Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Oprahfication of CampOnThis

Many evangelicals have rightly decried the dumbing-down of the gospel. Steve Camp has done some fine little pieces on this with special reference to CCM.

But then, when you turn to his rules of engagement, look at what you find:


4. No anonymous posting allowed and will be deleted. If you have not filled out your profile, please do so.

5. No posting in "book form;" say what you need to say, but keep it a reasonable length. It will foster better discussion and allow more to contribute. (A few shorter comments promote profitable discussion than writing one very long comment.)

6. All posts must be in the form of an actual comment, not as a link. "Links" posted as comments that redirect people away from the discussion of an issue from this blog is unacceptable and will be deleted immediately.


What do these three rules all have in common? They are all anti-intellectual.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m not wild about anonymous posting myself. I’m curious to know who these people are. And there are some folks who hide behind anonymity to practice character assassination with impunity.

Of course, for those who abuse the privilege of anonymity, there’s a simple solution: delete them.

In the meantime, there are also folks who have entirely legitimate personal or professional reasons to shield their identity.

And more importantly, what, exactly, is the point of insisting on a public profile, anyway? Is this an exercise in prior restraint, to screen out unwelcome feedback?

The effect is to screen out constructive feedback as well. If a comment is way over the line, it can always be deleted.

But shouldn’t we be open to comments from anyone as long as they have something useful to contribute, including constructive criticism?

Moreover, isn’t there something nosey about demanding that everyone file a personal profile? Frankly, it’s none of my business the sex, or age, or location, or hobbies, or musical taste, or favorite books or movies of a perfect stranger who wants to post a comment at Triablogue.

This isn’t a dating service, is it? They’re not auditioning to be a guest on some trashy talk show, are they?

Furthermore, the whole exercise is pretty stupid, like an airport screener asking you of you’re planning to smuggle a bomb onto the plane.

If someone wants to post a comment without airing their private life in public, there’s an easy way out: you simply invent a storybook character.

In addition, the Internet is a natural magnet for über-geeks and super-nerds who have no difficulty covering their tracks if they want to.

So this is one of those brainless bureaucratic rules like frisking granny and her five-year old grand-daughter while a twenty-something male by the name of Muhammad al-Jihadi boards the plane with a lumpy looking overcoat on a sweltering day.

And I’d add that knowing his astrological sign is not real high on my priority list either.

Then, what is worse, is the prohibition against “book form” posting. This, again, is anti-intellectual.

Bloggers don’t have a captive audience. If someone doesn’t want to read a long post, he doesn’t have to. And if the comments box fills up, you always carry the thread over to a “Part-2” post with a fresh comment box.

Mind you, there’s no virtue in being verbose for the sake of verbosity. Again, if someone abuses their posting privileges, you just delete them.

This is exactly the marketing niche mentality of the church-growth gurus that Evangelicals like Camp decry as long as someone else is doing it. Let’s reduce everything to Sesame Street sound-bites and pitch the product to the lowest common denominator—like we’re selling deodorant.

Oo! Ouch! All those weal big words make my head hurt! Please tweat me like the overgwown child I still wanna be. Let’s hold church in the sand box. Mister Rogers can say the prayer, and Big Bird can lead us in song.

This also reminds me of teachers who are afraid that boys, being the aggressive pigs that they are, will intimidate the girls from freely expressing themselves in class discussion. So the teacher acts terribly paternalistic to oppose paternalism.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is not all that user-friendly? Is Romans an easy book to read? Or Hebrews? Or Revelation?

And why are links “unacceptable”? BTW, don’t you just love that word? Doesn’t it have a wonderfully Victorian flavor to it, like the schoolmarm with ruler in one hand and hair in a bun, patrolling the class room to smite unwary students passing notes.

Now, some links are inappropriate. If it’s a link to a porn site, sure—delete it.

But links can be a way of documenting a claim. And for a blogger who happens to have the attention span of a two-year old, a link can be a timesaver. Instead of a “long” comment, which would make his head hurt or something, a link can direct the reader to a systematic discussion of the issue—often by an expert in the field. In fact, Camp has links on his own blog.

So all this unctuous disapproval of “dumbing-down” is just for show. To judge by his own example, Camp feels that the average believer needs a lot of spoon-feeding and head-patting and handholding to get him through the frightful ordeal of navigating a God-blog. Why doesn’t Camp just run a loop-tape of Veggie Tales on is blog?

Permit me to close with a personal anecdote. My mother was a music teacher. After she retired, she taught herself Koine Greek to read the NT in the original.

Then she embarked on a study of Biblical archaeology, ANE history, and Greco-Roman history.

After that she read theologians like Murray, Warfield, and Vos.

To make a long story short, she’s now well into her eighties. Despite failing eyesight, she reads commentaries from cover to cover. By commentaries I mean Witherington on Acts (874 pages), Hoehner on Ephesians (930 pages), Mounce on the Pastorals (641 pages), and Beale on Revelation (1245 pages)—to name a few she’s polished off in the last couple of years. She’s currently reading Fitzmyer (832 pages) and Schreiner (919 pages) on Romans.

Pardon me if I have precious little sympathy for those who pose and posture about the Evangelical downgrade as they man the very same bulldozer.


  1. "So this is one of those brainless bureaucratic rules like frisking granny and her five-year old grand-daughter while a twenty-something male by the name of Muhammad al-Jihadis boards the plane with a lumpy looking overcoat on a sweltering day."

    Hahaha! Spot on.

  2. I've gone through Cranfield's two-volume ICC volume on Romans just about cover-to-cover, but alas very little has stuck. Dittos for several Lenski volumes.

  3. "oprahfication"?

    I need a lexical source for that one. Are you calling Steve Camp fat?

  4. "Oprahfication" is a Camp coinage. You can find it in one of his articles on ECB.

  5. Your momma should start blogging then, Steve!

  6. Well, PP, you can see that the intellectual wellspring thinned out a good deal by the time it trickled down to me!

    BTW, she's now added Cranfield to her reading.

  7. Perhaps your mother can come over to PP, and we can rename it Diablogue!

  8. Speaking of anti-intellectualism, one thing I remember was the typical paradigm going as follows.

    Critic: [insert oversimplified and possibly incorrect representation of Xty here!]

    Me: [talks about how it isn't as simple as that...]

    Critic: God wouldn't make things so complicated! [Insert the obligatory "God is love" reference here too.]

    The goalposts moved before my very eyes.

  9. I don't see how you can call having comment rules "anti-intellectual." It's Steve Camp's Blog, he can make whatever rules he wants. On your blog, you make whatever rules you want. To force him to adhere to what you think is fair.... that's anti-intellectual.