Sunday, November 27, 2005

The face at the bottom of the well

When Mel Gibson’s movie generated so much controversy, Dennis Prager observed that Jews and Christians were seeing two different movies. Jews saw Jews. They saw hook-nosed Jews. Shylocks. Villains. Pogroms. Gas chambers.

Christians also saw Jews. They saw a Jewish Jesus, a Jewish Madonna, a Jewish apostolate. They also saw villains, but the villains were, by turns, Jewish and Roman alike. Except for Jesus, they saw sinners of every stripe in every frame.

In what has been called the “blog war” between the Tavernistas and their critics, the Tavernistas see their critics as mean-spirited, while their critics see the Tavernistas as means-spirited. Some spectators see both sides as mean-spirited.

Some bloggers justify their polemical tone by citing the polemical passages of Scripture, while other bloggers condemn the polemical tone by citing the peaceable passages of Scripture.

Ecumenical bloggers see all public divisions within the blogdom of God as painful and shameful while sectarian bloggers see such divisions as a threshing process, winnowing the wheat from the chaff.

It’s no mystery which side I come down on, so I won’t pretend to be impartial. But I will say a few things.

I’m one of those writers whose style is a transcript of his personality. As such, my character flaws on public display whenever I blog.

I’m aware that I often say the right thing for the wrong reason. If I were a better person I’d say the right thing for the right reason. However, I wouldn’t say what I said unless I thought it was the right thing to say at the time, and the right way to say it.

There are some people who avoid “scandal” at any cost. To take a rather extreme example, the irony of the Catholic sex scandal is that it became a scandal precisely because the bishops were trying to avoid any whiff of scandal. The scandal lay in the cover-up. In the complicit code of silence.

The blogosphere is unregulated. Every Christian blogger is a self-appointed pundit. Under the circumstances, I don’t see that silence is the best policy. I don’t see that we should always sweep everything under the rug.

In the blogdom of God, we need to police each other. And that’s a two-way street.

There’s no doubt that some issues would be much better handled in private. However, some bloggers choose to use their blog as a public diary. When that happens, it’s no longer possible to take a purely pastoral approach to the problem. You cannot err in public, and repent in private.

5 comments:

  1. What do I see? I see Frank using this as a publicity stunt to sell more of those unsightly tee shirts. Say, how much are they again?

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  2. The problem I see with policing each other is that it can get rather confrontational- with both sides not willing to accept their wrongs.

    Perhaps an elected committee of interdenominational individuals who point out each others mistakes?

    But then who knows whether it will be free from biases as well...

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  3. There’s no doubt that some issues would be much better handled in private. However, some bloggers choose to use their blog as a public diary. When that happens, it’s no longer possible to take a purely pastoral approach to the problem. You cannot err in public, and repent in private.

    Steve, the problem for me personally is less about what is said back and forth and more about what can be substantiated. I agree there is a place for separating the wheat and chaff. I think thicker skins are need on boths sides.

    But it's one thing to claim another blogger is 'emotionally unstable' or just blogging about the ills of his life to glean new readers and be able to prove it. It is quite another to make such claims without being able to back them up. Frank Turk, James White, ect. have put forth an effort to white wash here, but they have come up far short of proving their cases and the 'boomerang effect' of all this is coming about. Sure their are folks that will not tolerate any criticism, but I am not one of them. I welcome the criticism as long as it can be reasonable substantiated. In this case you need to have instances where the writer puts forth a trail of work where a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that the label can stick, and such criticism should always be done with care and in the spirit of unity - not chest pumping. That said, when we start putting up pictures of boars heads being killed and provactive t-shirts with bullseyes behind the blogger that you have intially laid the charge against, that strikes me as very reminicient of the immature locker room behavior of years past. At some point, we have to start asking what is driving these guys to not only make outlandish indefensible claims, but then on top of it all, why they continue to ratchet up the language and visuals to that end when their own readers begin to call them on their own error.

    Brad

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  4. Broken Messenger says:

    "It is quite another to make such claims without being able to back them up."

    And, as we all know, Frank's "Another Turkey Recipe" post made no attempt to back up Frank's claims with citations ;-)

    That's OK, Brad. Just continue to say that you "welcome the criticism as long as it can be reasonably substantiated," and then look the other way when a critic substantiates his claims ;-)

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  5. Brad,

    I have a couple of problems with this.

    First, when the iMonk says he’s been quoted out of context, only to remove his material from the public domain, it reminds me of folks who put subpoenaed documents through the shredder to eliminate incriminating evidence.

    Second, when the iMonk resorts to saying that the voice he assumes in his confessional pieces is a literary device, this strikes me as a duplicitous ex post facto disclaimer.

    It is not at all the same thing as charging Frank with having quoted him out of context. Rather, he’s shifting ground to the claim that Frank has misunderstood the genre of the essays in question.

    And the iMonk wouldn’t resort to this sudden rule change unless he felt cornered. In both cases, his behavior is evasive.

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