Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Michael and me

I'm sorry to say that today I have had to remove a long-time Christian friend from my Facebook friends.
I was informed today that one of my Christian friends on Facebook (Steve Hays) has offered criticisms in his public blog of recent comments I have made on Facebook concerning yoga and Christianity.
So I have two main issues here.
First, Steve has completely misrepresented my views in his blog post. Among other things, he titles his blog post “One with Krishna,” an obvious cheap shot at the tentative title of my book “One with Christ: Yoga and Christian Theism.” Steve clearly insinuates something about my theological viewpoints here and throughout his blog that are both unwarranted and false.
Second, apart from the unscholarly nature of offering a critical engagement of informal comments posted in Facebook “status updates” (which Steve has clearly not understood), he has quoted from these status updates (which are set to private) in his public blog, thereby violating my privacy. There are many reasons why my “status updates” are set to private. It is outrageous when people, especially Christians, show absolutely no respect for this.
I have known Steve for many years and I’m frankly outraged and hurt that he would pull what is in fact an intellectual sucker punch. He didn’t ask me for clarification on my views or book project (which again I say he does not understand), nor did he ask permission to quote this material in a public forum. I consider this behavior deplorable.
I have asked Steve to remove all quotations from his blog that have been taken from my Facebook. I believe he should also offer a public apology for his behavior. This is frankly absurd.

Several issues:

i) Last time I checked, Michael had nearly 1100 Facebook followers. That’s not very private. If you shared a secret with 1100 people, it wouldn’t stay secret very long. Your friends talk to their friends.

ii) Michael is clearly using Facebook as a de facto blog to publicize his views. That’s his prerogative, but it’s hardly whispering a confidence in the ear of a friend.  

iii) Here’s another thing: one of Michael’s recent targets was John MacArthur. Now MacArthur is a public figure with a huge, international following.

Suppose that out of Michael’s 1100 Facebook “friends,” only 10 of them are fans of MacArthur. Even so, does he imagine that when he attacks MacArthur on his Facebook wall, his attack will stay confined to the 10 fans of MacArthur who intersect with Michael’s Facebook “friends”?

Clearly that’s an unrealistic expectation of privacy. If you attack a very high profile figure on your Facebook wall, you can expect that to become common knowledge. By word-of-mouth, this will soon become known to the larger “MacArthur community.”

Just in general, Michael has been surfing the net, collecting various “outrages” from YouTube and other public sites, as fodder to assail “fundamentalists” whom he thinks poorly represent the Christian faith. But by so doing, he’s shining a spotlight on himself as well as his target.

Whatever you draw from the internet draws you back into the internet. If, say, you quote or link to something a well-known megachurch pastor or Christian celebrity said on the internet (i.e. something they said that’s posted on the internet), then you’re interjecting yourself into a public forum. That’s bound to spill over into the public domain.

So I’m puzzled by Michael’s inability to anticipate the easily foreseeable consequences of his own actions.

iv) What about the ethics of privacy? If Michael wants to have a serious discussion of that issue, then he needs to draw some rudimentary distinctions:

v) Some subject matter is inherently private. Even if it were to accidentally appear in the public domain, it would still be inherently private.

vi) Conversely, some subject matter is private in the purely technical sense that it appears in a technically quasi-private domain, even though the content is not inherently private.

vii) If we’re going to discussion the ethics of privacy, we must also discuss unethical privacy. For instance, patient confidentiality or the attorney/client privileged can sometimes be abused to conceal criminality.

Or take the following hypothetical: an employee has been falsely accused of malfeasance. He’s been framed.

Another coworker knows who framed him. The coworker has information which could exonerate his colleague. But he withholds that information from their supervisors.

He’s prepared to defend his colleague in private, by expressing moral support (“Just between you and me, I think it’s unfair”), but he won’t go to his supervisors with the exculpatory evidence. So his colleague is unjustly terminated. And finds it hard to get another job since he has a black mark on his record.

In that situation, where to the ethical obligations lie? The ethics of privacy has to transcend artificial, made-up rules.

viii) Historians and biographers routinely quote or publish private letters and diaries of famous men and women. I doubt the average reader gives that a second thought, even though this material was never intended for public consumption. What should we make of that practice?

ix) Moving along, Michael has been assailing conservative Christians far more harshly than anything I said in my post. So I’m puzzled by why he thinks his own statements should be shielded from much milder scruitiny on my part. 

If he’s going to publicly attack other Christians as ignorant, unscholarly, and so on, then doesn’t he think his own statements merit the same level of critical scrutiny? 

x) Michael also says I “completely misrepresented” his views, that my comments were “both unwarranted and false,” but he does nothing to disprove anything I suggested.

xi) Yes, my “One with Krishna” title was sarcastic, but a lot of what Michael has been saying lately sounds like a cross between Deepak Chopra and Frank Schaeffer.

xii) I’ll finish with an email I sent Michael back in June:

I’m also not clear on why you’re gunning for easy targets. It’s like trying to discredit paranormal research in general by attacking Dionne Warwick. 

In the past you’ve indicated that you disapprove of critics who attack the weakest version of an argument, or attack the worst representatives of a position. Obviously you’re more than a match for the average Baptist preacher or homeschooling mom or surfer dude. So what does that prove, exactly? If you fight somebody below your weight division, you can probably win. Caín Velásquez v. the high school bully. 

Guess who comes out on top. And the significance of that is...what? 

So I’m not clear on where you’re going with this. If your objection is to “Fundamentalist Christianity” as an intellectual position, then shouldn’t you redirect your fire at the most astute spokesmen for that position? 

I also don’t know what you have in mind by “Fundamentalist Christianity.” 


  1. WWW stands for World Wide Web. That means that anybody who has access to the WWW has a potential of seeing what is placed on the WWW.

    Jesus said, "What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Luke 12:3 NIV

    Maybe Al Gore didn't have this in mind when he invented the internet :-)

  2. I remind you in love to "be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another."

    If Michael thinks you have been discourteous to him, you owe it to him, as a Christian, to offer an apology.

    Never close the door on the possibility that you may have done something wrong.

    2 Thess 3:5

  3. MEL SAID:

    "If Michael thinks you have been discourteous to him, you owe it to him, as a Christian, to offer an apology."

    An apology is only "owed" in case a wrong was actually done.

    "Never close the door on the possibility that you may have done something wrong."

    Which applies to your own comment.

  4. What a crybaby hypocrite!

    Did Michael come to you privately to make sure he clearly understood your intent and position before he fired off his public response?

    In Him,

  5. Clearly Miachel Sudduth is upset that you have, as he sees it, misrepresented him. One would think that his top priority would be to correct that misrepresentation.

  6. I know one sure way to get to the bottom of this?

    To the gallows for both of you and let God sort it out!

    In the meantime, I, for one, am reviewing the clothing I am now wearing.

    These: 1Pe 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
    1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
    1Pe 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

    I use to pride myself that I had a firm grip on humility!

    Now I am not sure.

  7. Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

    (Proverbs 12:1 ESV)

  8. natamllc,

    My church gave me a "Humble" button for being so humble. They took it away when I started wearing it. And I was just so very proud of the button too. :´^(

    Oh, well....

    But now, I'm insisting they give me a "Contentment" button for not complaining.

  9. I have been reading triablogue for about four years now. I generally love Steve's posts and tend to think that, strictly speaking, he is right here. However, I do feel a bit uncomfortable that he is so quick to dig his heals in with issues such as this. Maybe I am wrong (and I am not suggesting a public apology is called for here), but I feel there is a lack of charity here.

  10. The violation of privacy and whines about your "unscholarly" behavior are just a ruse to deflect attention from the real issue which you outlined in your "One with Krisha" post. While the quotes from Michael were damning on their own, even without your comments, he has been on a syncretistic trajectory for a long time. What is amazing is how he has been able to fool so many otherwise critically thinking people for as long as he has.

    I just hope his next book, One with Christ: Yoga and Christian Theism, doesn't sell for $100 like his last one. Although, I suppose if it does he won't have to worry about his privacy, much less people reading it.

    1. Does that mean it will sell 3 copies instead if 7?

  11. Annoyed,

    I believe you nailed it.

    "Contentment" seems to me to be one of Sudduth's problems, besides the glaring hypocrisy of saying Steve was his long-time "Christian" friend.

    I believe Steve's reply above to what seems to be Mel's thrust that because "Michael" is bothered by Steve's treatment of him and his views makes him out to be rude and not courteous is on point.

    What's that ancient proverb:

    Pro 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
    Pro 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

    We have a masterful example of it in here between these two.

    Who treats their "long-time" Christian friend the way Sudduth has treated Steve?

    Christian friends are, at a minimum, under the Holy Spirit's tutelage, for instance, this:

    1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    I would say the only safe haven for contentment is there and clearly from where I sit Sudduth ain't there, yet?

    Thanks for your kindness and commenting on what I commented earlier in this thread.