This blog is not the first to have an ongoing conversation about what it means to have a blog, whether it is public or private space, and what constitutes appropriate behavior herein, but the conversation around these issues last week was robust. More on that below, but first I’ll tell you what happened Friday.
With a minor amount of internet sleuthing, I discovered that Darius lives in the Twin Cities and is employed as an engineer. I sent him an email inviting him to lunch. He declined, and we exchanged several more emails. In one, he wrote that it was my prerogative to use his emails here on the blog. That was one of the several unsolicited statements that Darius made in the email exchange, so I don’t believe that I am betraying any confidences by writing about them here. While I will not quote them directly, I will summarize them.
I invited Darius to lunch or coffee to talk through our differences. My email was one line long. He wrote back a relatively lengthy response sorta declining, and returning the the point he’s made many, many times in the comments on this blog: viz., that I am a hypocrite for calling him names and then scolding him for calling me and others names.
I wrote back another short email explaining that I was not going to debate these matters in email any more than I was in the comment section on the blog, and I reiterated my offer to buy him lunch, stating that regardless of our theological differences, two brothers in Christ should be able to break bread together (as I have with Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and John and Abraham Piper).
He wrote back a definitive rejection of my offer, saying that he does not consider me a brother in Christ. And then he wrote another unsolicited statement: He will never comment on my blog again (with one caveat: he retains the right to comment on previous threads in which he is directly asked a question by another commenter). I repeat, I did not ask him to retire from commenting on my blog. I asked him to lunch and he unilaterally withdrew from the community that is this blog’s readership.
In my final email, I expressed regret that he wouldn’t even meet me for coffee, and I suggested that calling someone a “heretic” is far, far worse than calling someone an “ass.” He agreed, but retorted that his referring to me as a heretic is not name-calling but merely a statement-of-fact. And that’s where we left it.
The string of comments under the post “Darius” is fascinating — in fact, one college professor has emailed me to say that he’s going to make it required reading on the syllabus for a course on communication in the electronic age. If you take the time to read all the comments, you’ll see arguments for banning and keeping Darius far more persuasive than any I could conjure up here. Personally, I think the comments arguing for banning him are slightly more persuasive than those for keeping him, but I am, of course, not objective in this matter.More intriguing, however, is how Darius seems incapable of admitting to any weakness in his theological or rhetorical positions, regardless of some very smart and thoughtful comments to that effect. I realize that Darius accuses me of the very same kind of blindness, but the difference is that I regularly admit that my positions on theological and social issues may be wrong, whereas I have yet to see him (or Marusha) do the same. Which really brings us back to the origins of the emergent movement in which epistemic humility was possibly the founding principle.
I wrote that post, not because Darius was getting on my nerves — I actually always skipped over his comments because I find his reasoning not the least bit interesting or compelling — but because I’d received several emails from readers whom I respect asking me to ban him from commenting, or at least to put up a fence around him. These readers’ emails were unprecedented in my seven years of blogging, so I had to take them seriously.
If Darius had agreed to meet me for lunch, I imagine that we could have forged some kind of rapprochement. Had he refused to meet me but not offered to leave my blog, I would have suggested some parameters to his involvement and seen if he could, indeed, abide by them. But those points are now moot, since he voluntarily removed himself from the community that is this blog’s readership.
In closing, a couple thoughts. Several metaphors were suggested by readers as to the purpose of this blog. I tend to like best the “front porch” metaphor, in which this is my property, but it’s available as a public venue for conversation. Unlike many of my peers, I like to have open comments on my blog, even at the risk of attracting trolls. But it is my porch, and if your involvement is causing others to leave (which the several “Unsubscribe!” comments seemed to indicate), well then I’m going to have you escorted off the property. My front porch is not just for people with whom I agree, but it is for people who know how to behave.
And second, stop feeding the trolls. Marusha will not begin to see her own hermeneutical presuppositions, no matter how many times you tell her to look in the mirror. Ignore her comments if you can, and let’s see where to conversation goes…
Thanks for reading. Seriously.