Blogging, Social Media and Fight the Good Fight

fight of ideas cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Fight of Ideas” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

I think it is possible for people with profound disagreements to get along. We can be congenial while we argue. We can even be friends while we fight. Like after a good mixed martial arts match, we can hug and pat each other on the butt and say “Good fight!”.

I’m observing something that is happening online, especially in blogs and social media like Twitter and Facebook. It seems that there are two majority opinions about disagreeing with others that ends up dismissive in their reactions.

  1. You’re stupid: If you disagree with another person in another camp with an opposing view, then you’re wrong and obviously stupid. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I encountered this reaction from my post, John MacArthur Sends 5,000,000,000 Charismatics to Hell. Because I’m just a small fish who took on a big one and because I didn’t quote scripture or use theological jargon and because I threw a cartoon into the mix, I was dismissed as someone not to be taken seriously. You can read the over 300 comments just on my blog post to see what I mean. I’m not asking to be taken seriously. What I’m addressing is the tendency to draw lines and dismiss those across them as unqualified and stupid. It’s hard to love your enemies.
  2. You’re mean: If you disagree with or challenge someone who is roughly in the same camp as you, then you’re considered competitive and mean. It’s one thing to disagree with an enemy. But with a friend? I was interested to watch Jay Bakker’s video, No One Wins in the Hierarchy of Suffering where he expresses his weariness with the competition and is tempted to remove himself. The same with Tony Jones’ post, Various Thoughts and A Request from an Enneagram 8, where he wonders whether or not to blog about controversial topics or to focus on serious issues because of the backlash he’s getting. Some call it “infighting”. It’s hard to be corrected by friends.

To me it’s fascinating because I love a good fight. With friend or foe. But it’s got to be a good one. Not a bad one. I disagree with friends. I disagree with enemies. Lisa and I are so in love and we have great fights. I can’t see having one without the other. So here’s my list of things to remember when you engage in a discussion:

  1. We’re on the same team: This is what some don’t realize and what others forget. I believe as a Canadian I have certain rights and privileges in Canada. A Chinese person living in Canada waiting for citizenship doesn’t yet have these same rights and privileges. A Chinese person vacationing in Canada has even less. A Chinese person living in China less still. MacArthur acts as though he has all the rights and privileges since he’s the perfect citizen in his perfect country, while Charismatics don’t because they are not citizens of the country he created and rules. There is now neither Jew nor Greek, which means there are no longer any borders. God without borders! We are all citizens of the same country. We are on the same team. My default philosophical position is that we are all one, united, and that this is a reality which is up to us to make manifest and where theological compatibility is not a prerequisite. Perhaps we possess profoundly differing and even opposing views, but we’re on the same team. Like nakedpastor, when players like Stephanie Drury take on anyone, there is the risk of feelings getting hurt. But there is also the risk of taking it to improve the quality of community. Even if I disagree with a friend, this doesn’t mean that I’m benching this person or excluding them from the game. It just means we are disagreeing about something that needs discussion if we want to enrich our fellowship and reach our common goal of truth and the manifestation of unity.
  2. Anybody can play: Social media has leveled the playing field. I would never have been able to challenge MacArthur’s ideas some years ago the way I did last week. And people from all over the world could challenge my challenge. Here’s the thing: when we use social media to propagate our ideas, we have to expect responses on the same platform. If I use my blog to argue with MacArthur, then people can use their blogs to argue with me. It’s frustrating for some that anybody can enter into the fray, but that’s the way it is now. Some people are frustrated by the rapidly increasing number of voices crowding in. But I love it. It’s democracy at work. It’s equality expressed. This is why I feel I have the right and responsibility to use my online presence to react to MacArthur’s online presence, and why I believe people who react to my online presence have the right to do it online. This is the playing field. Social media got my little voice out there, so I’m going to be the last person to complain about its leveling power.
  3. Embrace creative chaos: I believe good fighting can be very creative. Some of the best advances in Lisa’s and my relationship have been because of good fights. Jim Collins in Good to Great writes about the chaotic staff meetings of great companies where there was yelling and complete mayhem. But once an agreement was made there was peace, solidarity and teamwork. Collins’ concludes that great companies are made up of great relationships that necessitate great and often heated discussions. I know from experience that this is true. Just because Lisa says to me, “Hey! That was sexist!” Or I tell a friend, “You kind of sounded racist when you said that!” Or if I write a comment to another progressive blogger, “You seem to under-appreciate the level of pain of the spiritually abused. You expect them to get over it and not complain. That’s not fair!”, that doesn’t mean I think the guy’s an idiot, that I’m better than he is, and that he should be removed from the game. I was raised a misogynist and through education and being married to a strong woman and having strong and vocal female friends, I’m learning how to not be one. This is called participatory progress. I want to improve. So bring it on!
  4. Learn as you go: I haven’t arrived yet. I’m in process. One of the things blogging taught me was that I had to let go of my fantasy that I was a static being just divulging facts about my glorious self. I had to embrace vulnerability and transparency and let people watch me progress, as messy and confusing as it is. People watch me change in public. I’ve learned a lot from my readers. I have been attacked, and justifiably so. I’ve had to change my thinking. Iron sharpens iron. I know when I press “post” that I’m opening myself up to criticism. I used to fear it. I still do sometimes. I got one response yesterday to my MacArthur post and I was terrified to open it. But I took a deep breath and opened. It helped me correct something about my blog that was inaccurate, misleading and therefore unfair. Sure, it hurt. But I’m a better man for it and nakedpastor will be a better blog because of it. It’s like when Lisa says we need to talk. I hate those moments. It’s like surgery without anesthetic. But I’m always glad I had it done.
  5. It’s just a game: I mean, it’s a serious game. Some would say life and death. Because we’re after what is true. Like war. May the best side win. But please: let’s enjoy this! What I mean is nobody needs to die. Nobody’s going to Hell over this (sorry to disappoint you Mr. MacArthur). Even though the arguments that take place between Lisa and me are very serious, it’s not the end of the world. Even if she’s pressing me to face my own male privileged attitudes and I want to go bury myself in a hole because I’ve been such an idiot, this doesn’t mean I’m a monster who deserves to be tortured, executed and burned. This is all taking place in the context of a loving, mutually respectful relationship. I strongly disagree with MacArthur, but I don’t wish him ill. I strongly disagree with fellow-progressives, but I don’t wish them to become disheartened. Let’s not condemn each other, but please let’s correct each other! Even though I received some pretty good blows from supporters of MacArthur, I generally enjoyed the fight. Even though some fellow progressives are wondering if they want to keep playing, I wish they would continue because they help make the fight interesting. Keep your dukes up! This is too important to stop playing now. Like Barth suggested, theology is a beautiful field where theologians should play with joy. Let’s go the full 12 rounds!

Those are my five simple suggestions. Get some rest. See you on the field!

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  • Al Cruise

    What I think what is very telling is all the comments received on your MacArthur post and so few on your default Christianity post. The connection between the two posts is stark.

  • Gary

    David I like your 5 points very much. Of course most of the unseemly discussion revolves around those who very much reject your point 5 and believe that correct belief is the only thing that can save a person from eternal conscious torment. So long as they maintain that view…we will never be able fully experience the truth in your blog post.

  • David,
    I personally agree with each of your 5 points. Although, like Gary said, the challenge is interacting with people that reject some or even all of those points.

    – We are on the same team: Some think you are on either God’s team or Satan’s.
    – Anyone can play. Some think only those educated in scripture should be able to play.
    – Embrace creative chaos: Some think creative chaos is the devil’s playground
    – Learn as you go: some think all you need to know is in the bible. Once you learn the bible, there nothing left to learn except the devil’s agenda.
    – Its just a game: Some think is it all about eternal heaven or hell…

    I, though, will try to honor each of these points.

  • True! Some play with AirSoft and some play with real bullets.

  • Guest

    David as someone just reentering the blogosphere this was very timely post. In light of the responses you recieved the past couple days and as reminder to me as I have just recently reentered the blogosphere. I too greatl enjoy a good fight wherein when all is said and done it actually strenthens unity regardless whether we come to agreement.

  • Tom Wilson

    This was very timely
    post. In light of the responses you recieved the past couple days and as
    reminder to me as I have just recently reentered the blogosphere. I too
    greatl enjoy a good fight wherein when all is said and done it actually
    strenthens unity regardless whether we come to agreement.

  • Gary

    LOL – Indeed!

  • I have always found the “You are mean” accusation so odd. There’s this assumption that readers make whereby if you disagree publicly with someone, or even just use their post as a starting point for one of your own, you’ve done something egregious. People say, “Stop being mean!” They say, “Did you privately discuss your disagreement with so-and-so before posting this?” Um….no?

    The truth is that if someone chooses to engage with one of my posts publicly, that’s GOOD for me as a blogger! That brings me more traffic! And if I didn’t want people to engage with me publicly, then I shouldn’t write for public consumption. Of course, sometimes people can be truly mean when they respond to something another person has written. I’ve had people call me awful names publicly and one prominent Christian blogger wrote a post in which he fantasized about slamming the heads of those who disagree with him into lockers. Given that I had just days ago written a post disagreeing with him, I took this a little bit personally. But even then, while I’d prefer not to be called names and threatened with violence, I have also made a choice to take my thoughts public, which requires growing a thick skin.

  • Right on Ellen. I know all about thick skin. Thanks!

  • cool tom. agreed!

  • Gregory Lease

    David, This reminds me so much of the Teddy Roosevelt quote:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Those who venture onto the playing field are worthy of honor by the simple fact that they are there. Let them stand boldly and proudly, revealing who they are and taking their best shot. Otherwise, the dialog dies and we all lose.

  • Interesting thoughts as usual. Am I becoming progressive or what? I thought I was conservative LOL.

  • jeux999

    hypocritical post. as a christian pastor, you’re entire career dynamic is based off of ‘us vs. them’ or ‘sinners vs. saints’ or ‘jesus vs. da devil.’ pitting people against others is the only reason you are known, the only reason you have this blog. that you’d turn around and claim that there’s enough room for everyone (so long as they’re christian) is laughable.

  • Gary

    Perhaps you should do a little research prior to making such a baseless attack? It might help you not feel so foolish once you discover your error.

  • Someone said on an SCCL thread the other day (after a particularly uncomfortable discussion in which several people’s feelings were rightly hurt), “I’m a sucker for conversation. Agreement doesn’t change things, conversation does. Thank you all for having the courage to have the conversation with me. I know I didn’t start off on the right foot.”.

    I liked your two ‘conversation killers’, and I think they’re right on. Particularly difficult for me is being labeled as ‘mean’, when I’m just trying to offer a differing opinion. There are some I have come across in my online interactions who retreat behind an impenetrable wall when I attempt to engage in even the most gentle way – if I’m saying something that ‘threatens’ their position, I become the enemy and lose my place at the table.

  • jeux999, assuming you did not just intend to comment once and never come back, David is an advocate for all spiritual paths. He unabashedly comes out of the Christian tradition but honors other religions as well and also talks of his “inner atheist”. It is this pluralism that gets him in trouble with the more conservative Christians. Your initial characterization of him being hypocritical is quite unfounded.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Sometimes skim reading does not work well…. I read the top, then the bottom of the article…
    At the top… gosh… I don’t like a good fight.. I wince watching American crash-ball … ummm… no, it’s called … football.

    I don’t like when sweaty mixed martial artists hug each other on TV… they need showers….
    but… that part about ‘pat each other on the butt’…. hmmmmmm… ok… maybe I’ll think more about this post….
    Then, I jump to the end and read ‘Let’s go 12 rounds!’….
    12 rounds of butt patting?…. After I stopped laughing, I read the article line by line….
    Well written by the way.
    Rofl…. life is full of misunderstandings… sometimes pays to read line by line… ya know?
    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Cecilia Davidson

    5 billion?

  • That must have been a typo but technically, if you add in all the non-Christians that MacArthur believes are going to hell, the number does come close to 5 billion.

  • Cecilia Davidson


  • Brigitte

    I don’t think Roosevelt was talking about a virtual playing-field. In fact, this whole quote speaks against bloggers and armchair critics and theologians.

  • Brigitte

    As well, as armchair “voters-downers”, who can’t even come up with an argument.

  • jeux999

    well until you point out his articles promoting santeria or wicca, i’ll assume you’re just trolling.

  • jeux999

    “Diploma in Ministry” = i have a diploma in how right my religious views are compared to yours. don’t dare challenge me.

  • Norm Englund
  • jeux999

    you only found what you wanted, not what i asked: “promoting” wicca is different that “discussing” wicca. and silver ravenwolf? that is equivalent to teaching someone about christianity via pat robertson. to be honest you showing me that just convinced me of my point.

  • Gary

    Oh this is almost too funny to be true. You come in here and make an attack based upon a complete ignorance of the facts on your part, and now add an air of pomposity to boot. That is one hell of a huge fucking chip you got on your shoulder there Mr. “Diploma in Ministry”. What do you want to do next…pull our cocks out and see whose is the biggest? And you seriously did not make such a juvenile comment as “don’t dare challenge me”? Wow…what a fucking joke you are!!!


  • jeux999

    it was in reference to the idea of a credential towards ministry ~ i don’t have a diploma in ministry, mr. hayward does. i thought it was clear that i wasn’t tell you what to do. however, seeing your response, it’s certainly clear who the joke in this discussion really is. and by the way, you never rebutted my original statement: this religious worldview promotes a ‘vs.’ mentality that you, apparently, have gotten wrapped up in. maybe one day you’ll grow up to see the bigger picture, but i don’t count on it happening any time soon. in the meanwhile, this penis game you suggested sounds fun!

  • Gary

    You thought it was clear? Well that is interesting since you exercised so much care in your attack of “mr. hayward” that it was based upon completely false assumptions. You are a joke because you came in on an attack without even bothering to take the time to learn anything about the one you were attacking. Yes, that does make you a joke.

  • This is a great article David, i totally agree it is a game a serious one definitely.But a important point i would like to highlight normally discussions get very egotistical be it with friends or foe, so it should go in the right direction!