6 Helpful Hints for Blog Commenters So You Can Avoid Looking Criminally Insane

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, and most of the comments I get are engaging–whether pro or con–and it’s been great fun and I’ve learned much from many of you.

But over the past year, mainly since my book The Evolution of Adam came out, I’ve seen an increase in comments that leave me wondering whether having an internet connection should be as closely regulated as becoming a foster parent.

So, for this next year, as you comment on my posts, please try to keep the following helpful hints in mind.

1. I hesitate saying this because it takes all the fun out of it, but blog posts are editorials, i.e., opinion pieces, meant to provoke conversation and stimulate minds. My thinking and experience fuel these posts, of course, and I stick by them, but they are also works in progress, not final “here I stand” moments. That’s why I allow comments.

2. Blog titles capture the emotive thrust of blog posts; they are not literal distillations of blog content. For example, in a recent post, “The Bible is a Smelly, Gross, Pile of Rotting Garbage,”–and again, I am concerned that for some this even needs to be said–I do not mean that the Bible is actually smelly, etc.

Likewise, take the title of this post. I am not actually suggesting that some of my commenters are criminally insane.  In other words, don’t judge a post by its title. Read the post itself.

3. I value strong opinions, pro or con, but try not to do so with an air of impatient exasperation at how someone can be so stunningly stupid as to say this or that. Don’t assume that your point of view is the self-evidently unassailable starting point for further deliberation.

You’ll know if you’re headed in that direction when, for example, you start prooftexting (as if no one has seen these verses before), you present your denomination’s theology as an obvious reflection of pure Christianity and the mind of God, or when you presume to know the state of my soul, that I am a tool of Satan, or that I am certainly headed for hell.

4. Like most people, I have a good feel for when I am being baited into an argument and I hope enough sense to not take the bait. Such comments are normally passive-aggressive or overtly hostile. Sometimes it’s good to let things cool down a bit and think twice about posting what you composed in the heat of the moment. The Bible calls that wisdom.

5. On a related matter, comments that evince dysfunctional and disruptive methods of communication (i.e., are super rude) may help you release some pent up psychological pressure but insults never ever have a persuasive impact.

My posts or comments left by others are not the cause of your dysfunctional response. No one is “making” you react the way you do. That comes from inside of you and you need to deal with that some other way.

6. Don’t take yourself so seriously.  A little humor is a good thing, even when –especially when–we are discussing topics like God that have been occupying thoughtful and faithful people for centuries and millennia.

The sun does not rise or set on how you, me, or anyone else sees the world. We are all pilgrims, not gatekeepers.

  • Ron

    Peter, Having published blogs for about 7 years, I concur with most of your observations. I refrain from creating blog titles which might distract from the message even if they might entice a reader or two. Over the years I have learned to simply ignore more comments that do not engage the subject, rather simply attack me.

  • Mark Traphagen

    I am outraged – OUTRAGED DO YOU HEAR ME!!! – that this post contained six points when the Bible is crystal clear that 6 is the NUMBER OF THE BEAST while 7 is THE HOLY DIVINE NUMBER. I was able to locate three of your posts that each have 6 points AND WE ALL KNOW WHAT THREE SIXES MEAN DON’T WE HMMMM???

    Can it be that you are totally unaware that the Book of Holy Truth, the Standard of the Orthodox Fundamental First Church of Apostolic Truth, CLEARLY demonstrates the ABOVE POINTS??? Can you BE SO UNIFORMED.


    (Upon a second reading I realized this parody comment fails because I spelled everything correctly.)

    • Tim

      UNIFORMED? Your parady comment doesn’t fail after all.

  • http://jbyas.com J. Byas

    Mark – Do you not see the irony in your response? It would be wise for you to go back to your Bible and see that God’s words have little to do with eating vegetables & hope you grow in your faith as a result.
    -That commenter who has no parody/sarcasm detector & often leaves the thread in an awkward state

  • Jon Hughes

    I totally disagree, Pete. Stinking pile of old rubbish.

  • Peter

    You are a like a velvet hammer. All soft and fluffy on the outside, but inside you sure pack a punch.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    I was going to do the parody comment but apparently that’s covered. Good piece. I’m going to save it. I’m just getting into the blogging world and advice like this is fun to have on hand.

  • toddh

    In other words, don’t be an ass. Too bad it has to be said :(

  • http://www.p2ploanadvisor.com Keith Dager

    Good comments. BTW, we hope you’re not a tool of Satan when using a chain saw to cut a tree felled by the wind as you have written in the past. May be good to have some holy water at the stand-by…

  • Jon Hughes

    Jokes aside, all the best for the New Year. Keep the posts coming in 2013!

  • Randy

    Peter, I have been reading your blogs only for the past few weeks. I don’t agree with a majority of what you write, but I like reading them, because it helps me to know how to defend my faith more accurately. Keep the posts coming!

  • http://www.vanessawebb.net Vanesssa Webb

    Great piece……..very helpful…..and some of those replies are gold!

  • Jim

    Six points, six beers in a half case, coincidence? – I don’t think so! Don’t anyone come crying to me if some multi-headed life form pops out of an abyss and bites you on your posterior for reading this blog. I think Mark T is a prophet.

  • Bill

    If you choose to write deliberately provocative headlines as you did with the Bible as compost and the criminally insane remarks, I think you should be prepared for the the flamers and nutters and people who take you literally and/or too seriously. That comes with the territory. because of the search engines bots scan content, by using the term Bible in your headline, you may draw many more readers. Not all of these readers will be familiar with your attempts at humor or satire. Your closest friends and fellow like-minded thinkers might appreciate your style, but satire and humor are among the hardest voices to write in all of writing. Parody is complex, as well. I’ve been in the news and journalism education business 40 years. One of the things I tell aspiring writers is that they are now writing to be read. And they cannot control how people will respond to what they written. If the first thing someone reads is a headline that’s provocative and if it somehow offends then because they believe you’ve made fun of scripture, then chances are good that if they read what follows, their approach to your content will be skewed and they will miss your point. If you are flip flop between serious posts and satire or insider-only humor, then another problem is created for the readers outside your fan club. When you say that people should not judge your posts by the titles, then you are asking for special status among bloggers. With a little research, I think you would discover that a lot of people evaluate a piece strictly on the headline. This is true in television, it is true in newspapers, news magazines and news blogs. In point 4, you use the term “like most people,” you know when you’re being baited. based on years of reading responses to news articles, commentaries and now blogs, I would like to know how you know most people know when they being baited. I would argue from what I’ve seen that they don’t know that bad that the reading public is becoming less and less sophisticated as time goes on. Finally, since you can’t really control who reads you (well, you can by taking this private and make it invitation only), a number of people outside the Peter Enns Appreciation Society aren’t aren’t going to find the humor you do in the thoughtful discussions of God. Finally, while you see yourself as a pilgrim, people who seriously cite your books to support arguments have made you a gatekeeper, whether you like it or not. You may not have sought this title, but sometimes others confer titles on us and we have to adapt or adjust. May God smile on you and your work in the year ahead.

    • peteenns

      Not trying to make everyone happy, Bill.

    • Jon Hughes

      I’m trying to figure out if Bill’s taking himself too seriously or employing a brilliantly subtle satire ;-)

    • http://www.schooleyfiles.com Keith Schooley

      For someone who’s “been in the news and journalism education business [for] 40 years,” I have one word: paragraphs.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    I have no idea what you are talking about. All the commenters on my blog are inerrant.

  • E

    And this is exactly why I enjoy reading your posts Dr. Enns. Great recommendations for blog comments. On a side note, you’re one of the key persons responsible for challenging the way I think about God and His Word. So, thank you for exploring outside the “safe” box of Evangelical thought and sharing your musings with us. I love Jesus more now then I ever have before – and yet, I feel less confident about my understanding of the Bible then I ever have before. I still love reading and studying it, though! Thank God He gave us His Spirit. Surely I’d throw in the towel if it were not for Him.

  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    Can we violate 3 if we agree with you? Just kidding. I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog and discussion. I look forward to a new virtual year with you. Happy New Year.

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  • Dan

    I think those who are commenting on Pete’s choice of title for that post need to take another thing into consideration: In today’s world, a clever title is often the difference between going viral and not going viral. If it gains the post a lot more eyes, the fact that not everybody will get them is just going to have to be collateral damage.