason.) Read it. Hard words in a hard world, and much much is at stake. We are not playing an academic game; when the issues before us now are cut, they bleed real blood.

  So karen tell us that we are not to judge. “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Taken literally, these words are simply nonsense. Christ cannot mean exactly what these words say.  The implication is that if we do not judge, we will not be judged. But scripture makes is very clear that we ALL will be judged, will we nill we. Moreover, you cannot survive an hour in this world without making judgments, over and over and over - and acting on them too. And if we do not survive in this world, the Bad Guys will take all the tricks. ARe we willing to let TEC have its way and not fight back? And look at the California priest in the later entry: Shall we let him have his way and say, “Well, judge not that ye be not judged?” This man is as corrupt as he is corrupting. Shall we say, “I forgive you?” And if we do, is this not absolving him of what are patent sins? Or do we go head to head with him and the likes of him because he cannot be allowed to prevail?
  To be sure, we should not drive the gentler souls on this blog away, but at the same time, people who are too precious to get their hands dirty in the real world merely let others do their fighting for them while they wring their hands and reap the benefits of the struggles of others. My own ACA and TAC are like this: Too nice to descend into the fray and dirty their hands in the mud of the real world. Irenaeus, you will not come up smelling like roses unless your roots are in the dirt.

  I’m all in favor of community - whatever that word means. My suspicion is that people who use it merely externalizing a pretty wish. I live and have lived in many a small community and I remind your that small towns, for all their idealization by the dreamers, are cauldrons of dissension and rancor. Man is like this; this is why the world requires elves who own a sharp quirt. The difference in T19 is this, that unlike much of the rest of the world, we here submit to their correction and punishment. Judge not that ye be not judged indeed! The elves are REQUIRED to judge, and a good thing it is. This is why I have stayed with t19, even after the elves have given me many a stripe. Don’t back off Irenaeus: Speaking in hard words is not the same thing as speaking in rude ones. Do not obsess - this is fanaticism -  but do not use the fear thereof to leave you unwilling to fight when the call comes to go to the barricades.

  And am I suggesting that the elves ride herd with a stronger hand on the reins? Oh yes, when it is necessary. And Kendall should raise their pay.

October 28, 11:14 am | [comment link]
8. Sherri2 wrote:

We dishonor the gospel by conflating it with our own conventional secular politics. We also impair the unity so sorely needed among Anglican reasserters when we treat the theological divide as a subset of a hackneyed secular political divide—-as though secular divisions were paramount.

Thank you for the wonderful and helpful quotes, Irenaeus, and for noting this. I think we are succumbing to a polarization that seems to spill into almost every aspect of our lives and the only way to stop it, I suspect, is if we each make the choice to stop ourselves from indulging - the temptation to fling out zingers or the Usual Responses will always be there. It’s easy to do that. We can chortle with our buddies over a good one, too. But I’ve been asking myself if I really want to just be good at zinging people and if I am really adding anything to my daily life or anyone else’s by doing it. The answer seems obvious.

The thing that distresses me most is my sense of what we have lost. I can remember a time when people of different “sides” in whatever arena could talk to each other civilly, could like each other personally and could learn from and find common ground with each other. To everyone’s benefit. When I can’t listen to what someone else has to say because of his religious beliefs or his political opinions, then I am shutting off my access to the things he knows that I don’t know, to a chance of learning things he may not even know he can teach - and I’m losing an opportunity to share whatever I might have that could usefully be shared.

I love it when a thread unexpectedly tumbles into a long discussion that awakens excitement and interest instead of animosity and I wish this happened more often, instead of less. I don’t know what makes one thread take off like that and another not - perhaps it is the intent we have when we respond to it. Perhaps it’s not letting ourselves say the easy thing, but instead trying to draw some fresh perspective from the item.

Besides all that, I am concerned that those of us on the reasserting side need to make some effort to fight the bitterness and despondency that can threaten to overwhelm us. This is what I read into Karen’s quoted comment about a positive way to build community. I think we need some pastoral care. wink At least, to pull back from the blogs when we find that they are only encouraging us to be bitter and harsh and we are in danger of losing our Christian charity and brotherly love. And to look for things that will strengthen us, give us heart and hope—and nurture those things. And try to offer that heart and hope to others when we find it. This is something I see Dr. Harmon doing in the mix of items he posts, and I appreciate that.

Since I’ve been reading the blogs, TitusOneNine has done the best job of staying on an even keel and remaining sharply aware that there are human beings behind each post, not an alien species. Let’s don’t lose that.

October 28, 11:26 am | [comment link]
9. Luminous Darkness wrote:

Very well put Irenaeus ... and there seems to be an alignment of christian left and right with political left and right in America which many of us in the rest of the world find at best strange, and actually often disturbing. When non-US people comment on US politics, many on the blog do not seem able to understand that political views and religious views are not aligned in the same way in the rest of the world, and often interpret a criticism of right-wing political stances as a failure to adhere to conservative christian values.

When I lived abroad, I had the fascinating experience of trying to explain to friends back in the United States who supported Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire that many in the rest of the Anglican Communion saw that act in exactly the same terms as they saw George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.  Most of them were fairly horrified that those two things were taken together to represent an overall perception of America.

October 28, 1:42 pm | [comment link]
10. Irenaeus wrote:

My thanks to all for reading and responding to my e-mail. Here are some initial responses.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Karen B [#4]: In posting stories about current developments in ECUSA and the Anglican Communion, it’s good to anticipate how inflammatory or misleading headlines or the like can skew debate—-and to offer guidance to help avoid needless skewing.

Yes. I’d understood you to be asking for few (perhaps much fewer) stories about what ECUSA is doing wrong.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Where is this ‘rage’? My impression of T19 is that comments in general have dropped off precipitously”

Marion R [#5]: My reflections aren’t limited to T19. But there’s still plenty of acrimony here, much of which we’d be better off without.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Our model should be a face-to-face discussion with a good friend. Even if we fundamentally and viscerally disagree with the friend, we still want to conduct the discussion in a way that preserves the friendship.

If we have the will, we can do something like this with people we have never met, even people we know only as words on a screen. We can do it more easily if the culture of this blog promotes civility.

Consider the case of Zed, a newcomer to our small-group Bible study who becomes visibly angry about the “meanness and hypocrisy” of orthodox Anglicans. We don’t tell Zed that he’s a fool, exhibits typical Gen Y narcissism, sounds “just like Jake,” and should stick his head in an oven mitt. We slow down, lower our voices, listen carefully, look him in the eye. In so doing, we signal (perhaps without even thinking about it) that we care about him and are not his enemies. Yet we still speak for what we believe.

(Kudos to Sarah Hey, BTW, for organizing a series of regional “Stand Firm suppers” at which commenters can meet one another. These meetings help blog tone and facilitate broader cooperation among orthodox readers.)
_ _ _ _ _

“Perhaps the enraged are merely the last people left with anything to say”—- Marion R [#5]

More likely that the acrimony has discouraged them or driven them away.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Is this the same Irenaeus with whom I have had many spirited exchanges on this blog?”

Jeffersonian [#6]: Yes, and who looks forward to continuing them.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Larry Morse [#7]: We need to fight for what is right, but in a way that honors Christ not only in what we strive for but in how we do it.

The issues before us “bleed real blood,” as you say, yet we must not be rancorous or sanguinary.

Merton wrote that we should be a lens for the light of Christ—-a clear lens that neither obscures nor discolors the light. (I fall badly short of that standard, but it is still the one that applies.)

October 28, 3:08 pm | [comment link]
11. Irenaeus wrote:

Correction: In #10, an exchange that appears two-thirds of the way into the comment should read:
—- “Perhaps the enraged are merely the last people left with anything to say.”
—- “More likely that the acrimony has discouraged OTHERS or driven them away.”

October 28, 3:14 pm | [comment link]
12. Marty the Baptist wrote:

I just don’t see it.

What I do is (all too often) is people getting their feelings hurt and sending emails about “the horrible tone” whenever a mild disagreement arises.

Because on any topic over which there might be really spirited debate—inevitably the comments are closed from the start.

Blogging is not for the thin skinned or dull witted.

October 28, 4:36 pm | [comment link]
13. Dave C. wrote:

My perception is that much of the frustration pointed at Dr. Harmon was misplaced; what people were really angry about is the imbalance in media treatment of Palin and Republicans compared to their Democratic counterparts, an imbalance, an imbalance Dr. Harmon acknowledges and is quoted on in the editorial.  But Pinsky, himself, I think does a great disservice to evangelicals through the way he casts Dr. Harmon’s (and others) sentiments.  Consider these quotes:

Many evangelicals are neither stupid nor unsophisticated. And they seem to be troubled by a political standard bearer who too closely resembles the caricature they have been struggling to banish.

And this

This approach may appeal to the evangelical base in small towns and rural areas and draw enthusiastic crowds to rallies, but it may not be enough.

Pinsky is essentially saying, “the evangelicals I rub elbows with are smart, sophisticated and have serious reservations about Sarah Palin, not like those small-town, small-minded rubes who support her.”
Is it any wonder people are offended?  But, it is not Kendall Harmon making this elitist snide commentary, it is Pinsky.  And I do think people should be upset with the way he caracterizes the issue.

October 28, 5:00 pm | [comment link]
14. Albany* wrote:

This is a very nice offering for reflection. What I would say is more disturbing overall is what we find most interesting to discuss on this site. Anything “gay” or partisan politcally wil get a 10 to 1 hit ratio over let’s say Christian persecution, famine, oppression, etc.

October 28, 5:04 pm | [comment link]
15. Marty the Baptist wrote:

Albany, I suspect we are all in perfect agreement on matters of Christian persecution, famine, oppression, etc.

Why do you find that disturbing?

October 28, 5:14 pm | [comment link]
16. Albany* wrote:

I regret to say that I don’t for a second believe that ratio is because of our agreement. Rather, I believe the difference is about what we find juicy. As to this, one can only take their own pulse.

October 28, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
17. parishioner wrote:

Marty the Baptist, perhaps you “just don’t see it” because you’re not looking for what you ought.  “Blogging is not for the thin-skinned and dull-witted,” you say.  When “blogging” has been hijacked by those who think their relative anonymity affords them conduct more suited to Ultimate Fighting, it definitely isn’t for anyone else. 

If you were to ask KHarmon his motive in allowing comments, I doubt his answer would be “to provide a forum for the arrogant to thrash the dissenters.”  Discussion, even polite disagreement, should be engaged in for the purposes and possibility of persuasion.  If you are convinced your beliefs are correct, then it behooves you to persuade out of love.  If your motive is not persuasion in love, it will suspiciously appear as if you are engaging in argument for the love of fighting or self-exaltation.

Disagreement on this blog can be useful when pointing out logical fallacies and divergence from Scripture in policy and attitude.  When it degenerates into stereotypes, name-calling, and a general knickers-twisting out of moral or intellectual superiority, it’s lost sight of the Lord Jesus we purport to serve.

October 28, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
18. chips wrote:

One thing that I do believe is very related is the corelation between the secular politics of the leadership of TEC and their spiritual actions.  Ie Women must become priests because of the feminist movement of the 1970’s; Gay rights is the current trendy leftwing cause celeb and what do you know - TEC is pushing hard for gay Bishops/Priests/Marriage; ditto abortion rights. I think that one does not have to be terribly creative to see that TEC’s leadership pretty much adopts the DNC talking points down the line.  Therefore - I can understand Ireneaus distress that he is a devout Christian and a secular liberal - but it is TEC’s leadership that fails to draw the correct distinctions.

October 28, 6:25 pm | [comment link]
19. chips wrote:

The best example of religious/political belief not being inconsistent is the Catholic Church. 1) They are pro-life - against both abortion and the death penalty; 2)  They view homosexuality as sinful; 3) they have not ordained women priests because it is against church doctrine; 4) their social justice doctrines are very liberal; 5) they tend to be pacifistic.  So the Catholics tend to be liberal when their religious beliefs dictate it so and conservative when their religious beliefs dictate it to be so. I admire their consistency as christians first. TEC is just liberal and will change its theology when the demands of liberalism so require.

October 28, 6:41 pm | [comment link]
20. Marty the Baptist wrote:

Ultimate Fighting???  Man, this blog is tame compared to some that I frequent.  Anyway I find it suspicious myself whenever someones tries to imply a sinister motive to a particular commenters thoughts, and inevitably follows by chastises them about what their motives should be.

As for myself, I will embrace the diversity.

October 28, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
21. Bob Lee wrote:

I think that this is exactly the problem. Too many people do not want to “mix” politics, the secular world, etc., with their Christianity.
The “Let’s all just get along” mentallity is the reason we are in the shape we are in, both in national politics and the Church. Without spirited debate by brothers and sisters in Christ, who will ever be moved to new ideas?

Dissagree with Iranaeus.


October 28, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
22. parishioner wrote:

20 & 21,
You are both conveniently ignoring the issue that has been raised, which is conduct amidst disagreement and diversity.  Embrace diversity as much as you want, but do so as someone who confesses Jesus as Lord and exhibits said Lordship through their behavior.  “Spirited” might be the be the label you’d try to use to justify ugly behavior during a debate, but “A rose by any other name . . .”

October 28, 7:59 pm | [comment link]
23. Larry Morse wrote:

I really have to agree with Marty as I suppose he has figured out.
I read the complaints about how uncivil t19 has become and can hardly believe it. People, t19 is a island of sanity and civility compared to the rest of America - not just the blogging world, but to the babbling, in-your-face, talking-head, Maclaughlin-confrontation, hacking and virus manufacturing, political-ad-venom that marks our national discourse. Attack provokes counter-attack - and why not?

    And Marty is right also, the blogging world is not for the utterly tender and sensitive, because the blogging world, like all of the internet, is without the simplest rules of civilization. It is the war of all against all; restraint is failure. Yet once again, t19 has erected a remarkable firewall against this bloody-in-tooth-and-nail internecine warfare. This is one price we all pay for embracing inclusivity, multi-culturalism, tolerance - you know the drill - because what these have done is destroy the minimal homogeneity of the past from which a common culture and identity emerged and trhey have undertaken this destruction in the name of atomistic individuality -as curious and unpalatable an egg as the Baby Boomeers every spawned. You all know perfectly well that the cultural glue that bound us together in, say, 1950, has been dissolved by the do-you-own-thing 60’s. What is the past to us now, save what the liberals want it to be - a set of shackles which must be broken at all costs if we wish to be free, and the emphasis is on “at all costs.”

  What is a Christian to do? First, build one’s congregation as a safehaven for all its members, the one place where the @$%& phone won’t ring and ask you to vote for X or buybuybuy a Y.
This is the family-away-from-family and should be nurtured with care. Dine together in the undercroft, discuss the Bible, go on picnics.  But, as in the first family, make the standards clear and keep them. Remember, if you don’t draw the line here, you will have to draw it further on,  or at last not at all - and so become TEC. Face the truth: In this world love in the usual sense does not conquer all. There really is such a thing as tough love. You cannot yield to the troublemakers.

  And in the outside world, be prepared to fight. I don’t say down and dirty, but don’t think you can fight and keep your hands clean. Remember that Christ was not a wimp, not spineless, regardless of the long standing image of a nice white guy with clean hands and a sweet smile.  He did not hesitate to to show the sword that separates father from son; you cannot pretend this is not so. He said the peacemakers were blessed, not the doormats.  You need to get this through your heads: We are all under siege. Everything we value is on the table now, and we are playing against the house. Can you doubt that this is a hang-together-or-hang-separately crisis, and that moles in our endangered system need to be cast out? It is one thing to accept dissent, but tolerance is not a virtue, though forbearance is. Tolerance at last means the erosion of your own standards; forbearance means that one withholds one’s proper power to punish in the name of a higher goal. And forbearance has limits. Can we grasp limits yet?

  Don’t daw back into your shell Irenaeus. I for one should hate to see you back away.  Larry

October 28, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
24. jamesw wrote:

I agree with Irenaeus to an extent.  I note this especially when Anglican issues are discussed, they are almost always discussed from an American-centric point of view - the primary focus of the Anglican Communion must be to solve the problems of those in TEC who wish to leave TEC and keep the parish properties.  Yet, when I hear African Anglicans speak in the US, I often hear how Muslim mobs have just attacked their churches and burned them to the ground.  Yet, we think that OUR problems need to be front and center.

Or take the elephant in the living room issue of women’s ordination.  Although there are differences in GAFCON on the issue, it really doesn’t seem to be a stumbling block internationally.  But here in the U.S., because it is a stumbling block here, we demand this, that or the other thing be done about it.

Politically, too, Irenaeus is right that we all too often link a right wing agenda to orthodox Christianity, as if they go together hand and glove.

But on the other side of things, I think that there are real grounds for anger and fear.  I have seen a frightening trend amongst some secular liberals towards what I call a velvet-fisted authoritarianism.  I see this arising in Canada, and now in California (issues about Proposition 8).  There is a move by a growing part of the secular liberal movement to suppress our freedoms of speech and religion (this is currently going on in Canada) in deference to the liberal “equality” agenda.  This is a big part of what Proposition 8 has become - one journalist commented that the one thing that has been completely absent from Proposition 8 ads has been gay couples.  They have basically been an argument between those who say “watch out, liberals will use gay marriage to take away your rights, freedoms and rights to control your children’s education”, versus those who say “don’t worry, just trust us.”  Couple this with the media bias in favor of Obama that goes beyond anything anyone has ever seen before.  The press lampoons Sarah Palin for accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists” while the LA Times deliberately suppresses a video it has showing Obama doing that very thing.  We see Democrats taking to Obama with religious fervor.  It is scary.

Conservative Episcopalians (and ex-Episcopalians) see this exact same approach being used in TEC.  Use the courts or judicial processes (I include episcopal depositions in this category) to illegitimately achieve your policy ends.  Control the press and pump out indoctination.  Direct worship to a human being or human cause.

I am an independent voter, because on many issues, I would more naturally side with the Democrats.  But, quite frankly, their liberal underbelly scares me.  In Canada, there was a record low voter turnout in this month’s federal election.  Part of the complaint in Canada is that the national parties can no longer argue about anything other then a relatively narrow list of economic issues.  The courts and media have suppressed all discussion on weighty social issues.  I fear this coming to the USA.

So, I do think that there is a lot of fear going around right now, a lot of anger and indignation, and a lot of sounding off.  A few things we can do is remember:
1) We can be wrong on policy issues.
2) We should always try to look at international and/or long term perspectives.
3) Whenever we get too concerned, we should pause and pray to God asking Him to help us remember that He is in charge, that this is His world/Church, and our job is to be Christ’s ambassadors.  It isn’t our job to save this world for God.

October 28, 8:36 pm | [comment link]
25. Spiro wrote:

I had thought the elves were there to delete offensive and inappropriate comments.
I certainly appreciate the fact that T19 is Dr. Harmon’s blog and that he has every right to run it the way he sees fit. However, the infamous “comments closed” that T19 puts at the bottom of some articles/stories doesn’t seem to help in advancing the debate and discourse.

With all due respect, pulling out and publishing one or two “From My Mail-Bag” is no substitute letting everyone read and see what others are saying on a particular thread (as long as the elves are there to delete offensive and inappropriate comments – which are very, very few, imho).

Finally, I have gone back and re-read the District Chronicles’ “Many Evangelicals Struggle with the Choice of Sarah Palin” article (posted on October 20th) and the 94 comments that followed (before Dr. Harmon closed comments), I do not find enough evidence of incivility to justify the closing of comments on that particular discussion thread.

By the way, I still stand by my inoffensive comment (#91 on that Palin thread):
Let’s not inadvertently make the same mistake (be it in politics, or in the Church) we made with the Liberals in the Church – which has brought us to where we now find ourselves.

As a matter of principle, I put my name behind my comments - just as I did in every evaluation of my professors/classes and comments in college, Grad schools and seminary. I do not hide in the anonymity of the blog. I have no need to do so.

The issues that we are facing today in the church and in the political sphere are far too important for Christians to be anything but passionate and Christ-like in our approach and our engagement. I intend to continue to be as passionate and as Christ-like as I need to be.

Fr. Kingsley Jon-Ubabuco
Arlington, TX

October 28, 8:50 pm | [comment link]
26. Irenaeus wrote:

“I can understand Irenaeus’ distress that he is a devout Christian and a secular liberal”—-Chips [#18]

Very telling that you would call me a liberal. I’m a fiscal and cultural conservative. I support strong law enforcement, free markets, free trade, and limited government. On a more centrist note, I stand for robust defense of the First Amendment and the rule of law; I reject PC and all its works. The views I’ve voiced over the years on T19 and Stand Firm are consistent with these principles.

By any generally accepted standard of American politics (e.g., how Americans self-identify when asked their views), I am not a liberal but a political moderate.

In any event, remember that most churchgoing Anglicans worldwide, including those in the Global South, hold political views well to the left of mine. Are they all living a lie by (for example) supporting both conservative social norms and leftish economics?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

We should all be mindful of how political labels (e.g., “liberal,” “conservative,” “Democratic,” “Republican,” and “Christian Democratic”) are human inventions—-products of custom and historical happenstance. Neither major U.S. political party has (or ever has had) a philosophically consistent set of positions. Even Libertarians falter when it comes to abortion, drug legalization, and selling babies.

We should approach our political views, political loyalties, and political labels with some skepticism and humility.

October 28, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
27. jamesw wrote:

Spiro:  One note of caution about signing blog postings with our names.  I work in academia.  It is now pretty standard for prospective employers to google your name, and if they find that you have links to anything Christian or conservative (no matter how benign) red flags are set off.  You may have liberal views, without concern.  But having conservative views or being Christian raises great concerns.  That is part of the velvet-fisted authoritarianism I refer to above.

October 28, 8:57 pm | [comment link]
28. Irenaeus wrote:

Bob Lee [#21]: No one here is arguing, “Let’s all just get along.” Not I, not Merton, not Chambers. No one.

What is so difficult about treating people on-line as you would treat them face to face?
_ _ _ _ _

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Never water down the word of God, preach it in its undiluted sternness; there must be unflinching loyalty to the word of God; but when you come to personal dealing with your fellow men, remember who you are—-not a special being made up in heaven, but a sinner saved by grace.”

God has not commissioned most of us to deliver jeremiads. He has commanded us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Which brings us to the subject of tact. Think of how we handle confrontation when speaking face to face in an informal group. We do not, like John the Baptist or the Old Testament prophets, call others in the group “a brood of vipers” or “wanton whores.” We just don’t. That should tell us something. We can disagree without insulting each other, inflicting needless collateral damage, or discrediting our witness to outsiders. We can also soften or rein in each others’ excesses without a proliferation of rebukes, red cards, or running to blog hosts.

Consider this example: Four acquaintances are having lunch when the conversation turns to theology. Alice, a reappraiser, disparages the Virgin Birth as “a superfluous myth spun from patriarchal disdain for women’s sexual autonomy.” Bob calls Alice a “lying heretic” (but does restrain himself from likening her to “a fart in the face of Christ”). Thud. What does one say next? I might say, “Alice, I don’t question your sincerity but the Virgin Birth is fundamental Christian doctrine,” and then make the case for it. That could defuse the tension and refocus the conversation on substance.

Some commenters seem to equate tact and godly self-restraint with circumlocution or self-stultification. I don’t. I say what I mean clearly and directly. But as I write, I also consider what I’d say differently if I were facing a live person instead of noisome words on a screen.

Blog rage is much akin to road rage. We get furious because all we see of another person is the behavior that annoys us. Blog rage arises from the impersonality of debating with strangers only through words typed on a screen. We necessarily miss all the nonverbal cues we receive when dealing with strangers face to face. We also miss all the other reminders of common humanity.

Rudeness is a form of self-indulgence. We should not confuse it with vigorous, mature defense of the faith.

October 28, 9:31 pm | [comment link]
29. Irenaeus wrote:

“Blogging is not for the thin skinned”—-Marty the Baptist [#12]

Who says? This is Kendall’s blog. He sets the norms for commenting.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Man, this blog is tame compared to some that I frequent”—-Marty the Baptist [#20]

No doubt. But that’s irrelevant to how Christians should behave on-line, regardless of what the rules are. It’s even more irrelevant when the blog host consciously and consistently seeks to set a different tone here—-and regards doing so as part of his witness.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

“I just don’t see it”—-Marty the Baptist [#12]

Agreed. Although you may not intend it, your comments often have a hard edge of scorn, as though people you disagree with were just knaves or fools.

October 28, 9:57 pm | [comment link]
30. parishioner wrote:

You’re to be commended for hanging in there, Irenaeus.  I pray they’ll listen.

October 28, 10:19 pm | [comment link]
31. Rick H. wrote:

Some questions we (myself included) might ask ourselves about our behavior on this blog:

Am I judging anyone else’s heart?

Is the tone my comments likely to drive someone away from rather than toward orthodox faith—am I, in other words, doing the enemy’s work for him?

Am I exhibiting Calvary love?

Am I praying for my opponents?

Would I wish for God to judge me with the same attitude I am exhibiting toward those with whom I disagree?

Am I coming across as a fallen sinner in dire need of forgiveness or as someone who has discovered the path to righteousness by his own efforts?

As for myself, I confess I have at times given a failing answer to all of these questions. 

Have mercy.

October 28, 10:44 pm | [comment link]
32. Spiro wrote:

Thanks, jamesw (#27).
I certainly understand the mistreatment of conservatives and their opinions. There is clearly a double standard out there. The examples are too many to mention. Obviously, some of us need to keep their identity hidden. We are to be as humble as a dove and as wise as a serpent. Some of us would have to continue to hide their identity - in order to avoid unfair targeting by the supposedly open-minded and accepting liberals out there.

Fr. Kingsley Jon-Ubabuco

October 28, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
33. Larry Morse wrote:

#27. This report would be frightening if I didn’t already suspect that it is true. My own college, which has made much of first amendment rights, has ALSO made it clear that speech which does not meet pc standards is not to be tolerated. As a result, my college, which was started for Amerinds and had an Amerind as an originator, has outlawed college songs, around for many decades, that refer to Amerinds in any context. Simply forbidden them. Even a mural which had Amerinds in it was stripped from a college restaurant’s walls (after having been painted over first). And in Maine, there is now a law which says that no place or word in Maine can have the word “squaw” in it. So Squaw Mountain has to become something else, and even the duck, called an “Old Squaw” has to be renamed. It does not occur to most people that” liberal” can also mean “despotic.”  It has become that way because liberalism has won all the cultural battles, and the victor makes the rules. We have the paradox, therefore, of a liberal society maintaining tolerance and diversity while, at the same time, it maintains intolerance and enforces homogeneity of thought and speech.  Larry

October 28, 11:18 pm | [comment link]
34. Larry Morse wrote:

“I just don’t see it”—-Marty the Baptist [#12]

Agreed. Although you may not intend it, your comments often have a hard edge of scorn, as though people you disagree with were just knaves or fools.

  So says Irenaeus. And yet, I have read and read Marty’s remark above and I do not see the hard edge of scorn, nor any sign that he thinks people who disagree with him are knaves or fools. And, Irenaeus, I am not numb to the coloration of words. This attitude which you ascribe to him is not present for me to see. For this reason, I am content to leave the censoring to the elves.

    Incidentally, I also agree with Marty about closing the comments on postings of real substance. Kendall closes them because he said they are carrion called in the vultures. (My phrase, not Kendall’s.)

  Still blog rage is like road rage. And yet, and yet, why is road rage now so common - I feel it myself sometimes and have to swallow hard to choke it back? Why now? Fifty years ago, drivers used to come whipping up the breakdown lane just to get to the head of the traffic, but I didn"t USED to get blindly furious. What’s the matter with me? I tell you, this is the result of a society that is unable to grow up. Road rage is the behavior of a two year old who has been refused a cookie and who has learned that a temper tantrum is just the medicine that cures denial. Why are we - why am i - behaving like one more “terrible two?”  Larry

October 28, 11:33 pm | [comment link]
35. Irenaeus wrote:

Larry [#34]: When I say Marty’s comments “comments often have a hard edge of scorn,” I’m making a general statement about his comments on T19 and Stand Firm over the last several years.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Why is road rage now so common?”

Good question.

October 28, 11:54 pm | [comment link]
36. rob k wrote:

When He said “Judge not lest ye be judged”, was not Jesus telling authorities that no one except God can make a final judgement about the afterlife of a human being except God.  He was not referring to the judgement of the rightness or wrongness of the words and actions of one person by another.  Would be interested in comments.  Thx.

October 29, 6:01 am | [comment link]
37. The_Elves wrote:

Just a quick reply to Spiro’s comment in #25:
I had thought the elves were there to delete offensive and inappropriate comments.

To some extent, yes, we try.  But please understand, in recent months there has usually only been one elf monitoring comments most of the time.  She has a life and commitments apart from the blog.  We don’t sit and stare at the screen 24/7.

And our intervention may help when there is merely one offensive comment in an otherwise productive thread.  But lately there have been many threads where the majority of the comments are filled with extreme sarcasm, or they attack the views of other commenters without adding much substance to the discussion. 

We still need our commenters to self-police, we can’t do it all, and do not appreciate even an implied suggestion that
“It’s ok to leave a snarky comment. The elves will delete it if it is over the line.” 

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make this a commenting community that folks want to be a part of. 

Once it was so.  Now, not so much.  We have probably had two dozen e-mails in the last month or two with folks talking about decreasing their involvement in the blog because it’s just not productive conversation any more.

That’s this elf’s perspective anyway.,


Got questions about T19? E-mail us! .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

October 29, 6:35 am | [comment link]
38. Larry Morse wrote:

My admiration for he elves is st ill of the highest order, even when I feel the quirt. Their argument here is eminently reasoonable. Self-discipline - Heaven’s know I need more of it myself - is the FIRST rule of all god character. I might add thata this iseries of comments has been particularly interesting and instructive - one of the reasons why t19 is theonly blog I go to.
    Irenaeus, my apologies. I misunderstood your comment.
  #36. I DO hope that others will carry on this question and examine it. It has baffled me for years. My answer,incidentally is that Christ frequently spoke hyperbolically when the circumstances demanded unusual emphasis. He was always mindful of his audience and it was to them he generally spoke. The task of being literally clear, given who he was, is impossible, because the language of the spirit is outside the literal reach of words. See Paul in Corinthians; his insight here is compelling, that Jews require signs, Greeks wisdom, but the language of the spirit is not to be encompassed by these. Does Rob K have it right? How do you know this?  Larry

October 29, 9:06 am | [comment link]
39. Irenaeus wrote:

Rob K [#36]: I’ve wondered whether “judge” as often used in the New Testament has overtones of “condemn”—-and thus goes well beyond making judgments about others’ words or conduct.

I join you and Larry [#37] in inviting guidance from those knowledgeable about the original Greek.

October 29, 12:06 pm | [comment link]
40. parishioner wrote:

“M” to James Bond in Casino Royale:
“Arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand.”

We know a tree by its fruit, but the tree itself doesn’t seem to give a fig if it doesn’t have any . . .

October 29, 8:04 pm | [comment link]

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