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.
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.”