Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tabloid apologetics

“For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Cor 12:20).

“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim 5:13).

We live in a tabloid culture. The gutter press. Yellow journalism run amok.

Since some Catholic epologists like Dave Armstrong were never all that ethical to begin with, it’s not surprising that they share the moral compass of a tabloid talk show host.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if some Protestant epologists are guilty of the same vice.)

Here we need to draw a simple, but morally significant, distinction. Suppose someone shares a rumor with me about another person. The rumor is potentially damaging to his (or her) reputation.

Now, suppose I know enough about the other person to find the rumor credible. I’m entitled to form a private opinion about the veracity of the rumor.

But I’m not entitled to pass the rumor along. I’m not entitled to publicize the rumor. Unless I have hard evidence that the rumor is true, I should keep my mouth shut.

There’s a name for this behavior: gossip. And it’s a sin.

To circulate a harmful rumor is gossip. The Bible condemns gossip.

Armstrong is just a gossipmonger. He tries to cloak his vice as something noble and virtuous, but underneath the sanctimonious costume he’s just a tawdry little gossip. He’s like a schoolgirl eagerly textmessaging her friends the latest salacious bit of tittle-tattle about another student in a whispering campaign of character assassination.

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