Where Are the Women?

Where Are the Women? November 28, 2012
A representative sample of this blog’s commenters.

I’ve noticed something over the past few days. Almost no women are commenting on this blog.

While it’s impossible to know for sure (because commenters can use whatever name or initials they like), by my count over the last week, only one out of sixteen comments comes from a woman.

That depresses me. So do the insights into those who’ve liked my Facebook page:

So I wonder if you can tell me, why is this blog’s readership so heavily male? Is it the subject matter? Is it the debates in the comment section? Is it my style of writing?

Women readers, I’m particularly interested in your thoughts.

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  • I can only speak for me, but a few things contribute to my lack of commenting in various places.

    1. Time. It makes me a bad blogger, but I am not able to get around to read many blogs, let alone comment on them. I have a lot to accomplish in a day, and this is low on the priority list. This is the biggest constraint on me actually leaving a comment.

    2. Tone. The way a blogger poses something can open the door to discussion or close it. I only comment if the door seems open and I have something to contribute (besides “I totally agree!” or “Beautiful post”). Tony, you know you write inflammatory posts. You do it for page views and to rile people up, but it also has the (apparently unintended) effect of shutting the door to discussion. When someone’s tone is combative or authoritative or certain, they don’t convey interest in other perspectives. It’s certainly appropriate to take this sort of tone sometimes, but not all the time.

    3. Attacks. I’m weary of all the negativity, especially in the Christian/faith blogosphere. I’ve tuned out of most of it. I don’t want to read another post about what a jack-ass Mark Driscoll is or how women are being excluded from something faith-related or what scandalous things have come out of fundamentalism lately. It’s depressing and discouraging and I hate how I feel when I lose faith in humanity. It seems like so much of blogging has become “Hey, look at this dirt or appalling statement so-and-so made, I’m going to post a critique” and “Hey, look at this arrogant critique so-and-so wrote about my favorite person, I’m going to post a critique of their critique.” BLECH.

    I just want to go about what God has for me to do. If someone doesn’t like it, they can go scratch. I’m not going to get into a blog war over it.

    • Yes. That^

    • This. Well said, Joy.

    • Mickey

      Thank you Joy.

    • Joy,

      I totally get 1). And I understand 3), although I don’t write as many of those posts as I used to. But regarding 2), I have more comments per post now than I’ve ever had, and by a large margin. So more people are writing more comments. But they are disproportionately by men.

      • “I have more comments per post now than I’ve ever had, and by a large margin. So more people are writing more comments.”

        But you’re just attracting more men to read and respond because a good tussle is like catnip for us, and we care less about tone than women do. However, your tone is often authoritative, combative and the way you write is often a conversation killer for those who disagree with you. You’re kind of bad listener too, Tony.

        • “A bit authoritative/combative” was going to be the gist of my comment, but I see others have said it better.

          I read most of the posts here (and this is one of the few blogs I’m not cutting out to make room for Advent), but I don’t always have the energy to engage in the comments, which are usually deep and often gritty. Not a bad thing, but difficult with toddlers in the house.

          Also, the “kind of a bad listener” comment from Brad made me laugh out loud. It’s a little bit true! You even called me by the wrong name in your response to my Questions That Haunt submission. We know you’re busy thinking and writing, but it’s okay to slow down sometimes!

          • Sean

            Someone called you the wrong name, Lori? Tell me who and where and I’ll get ’em!

      • #1 truly is the biggest issue for me. I just don’t have time.

        Your response to #2 is really interesting. Someone else commented that perhaps a large percentage of your commenters are academics or pastors, and thus have more dedicated time for reading, commenting, and engaging in theology.

        I too reject the argument that women aren’t interested in theology. I read as much as I can, but tone does determine whether and how much I engage. I think your way of putting things attracts other people with that kind of tone. If the comments are already ugly, I won’t wade in. I deal with enough shit every day as a mother of smallish children without voluntarily subjecting myself to more! I don’t want to argue the same things over and over. I’d much rather have a conversation in person, especially when things are touchy and prone to being misunderstood.

        All that said, I know you, and I know that much of how you come off is just that — how you come off. Which brings me back to the reality that I just don’t have time to comment.

        • Ted Seeber

          There is a huge difference, at least to men, between gritty theology and “rah rah Jesus makes me feel good” fluff. Tony’s more on the later, and I still think that turns women off almost as much as TPS reports.

          • yvonne

            Oh please.

          • Marie

            Sexism at its finest.

          • Kristin Rawls

            WHAT. How did I miss Ted Seeber’s choice comment here? LOL. Anyway, yeah. Fail. I mostly get criticized by Christian men for not being more “fluffy” or what they perceive as conventionally feminism. I’m assertive and academic and theory minded. I participate in the same way they do. This is almost always interpreted as inappropriate. Bitchy. Funny how that works.

      • “I have more comments per post now than I’ve ever had, and by a large margin. So more people are writing more comments. But they are disproportionately by men.”

        Well, there ya go. Your blog is gaining notice by the exact audience your tone and style are appealing to. Unfortunately that tone and style is not one that appeals enough to a majority of women would-be commenters. So I guess it’s either tone down your inflammatory posts and find a less combative style or deal with the fact that a majority of women just aren’t interested in trying to engage here.

      • There’s a way of crafting a discussion starter blog post that doesn’t sound combative, yet is enough to illicit responses. When a blogger comes across as authoritative, then why bother commenting if he’s sure of his thoughts already? Do we really want readers to give a hearty “I agree” all the time? Having all ‘yes men’ cheering you on doesn’t mean you’ve lead people to an open discussions. There needs to be room to disagree.

        If you’d like female responses, ask questions that are close to their hearts. Sometimes the best way to do that is to go read what female bloggers are saying about theology. Comment on their blogs then link theirs to one of your own. Open the gateway for women to come through.

        • Kristin Rawls

          See. No. This presupposes some kind of unified, universal category of woman in which women have the same concerns and the same questions are “closest to our hearts.”

    • Frank


      • Did you say something?

        • Cathy

          That was a very ironic and funny comment, Tony. Nice.

        • eric

          See, man? That’s your problem right there.

          • Eric, you’re calling it a problem, but a woman has given it a thumbs-up. At the very least, that’s interesting.

    • As a blogger who is a man…I say “Hear, Hear…Amen!” Joy has hit the proverbial nail upon the head. Also, maybe one reason that so many men have the time to respond to blogs is because women are too busy raising the children and working a second job (Oh yes, Motherhood and Parenting ARE a full time job)…

      • Craig

        And fixing their hair; don’t forget that.

      • Wait, why aren’t the men equally busy, raising the children and working a second job?

        i.e., If they’re both employed outside the home… and they’ve both got custody of the kids who live under its roof… then why aren’t they both the same kinda busy?

    • Wow, what a wonderfully thoughtful response. I could not have said it better myself sister.

    • Many men don’t realize that women don’t really get free time. We work all day and through the evening. Many men get home from work then watch hours of television or delve into blogs and social media. Or they’re full time pastors who get paid to dig into theological debates and study. Many of them don’t come home from work and get started on laundry, cooking dinner, bathing kids, helping with homework etc etc. Time is a huge issue for women. And we don’t get paid a salary for our bible study time.

      • Come on, Lisa. You’re taking gender essentialism in the other direction. Time reflects priorities for men and women equally.

        • Time reflects priorities equally? Only when both parties have equal space to prioritize.

          Laundry, dinner, bathing, homework – these take up a lot of time outside the day-job, and in most cases, they’re done by women. Why? Because if they didn’t, it wouldn’t get done, and they’re not willing to live with that answer.

          So yes, time IS a huge issue for women. And yeah, both women and men do prioritize their time. That doesn’t mean both men and women are dealing with the same ratio of free time to obligation time, though.

  • Speaking as a woman, and even more as someone who has left evangelicalism, I just am weary of the discussion. I don’t know what I am now: agnostic? atheistic? I am not really sure in fact why I keep your blog in my reader (no offense), but I find that I don’t have much to say about Christian topics anymore other than American Christianity makes me sad.
    As for Facebook, blech. Too much in my feed already. I manage a business profile for a local restaurant, and FB’s analytics drive me nuts. I REALLY have to love a page to add it at this point. Chances are, it won’t show up in my feed anyway.
    Sorry about the tone of my comment-it’s not you, it’s me. 😉

    • Michael Teston

      Weary speaks absolute volumes. I don’t follow many people but I have begun to wonder with just the few I follow if the “noise” around FB and Twitter will not eventually just merge into just that, a noise that will do more to indict us than assist us, a noisy kind of silence. nuff said.

      • It’s the old Marshall McCluhan prophecy about how the original function of a new tech will eventually have the opposite effect.

        • Sean

          Is that the guy in A Clockwork Orange? Or the one in the Doobie Brothers? I forget.

          Anyway, they’re both really talented. And apparently really smart.

  • Carla

    I bet that if you looked into what percentage of your commenters are in seminary or some sort of church leadership role, you might find some parallels. For me, I comment when you talk about something that hits at what’s going on in my life, but I rarely engage on posts that head into the deep weeds of theology. Like Joy, for me it’s an issue of time and mental energy. I’m not wrestling with these deep issues on a daily basis, so to engage them in a blog comment thread involves tuning in to a part of my brain that’s in “sleep mode” if you will. For your readers who are already engaging these ideas in their roles as pastors or writers or leaders or students, it’s a natural step to jump into the fray over here.

    • Kevin Womack

      I think Carla’s on to something when she mentions the percentage of commenters who are in seminary or church leadership. What you present on your blog is deep enough, Tony (which is great!), that I would imagine your audience is predominantly people in these categories. And, sadly, the percentage of women in each of those categories is much lower than it could/should be.

      • I don’t know what seminary you’re thinking of. Mine, Phillips Theological Seminary, is at least 50/50 if not a slight balance towards women.
        Ok, so I may be at the exception rather than the rule, but I don’t think this is the issue. Listen to those talking of tone. Just because you say all are welcome doesn’t mean all feel welcome. That is a lesson all churches are learning.

        • I totally agree, Travis. Welcome is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Also, I think many of us are wearing so many hats during the day that even when we get time to read, we don’t have time to comment.
    It would also be interesting to know how many of the folks who comment are full time pastors (mostly men) who have time while working to have such discussions. I can only speak for myself, but my husband and I (and our whole church staff (novitaschurch.com) are bi-vocational (I use that term loosely b/c our church has no payroll by design) and don’t generally have the extra time in our schedule to do a lot of blog commenting. I do however read your blog regularly and am glad I had a free second to jot you some feedback.

  • I think a lot of us are tired of having to deal with catty arguments in real life, so we don’t want to get into debates on here–not that these are catty (though sometimes they are), but that arguing is exhausting and we want a refuge. I also think many women, suffering under a patriarchal social construct, decide to take a more passive route to things they disagree with–women who fight and argue are “bitchy,” but men who do it are just defending themselves, like a “good man” should. It’s wrong, but it seems likely. And the reason we would be likely not to comment on things we agree with, like Joy said, is that we only want to contribute something of value. Also, adding to what Joy said, we (as women) are so often looked to as peacemakers and we don’t want to have to moderate where we don’t have to.

  • I’m uncomfortable with how this question is posed. It comes across to me as some what defensive – “women, why aren’t you talking?” and refusing to accept that, at a baseline, your audience skews male. You seem to disbelieve that this could happen, and your questions here don’t necessarily indicate a desire to change but rather to find out why men read you. Instead, I think what you needed to do here is show some willingness to change – a big reason why, when I do get around to reading you, I don’t comment is your abrasive unwillingness to consider another perspective. Your questions here exemplify that – “Why is this happening?” rather than “What can I do to make this not happen?”

    The latter actually asks for contributions and points toward a willingness to possibly change things to be more inclusive. The former does not give me any assurance that you’ll actually do anything with the answers provided.

    • Thanks for saying what I didn’t have the courage to say. I’d agree with that, too–you don’t really seem to value the opinions of those who disagree with you, and as women, especially in the theological realm, we don’t often feel like our voices are heard or valued. If you made a conscious effort to engage with your readers/commenters after you hit “publish,” especially your female commenters, and seemed willing to dialogue with us instead of dismissing us, you might create a more female-friendly (and reader-friendly in general) environment.

    • Well said, Dianna.

    • I did not mean it to sound defensive. On the contrary. It makes me sad, or at least disappointed. I accept it as a fact and I’m not necessarily surprised. But I’m asking “Why?” or “How?” because I really want to know.

      I think it would be patronizing of me to start writing posts that would be more interesting to female readers, so I won’t do that. And it would be untrue to my voice as a writer to change in order to appeal to one group of people or another. However, if there’s something about the way that I pose problems, ask questions, etc., that I can change, then I want to know.

      • Again, start interacting with your readers more. And perhaps adopt a less dismissive tone. That doesn’t mean changing your voice, it just means allowing others’ opinions to have an impact on you.

        • Denika, I don’t want you to miss the fact that he just did that — on all counts.

      • Your interactions with people and the approach you take reminds me of abusive Christian men from my past. I get the strong sense that you haven’t grieved your own story. I think that if you are able to engage your humanity and failings and grieve your pain and shame from your story then you will be softened and sweetened.

        • Nicki Waters

          Wow. I think we have our answer right here. You definitely come across as the kind of person I’ve learned to avoid. Life is too short to interact with assholes all the time.

          • Could you reference what and/or whom you are referring to?

        • I need to make sure you know that I don’t consider you abusive, as you said above. I said that you remind me of abusive Christian men from my past. Those are two different things, though I can see how that is difficult information for you to receive. But I am not calling you abusive. The fact that your posture reminds me of past abusers is my issue and I can choose who I interact with, which is why I would like to meet you someday if you like. But I thought it could be helpful information for you as to why women don’t tend to engage you here at your blog. Many women in evangelicalism are survivors of specific spiritual abuse (and other forms of course), and your tone likely triggers that for some women.

          The fact that you just said “if you think that’s me being defensive, so be it. But maybe you’re being offensive” is the most defensive response possible. You may not have any idea how to interact with people in a way that is anything but defensive. An example of what it looks like to be non-defensive is to have a posture of “this is really helpful information. I had no idea I came off that way. Thank you for giving me this perspective that I would otherwise have no way of knowing.” What we’re giving you here is a giant gift, a gift of honest answers. You did a very brave thing when you asked for input as to why women don’t tend to comment here very much and it will be incredibly wonderful for you, your relationships and your ministry if you can take this feedback to heart. The most amazing thing that ever happened for me was being in group therapy where we told each other how we perceived each other. It was an incredibly painful and enlightening process. It’s just painful to hear how you come off when people view you as gruff, because that gruffness masks so much pain and fear (I know because it did and does for me). But as you say, since you are a human being, I would love so much for you to interact with us with curiosity and openness. I have a feeling that we come from extremely similar backgrounds and have similar pain. The pain has been a gift through which I can communicate with people now (I started my blog after beginning to process my pain) which is why I think that accessing that more could help your rapport with all you readers, not just the women.

          I know this is probably a lot of information to take in and I have an idea that most people do not speak to you this directly, but I would love to see the side of you that people speak well of!

          • I’ve deleted my comment. I did so before I even read your response.

            How is, “You’re not an abuser, you just remind me of one,” different from, “You’re not Hitler, you just remind me of Hitler”?

            I don’t know if we had similar upbringing. I was not raised in evangelicalism, but in a very religiously tolerant family and church. I have suffered relational abuse, but not religious abuse.

            Yes, I am listening. And yes, reading these comments has been more difficult than I expected.

            • Ugh. Yeah, I know that yucky feeling of getting difficult feedback. Oh okay, maybe we didn’t have a very similar upbringing, as I’m a preacher’s kid and all that.

            • Karla

              “How is, ‘You’re not an abuser, you just remind me of one,” different from, “You’re not Hitler, you just remind me of Hitler”?”

              That’s a really cheap shot. What Stephanie said was far more nuanced than that, and bringing Hitler into the comparison is even more below the belt.

              • Karla, remember that the next time someone tells you that you remind them of an abuser. For a man in today’s society, that is akin to being compared to Hitler. There is no lower blow.

                • I hope it helps clarify to say it wasn’t intended as a low blow, it was intended as information as to why women don’t engage here often. It is a big reason I don’t engage here. Where you asked “How is, ‘You’re not an abuser, you just remind me of one,” different from, “You’re not Hitler, you just remind me of Hitler”?”, see it as someone saying”As a surivor of the Holocaust your Hitler mustache makes me not want to be around you although I realize you are not THE Hitler.” This is not to diminish the way that it landed with you because that is valid, but I do hope you will receive it as an answer to your question and can sit with it and see if there is any validity to it for you.

                • tony, a woman is telling you that this space doesn’t feel welcoming or safe and that something about the authoritarian and combative way you sometimes engage is off-putting and uncomfortable. stephanie admits that her triggers are her own and says specifically that she neither calls you an abuser nor accuses you of abusive behavior. she is not engaging in low blows–you posed a question about why women don’t comment, stephanie shared personal and painful reasons why it may be difficult for her to engage here, and you took it as a personal affront. a lower blow than admitting that someone’s tone/discourse reminds someone else of her abuser would include, say, actually abusing another human being.

                  this wordplay reminds me of conversations that keep going around about bigotry and racism–the hurt of being called a bigot/racist (or hearing that something about your online persona reminds her of her abuser), while painful, is not equal to the lasting damage inflicted by bigotry/racism (or sexual/physical/emotional/verbal/spiritual abuse).

                  if you want women to engage, this needs to be perceived as a safe space. recognizing suffering and power imbalances and cultivating sensitivity to folks who have experienced abuse is one place to begin.

            • It surprises me it took this long to have Godwin’s Law manifest itself.

              • B-Lar

                It is inevitable. All you need is time.

            • Frank

              Tony not sure if there was something in the water I drank today or what but as difficult as hearing some of these comments here are for you, I want you to know that a lot pf people respect you including me. I strongly disagree with a lot of what you say, you are snarky about it and all the other things that people have mentioned but you do open up and allow the conversation. You even let someone like me, who also should pay attention to some of these comments, stay and be heard. I have been banned on several blogs but not here because I truly believe you want honest, open, authentic conversation and you care deeply about what you write.

              I know I am the last person for you to expect or accept encouragement from but there it is. Keep on being Tony Jones but maybe an improved Tony Jones is it the future. I will work on myself too!

              • Thanks, Frank.

                XOXO squared

                • Frank

                  I’m still gonna give you crap! 🙂

                • Kristin Rawls

                  Was the purpose of your post to fish for compliments, or were you really looking for constructive criticism?

                  • Craig

                    Motives are complicated. Often there’s not just one. Rarer still is having one motive purely. (You’ve sparred with Tony in the past; what all moved you to question Tony’s motives at this point–when he’s really getting jumped on? You don’t need to answer.)

              • kellyecl

                So Frank… let’s pretend that Tony had asked a different question, like, “Why don’t conservatives like my blog?” And let’s speculate he got the same type of response from a conservative crowd, of mostly men, that he is getting today. Would have you come to his defense like this? Or would have you been cheering them on? Have you ever come to his defense before? While your post is extremely humble and very gracious, it seems ironic that you write this when he is being critiqued by a group of women. Allegiances run deep.

                • Frank

                  I responded the way I did because I thought even though Tony “asked for it”, people were being unfair and very harsh to him. It’s one thing to receive criticism, it’s another thing to receive it en masse. Also I wanted Tony to know that I respected him for posing the question and opening himself up to the criticism. Not too many people are willing do that. Some might say its foolish to do that but it takes ( if I may say this) a real man to step up like that. Was there some male commiseration involved? Maybe. What’s wrong with that?

                  And finally I wanted him to know that I received the criticism meant for him into my own life and that God used his willingness to be vulnerable to work in me and hopefully others as well.

                  • Kristin Rawls

                    Actually, no, ALMOST EVERYONE is willing to do that. It’s called professionalism. Though I can say I have many years of experience, as a preachers kid, with Christians who are deeply, deeply thin-skinned and unable to receive criticism. Maybe it’s the norm here. It’s not the norm OUT IN THE WORLD, where most of us are not so privileged as to be totally unaware of our weaknesses. Because we get critiqued all the time.

                    • Kristin Rawls

                      Not that this wasn’t a step. It was. I didn’t expect it. But it is really really not the earth-shattering act of selflessness that some seem to have picked up on. For most humans, it’s how life works.

              • That was actually really nice of you Frank. (And yes, I know, I’m breaking my rule of “I shall not engage with Frank anymore,” but there are those moments where grace ought to win out).

                Frank, even though you piss a lot of us off — and not because you present the “correct” view of things, but because you can be a serious prick — I don’t think any of us would want to “ban” you (and no, not even me). Why? Possibly because we know what it feels like to be kicked out, thrown away. We’re not about to do that to you. Because (and I suspect most would agree) who you are is more important than what you say. We’ll happily flush your sentiments down the toilet (where they belong), but we will not do that to you.

                Besides, with you gone, who else would we pick on? 😉

              • Frank…oh Frank…I just posted a comment and mentioned your name. Due to this lovely comment, my heart is softened and I take it back. My apologies.
                It does kind of make my point though, we’re strangers.

                • Frank

                  Thanks Tracie and your comment is an important one: we all really do not know each other which ultimately makes it easier to dismiss one another and simply talk AT each other instead of talk WITH each other.

                  • Craig

                    reflections of a mean commenter

                    A number of criticisms target the fight club vibe of the comment sections. I’m as guilty as anyone for feeding that dynamic. So I’d like to offer some reflections on why I do so.

                    What goes on in the churches is of interest to me. I would like to interact with Christians, but I don’t have the time to attend church services. A lot of that time would be wasted listening to some blowhard in the pulpit and to music and prayers for which I do not care. The remaining interaction would tend to amount to small talk and lot of smiles as churchgoers move like cows towards the exits. Seminary would be great, but I can’t do that.

                    So I like to show up at Tony’s blog, skim through what people are saying, and try to engage when something comes up that’s interesting to me. My experience, however, is this. If I invest my efforts towards posting a particularly nuanced and substantive comment or question, the gratification will have to come from doing just that. On this blog—like, I suspect, most other blogs that get comparable traffic—nuanced and substantive responses don’t generate interaction. One can’t come here with the same expectations one takes to the dinner table, or to one’s home Bible study, seminar room, or classroom discussion section. If you feel like your thoughtful and finely constructed comment is getting ignored—you are just like every other normal person here. And this won’t change simply by changing the sex, race, or class associations of your blogging name.

                    I suppose it’s possible to slowly build friendships with other regular commenters on Tony’s blog. I believe a number of commenters have done just this (I have particular commenters in mind and I admire them). But oftentimes I want to engage a particular comment or post. To get engagement on the random posting, one needs to respond in a way that will entice or extract a response. One way that works is to pose the response in such a way that others will feel pressured to defend or to clarify their idea (if not also their sense of dignity, which is often exaggerated anyways). And so it goes.

                    Some people feel that this is a shame. Maybe yes, maybe no. But until there’s a nearby and comparably intelligent church gathering that invites my interaction, I’m grateful for Tony’s blog just the way it is. As for my own contributions, there’s surely room for improvement–some have probably been gratuitously mean and vulgar–but on balance I don’t see a decisive case for deep change.

                    Because I’m looking for feedback.

                    • Liralen

                      The “because” confuses me because it’s a non-sequitur. You provided a defense for being argumentative, and stated that there is no need for change. Did I miss something?

                      However, if you meant “however” instead of “because”, here’s my feedback:

                      1. In my experience in internet forums, which has been extensive because I’ve been an online gamer since 1998, I can generally elicit a response simply by asking a clarifying question, generally along the lines of “did you mean what I think you mean?” Feathers may fly when they read more into the question than asked or because I deliberately embedded a fallacy in their reasoning in the question. Or it could result in a clarification, which makes me realize I did misunderstand, and that we were actually in agreement.

                      2. The online gaming community is not kindest internet community around. There’s a lot of very immature people playing games combined with people who are inclined towards being combative. However, it didn’t prepare me for the peculiar kind of nastiness I found in theological forums. When I first encountered theological forums, I fled from them in horror over the extreme nastiness. I understand it now – people have been killing each other over religion for a very long time, whereas in gaming, it’s all make-believe. For example, there’s a big split between people who like PvP (Player vs. Player – people who like to kill other players) and people who prefer PvE (Player vs. Environment – people who only like to kill computer controlled enemies, or enjoy building). I’m firmly in the latter camp, but have frequently been able to have reasonable discussions with PvPers. Not so in theological forums. Never argue religion or politics if you want peace. Go figure.

                      tl;dr: If you believe in Matthew 22:40, a kinder approach is advised. If you don’t, then this doesn’t apply to you.

                    • Liralen

                      I should add “If you believe in Matthew 22:40, and think it’s important that other people do too, a kinder approach is advised.”

                    • Craig

                      Notice that the defense for being argumentative regards the consideration following “Because.” I’m unfamiliar with internet gaming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were significant differences between discussions about gaming and discussions about the church and theology.

                    • Liralen

                      Yes, there are. The gamers are kinder and can be reasoned with.

                    • Liralen

                      btw, nice try at being dismissive and avoiding my main point, which I not only carefully flagged with tl;dr (internet meme for summarizing the main point of a post, standing for “too long; didn’t read), but posted a follow up to ensure my meaning was clear.

                    • Craig

                      Liralen, your “main point” struck me as a non-sequitur. When I’m argumentatively direct with a self-righteous fool I’m not doing anything that I wouldn’t wish to be done to myself, roles reversed. If I were any more loving with some of these nut jobs I’d have to track them down and slap them across the face in person.

                    • Liralen

                      Fair enough. However, when I made my “main point”, in the post where I said “tl;dr: If you believe in Matthew 22:40, a kinder approach is advised. If you don’t, then this doesn’t apply to you.”, it was in direct response to the preceding post that you made i.e., I wandered in here from Slacktavist (not a regular reader of this forum), so have no idea what tone you’ve posted here before. It was not an allusion to anything you’ve said before, because I’ve never read anything you’ve said before.

                      So I suspect my “main point” was not applicable to you, rather than a non-sequitur, because my main point did follow what I said. It just didn’t apply to you.

                    • Liralen

                      I should also clarify that I don’t blame you specifically for the extremely hostile environment that theological forums tend to be. Which I consider them them to be, despite years of experience with hostile internet forums before I was moved to start reading theological forums.

                      The reason, of course, to how important theology is, whether you’re a theist or not. But it is very off-putting. It reminds me of a “Lord of the Flies” environment. Although that’s probably true of the internet in general.

                      I think Tony Jones is wise to be concerned about lack of female participation. Maybe our presence does help to avoid “Lord of the Flies” environments from occurring? Not directly, of course, since there are some who just consider us easy victims. But I think they are out-numbered by those we can help remember what’s important.

                    • Craig

                      Liralen, another interesting comparison might be the forums of professional philosophers. Here I also don’t find an extremely hostile environment. The blogs I have in mind probably have highly regulated comments sections (Tony could easily achieve the same by requiring his commenters to have professions in the seminary or the church), but there’s also a sense in which the subject matter isn’t so invasive in people’s lives. In this sense, the religious blogs at Patheos are more like political blogs, where the hostility is great. People have a stake in the conversation simply in virtue living in the same world as the disputants and the ideologues. There’s nothing equivalent to the Religious Right attempting a political takeover of our country; there’s nothing equivalent to the Religious Right’s perception of the “gay agenda” or any other liberal conspiracy. Also, people don’t come to discussions about Russell’s theory of descriptions with all the baggage of an adolescence scarred by the relevant faith commitments. Eternal salvation doesn’t hang in the balance. Faith, in academic philosophy, isn’t regarded as more precious than gold that perishes.

                      Still, if this place is like the lord of the flies, at least we’re not actually killing the fat kids. When attacks get “personal,” they’re usually only personal in an attenuated sense. The attacks tend to be put downs of someone’s comments, ideas, or attitudes. There’s a difference, I think, between combativeness over ideas and the viciously personal attacks of a person’s character. Perhaps the difference is diminished when the ideas in dispute are a person’s deeply held faith commitments.

            • John

              Please forgive my intrusion in this exchange between you and Stephanie, but maybe I can shed a little light on the issue you raise, Tony. Many years ago, my wife and I were going through a tough time in our relationship. We kept having explosive fights that began as simple quibbling but devolved into rather vicious attacks on one another. Many of the people around us who had been married longer than we had told us we were just immature, and we would get past that phase if we hung in there. Had we taken that advice we might be married today, but it wouldn’t have been to each other.

              In short, what was happening was mutual triggering of deeply entrenched defensive reactions which developed as a means of coping with our respective lives prior to us meeting. In essence, we were causing one another to react to things that had happened in our pasts (sometimes quite far back in those pasts) by doing things that subconsciously reminded the other of some abuse previously suffered. We loved one another deeply, and neither of us did such things to the other intentionally. Neither of us was even aware of the causes of those reactions at the time, but we did uncover them through the course of both individual and couples therapy. In point of fact, we were reacting not to one another but to the abusers we had both experienced previously. It just happened that the trigger for that reaction came from one of us and the other, quite naturally, reacted to the person who had triggered it.

              So when someone says something along the lines of what Stephanie mentioned about your interactions with others within the context she describes, that person is not saying you’re an abuser. They’re saying that the way you conduct yourself pushes a button in them that got pushed by someone who was. It’s purely a defense mechanism embedded in our pattern-seeking mammalian brains that has nothing to do with you directly. A person who nearly drowned as a kid may develop aquaphobia, but it doesn’t follow that they’re saying a glass of water is evil. Water collected in a particular way, however, will evoke a violent reaction regardless of how little real danger it may pose.

              If someone tells you that some things you do remind them of abusers she’s known try to recognize that she’s really offering you a gift of insight into how you come across to people even though you’re not trying to be off-putting. It’s not a matter of admitting that you’re abusive. It’s a matter of deciding whether you wish to be able to communicate effectively with people who have been abused.

            • Tony, don’t miss the obvious big thing here: I suspect the vast majority who have offered criticisms — myself included, to a degree — have done so because we have a genuine respect and deep affection for you. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV)

              And for a lot of us (like me), this is one of our regular, preferred hangouts. This means we love you, first and foremost. When we’re here, we are sometimes calm and rational, often times rowdy. Sometimes sharp toward one another, and on rare occasion even resort to curse words and biting.

              It’s . . . kind of a family thing. Love isn’t always just cupcakes and kittens.

              But we love you. Just keep that in mind.

            • Not to make light of the situation, but anyone ever heard of Godwin’s Law?


              Always true.

            • You asked for feedback, and they gave it to you. What are they supposed to say if you do, in fact, remind them of their abusers?

              I think it’s the defensiveness, placing the blame on them and being passive-aggressive about it, that reminds me personally of mine. My abusers aren’t people who decided one day that they want to be evil; they’re people who think they can do no wrong, and who take personal offense if you suggest otherwise.

        • sofia

          I’m sorry, but those are some sweeping assumptions that seem to say more about you than about Tony. He is quite open with his grief and pain on the blog, actually, but not every day. He is a theologian, not an online giver or receiver of therapy.

      • Thanks for responding, Tony, but…I’m still getting the impression that you’re not listening. Instead of saying, “Huh, I didn’t think of that,” you’re defending your phrasing of your question. The thing is, it’s entirely possible (I can’t speak for your whole audience, but for myself) that you simply don’t have the trust of the women in your audience to the point where you can ask them “why.” You have to go from the assumption of “I am doing something wrong here” rather than putting the onus on *us* to figure it out for you. In that case, your question would be phrased as such: “I know I must be doing something wrong to make this environment unsafe for women as commenters, and I need help with that. What can I do or change about the blog to encourage your participation, because I value it?”

        Your response here, likewise, is defensive. “I don’t want to change my voice or style,” etc. I didn’t ask you to. No one on this particular comment thread asked you to – except maybe indirectly by saying that you are abrasive. And yet you defend yourself against something I did not say. This is a problem.

        And then, you assume that “changing your voice” to be safer for the women in your audience and to potentially build a female audience would be “patronizing.” This assertion informs me of basically everything I needed to know: that you don’t actually care about creating an engaging environment for women. You assume that you would need to change everything about yourself and become paternalistic or patronizing in order to do so, when, indeed, many women in this comment thread have not said that. In fact, we have said that simply engaging with your readers and opening yourself up to the possibility that your commenters have something to add to the discussion would go a long way toward creating a safe space for women. This isn’t patronizing – it’s being a good bloghost.

        …In short, you…kind of just proved my point with your defensive reply.

        • Dianna, it seems that anything short of saying the words you put in my mouth sounds defensive to you. Look, many of these comments have been hard to read. I realize that my style is off putting to some (many?) people, both men and women. I also know that what I’m doing is interesting to others.

          So, how to hew a middle path? That’s what I’m attempting to discover. I am reading, listening, and responding.

          • Sorry, but you’re not giving me the sense that you’re doing any actual listening, as evidenced by your (now apparently deleted) conversation with Stephanie. Sorry, dude. Not interested in reading a guy who gets combative before he listens.

          • Dear Tony, you say you won’t be “patronizing” and start trying to write to women… and “untrue” of your voice to write about different subjects. I don’t think you need to write to subjects specifically to women, but your social location, as a white man, does influence how and what you write about. So maybe you don’t need to change that, but perhaps you can be in dialogue with good friends who are women and people of color who can help shape how you write about the things you do so they are more inclusive for all the body of Christ. I mean real full-bodied people, not just the abstract people commenting on this post. The women you’re asking for responses from can’t be your friends. But I’m sure there are women in your life you can dialogue with before you post online, and maybe it will help shape your content in a more inclusive way.

          • Lisa Powell

            For me it is not about the “depth” of posts of comments (as I see some people have stated). I have a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the same institution you attended and am a professor of theology, but if a theoblog (or a piece of scholarship) doesn’t reference the work of women or people of color, I am less interested in engaging with it. You reference many books, religious leaders, and other blogs here, maybe if it seemed that you were reading and learning from women, you would create a more welcoming environment. If you only reference the work and leadership of white men, it sends a particular message to many women readers.

      • Tony, I find this interesting “And it would be untrue to my voice as a writer to change in order to appeal to one group of people or another. ” Jesus remained true to his voice and yet he did appeal to women.

    • I (think I) get what you’re saying, Dianna, but don’t you feel that Tony’s post is a starting point? It seems you’ve read a lot into his few short lines and critiqued his motives, instead of recognizing this post as a step – a baby step, perhaps – to engaging women more often and in a better way? It seems to me that Why is a starting point before How can be addressed. As bloggers and commenters, we’re in a relationship of sorts, and the onus can’t be only on one or the other side. There’s room for grace from each of us as we wrestle with our interactions from each side of the blogosphere.

  • Hi Tony,
    When I see your interactions with commenters I get a sense that you need to be correct on the topic at hand and that no actual dialogue takes place. It feels like there is no movement or relationship taking place. Hearing you talk with Dwight Friesen recently at The Seattle School strongly reinforced my perception. It feels very much as if you don’t have room for others’ perspectives. This is why I haven’t engaged you here.

    • Well, that’s interesting, because I figured that you and I agree on everything! 🙂

      Honestly, it is interesting that you felt that way about the SS podcast, because Dwight and I agree on pretty much everything.

      My theology has changed a great deal over the years, and almost always as a result of the perspectives of others. I expect that it will continue to as well.

      • I wouldn’t guess that we agree on anything, actually! That is just what I gather from what I read of your stuff. And the way you interacted with Dwight made me want to turn it off many times during the show, but I kept listening to see if there would be resolution.

        • Ben Hammond

          I felt like Tony made it clear in the interview that he knew that he has those tendencies, like his comment about Moltmann making him a more open person, “You may not believe (acknowledging that he can come across argumentative), but you should have seen me a 5 or 6 years ago.”

          Also, the interviewer didn’t really seem to have a problem with him — other than being surprised by his comments about C.S. Lewis.

          • Ben Hammond

            Didn’t Dwight even praise his openness? (am I remembering a different interview)

            BUT, I also know that my perspective as a guy isn’t really getting at what Tony is asking in this blog post — so perhaps I’ll mark my comments as null for now.

            • Yes, I’m really taken aback at Stephanie’s experience of that podcast. I found it cordial and fun. Dwight and I are dear friends, and we went for drinks after the interview.

              • Random person

                See, that is interesting information about how you might perceive the same thing differently from someone else, and vice versa. Something might feel fun and cordial to you but seem mean and combative to someone else. Now, maybe you and Dwight both felt the same way, but how it came across to some listeners was the opposite.
                Say my partner and I are always bickering – and between the two of us we understand that it’s not really mean-spirited, but how we joke around. Fair enough. But we shouldn’t be surprised when some of our friends don’t invite us to dinner because they find the bickering off-putting. Maybe to them that kind of interaction is upsetting, or in their house those kind of words are always serious, not jokes. Maybe they find it makes the atmosphere negative and they just don’t like it. Maybe they worry that we’re going to escalate into a fight.
                Now, we can talk about it. I can explain that this is normal for us, and they can explain that their normal is very different in look and feel and that our “normal” looks like their “awful”. We haven’t dne anything wrong, per se, because we aren’t actually hurting each other; but nonetheless we are making them uncomfortable. The consequence of this is that we don’t get to hang out as couples.
                What now? Well, we can say, “You’re being ridiculous and hypersensitive; we aren’t going to change what works for us.” And that means they are free to say they don’t want to be our friends because we make them feel bad and don’t care about that enough to stop doing it. Or, we can say, “Damn, we didn’t realise that’s how our behaviour affected you. This kind of bickering is really affectionate, and we enjoy your company, so short of completely being different people, how can we reassure you that we like each other and keep a positive tone?” Which they will be more likely to accept, because we’ve 1) taken their perspective seriously, 2) honoured their feelings, 3) clarified our position while 4) not getting defensive, and 5) opened a dialog for addressing our concerns and finding solution that maximises everyone’s happiness.

                • Random person

                  Some people spar or banter for fun. As an American living in the UK, this is something I’ve had to get used to; for both men and women, affection is often shown via ironic put-downs. I’ve had to get used to it, but it’s not natural to me. My friends from home are much more comfortable expressing their affection in so many words. I take it more in strude and recognise what is friendly fire versus actually ill feeling. My friends in England have also had to get used to that about me, and temper their banter with me because they really do care about me and don’t want to accidentally hurt me. Caring is the key. Is it so difficult to step outside of ourselves and actively address other people’s concerns, even when – especially when – they are foreign to our own?
                  Germane to this discussion: it seems to me than on average, men fight for fun whereas women fight to kill. You can see where the issues of tone perception arise if this is the case!

      • Tony, I don’t know you, but I think that you’ve got at least two things working against you:

        1. You look intimidating. This probably sounds dumb, but I personally get this all the time. People say they’re scared to talk to me because of my “resting face.” Then they meet me and quickly realize that I’m pretty much harmless.

        2. From the things that I’ve listened to you on, you come off as argumentative. I think this is just part of your personality, and I honestly don’t think you take the back and forth seriously. It seems to me to be all in fun. You don’t seem to be easily offended, and I have a lot of respect for that. I’m not sure I could handle the kind of ridiculousness that shows up on your blog almost every day.

        That’s my two cents. I can only guess with this stuff because I, too, suffer from very similar “issues”…

        (I will also say that your blog is one of the very few theologically oriented blogs that I can even stand to pay attention to anymore.)

        • Seriously? Tony looks intimidating? I’m flummoxed by this comment, first because he just looks serious to me and second because… I can’t imagine being put off by a blogger’s looks.

          More as I read this comment stream…

          • Seriously intimidating.

          • Tony may look intimidating, but I could still lift him over my head if I cared to. 🙂

        • Luke Allison

          Tony looks as intimidating as any other progressive evangelical academic blogger…..

          • Kristin Rawls

            I’m not intimidated by Tony. I just think he’s mean.

        • Tony, I don’t agree with Rob’s first point about you looking (or sounding) intimidating. But his second point is one that, reading back on many of the comments, is the most repeated point: your abrasive/argumentative style, occasionally peppered with the appearance of defensiveness and combativeness, all of which presents as “non-listening” in your attitude.

          Whether it is the reality or not, it does seem to be the perception.

          You asked in your originating post, “Is it my style of writing?” No. But it would seem many here — the women in particular, whose responses you seemed to be soliciting foremost — would argue that it is the attitude that’s pushing the pen which is the problem.

  • Kevin

    Hope it’s ok to comment on this thread. In response to Joy’s comment: I can empathize with your feelings of weariness over negativity and the constant “attack-mode”. However it may be that–where I am on my personal journey of faith–the tone of TJ and others against some of the beliefs that have held me in bondage for SO LONG is actually part of the overall healing process…not just for people like me, but perhaps for the Chriatian community as a whole. I won’t argue that you are incorrect, but my own experience is one of PROFOUND relief and a feeling that i am not alone when i read TJ. I’m sorry that this is off subject. 🙁

    • “the tone of TJ and others against some of the beliefs that have held me in bondage for SO LONG is actually part of the overall healing process”

      That. That is why I’m here. Not engage or argue or be heard, but to hear someone stand up and speak truth against the beliefs that have hurt me.

    • I get that Kevin, I really do. I’ve been there, and some days, I’m still there. That’s why I started my comment by saying that I can only speak for me. The place I’m at is one of weariness of the anger (even though much of the anger is justified) and hunger for unity.

      I’m curious though, when you read things in this tone, do you find it helpful only as statements which provide relief, or do you comment? That is the question Tony is asking here. Both you and Lisa said that you are here to hear Tony speak, not to be heard yourselves. I think that is helpful information for him.

      • Kevin

        Hi Joy – that’s a good question. I am honestly kind of new to this blog (and other progressive and progressive-ish Christian blogs), so I am experiencing some sort of honeymoon phase I think. BTW I am going to check out your blog and some of the others on here who have their sites linked. So thankful all of you are out there providing good content and discussion.

  • Phil Miller

    Am I allowed to post in this thread? 🙂

    I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations about genders, because most of the time they turn out to be wrong (is that a sweeping generalization, too?). But, my wife will often ask me what I’m doing, and if I tell her I’m commenting on a blog, I generally get an eye-roll. To her, such things are a waste of time. She’s smarter than me for sure, but she often says to me that she think men waste too much time simply debating ideas and abstract concepts that mean nothing to them in real life. It’s hard for me to not agree with that. I do think that in general, men get more passionate about debating ideas and abstractions than women do. What drives that, I’m not sure. It’s probably a mixture of cultural things and hardwired differences.

    • “debating ideas and abstract concepts that mean nothing to them in real life”
      This seems to be a theme that coming up. It’s certainly hard for me to take the time and energy to engage on something that’s not really changing what my hands are doing, y’know? Like, stuff that’s just gonna rattle around in my brain on background…? I don’t have time for that, I don’t have time to manage the “discussion” (which my personality will read as conflict), I’d just rather leave without commenting.
      but clearly there are women readers, we’re here, we’re reading. and insofar as the purpose of a blog is consumption first, we’re down with that, it would seem.

    • Sharmini

      Having posted once on this thread, I will continue the trend…

      I’m a woman, and I love debating abstract concepts and ideas. I’m extremely uncomfortable with generalisations about what men and women do/like/think about, and – since this seems to be the thread for getting a bit personal – such generalisations often make me feel excluded and lost. Women are ‘generally’ more emotional, relational, practical, etc – I am none of those things. Am I ‘generally’ less of a woman? I know that is not the intent of those kinds of observations, which may or may not have some merit, but after many many years of hearing them and not identifying with them, that is sometimes the effect.

      • Carla

        I’m with you on this Sharmini–I love a good debate about abstracts and big ideas. But I would much rather engage in those with people I know, people I have relationships with, and in a setting in which that’s the only thing we need to be doing. 2:00 on a Wednesday with people I don’t really know and who are likely not going to read what I say is another story.

      • TK

        ‘women are ‘generally’ more emotional’

        Next time someone swears this, ask them if ‘anger’ is an emotion.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Me too! Thank you to the women who are pointing out that they too enjoy academic debate. Once I heard a philosophy professor ask a black woman who had to leave class early – “Is philosophy just too abstract for you?” This is a thing with a history – women, and women of color especially, cast as inferior intellects who aren’t really that good at “abstract” discussion. I do not have problems with academic discourse. I’m just as good at it as anyone. Please do not assume that my problems with Tony have some stereotypical basis like that.

  • Jenn Tafel

    I agree with what’s been said.

    I’m not part of evangelism, so I don’t chime in. The only comment I did make was about the whole “God-intended rape” thing. I was disheartened by that conversation b/c most of the commentators were….men. It reinforced a lot of what I see in society and made me wonder if we, women, have voices that matter. I know I do, but when you point out the numbers…that in itself confirms a few things.

    I find your posts interesting, but not where I am headed in my ministry.

  • Wendy

    i read and comment occasionally. and i’m female! 🙂

    • Ditto. I’m not Christian, so many topics here are of no more than passing interest to me. But when there is an issue I care about, I comment.

  • Reasons why I don’t comment in general (anywhere):
    1) time limitations
    2) I like to think about what I’ve read and then usually time has passed that the post isn’t the focus anymore

    Reasons why I don’t comment much here:
    1) It feels somewhat intimidating to me.

    • I will add, though, that I feel less intimidated after having met you in person.

  • Hey Tony,

    I’m an enneagram 8 and so are you, so let me do some real talk here for a minute:

    While I appreciate (and even agree) with much of your content you sometimes sound like a stereotypical patriarchal voice. You sometimes dominate the conversation in a way that doesn’t offer an empathy to voices that are contrary to yours. I don’t think that’s what you want to sound like but that’s how I hear you.

    Your contrarian comments are sometimes predictable and don’t stand in the spirit of “a fresh word.” Nothing wrong w/being “against” – I know that energy – I just don’t perceive you as offering a spacious conversation.

    Also, while I read some of your entries, I am more interested in interacting with theologians who are offering consistent feminist, queer, black/AfricanAmerican, and Latino theological critiques. I want to privilege the voices of people of color and queer bodies in my pastoral & theological development.

    These thoughts are my own that I have thought for sometime and I appreciate your invitation to respond. Please feel free to continue the conversation with me if you so desire.

    Grace and Peace of Christ,

    • AMY

      Yes, this.

  • Eric B

    I think it’s because Slacktivist gets all the women.

    • toddh

      I was gonna say that RHE had cornered the market. 😉

  • Tanya

    As some already said — the market is bloated. And, no offense– I read and appreciate many of these, –but it is especially full of men writing about theology and culture. (Quick recitation: Tripp Fuller, Brian McLaren, Frank Schaeffer, Jay Bakker, Tony Campolo, John Shore, David Hayward, etc.) I must see 2-3 dozen blogs go by in my facebook feed, and they all kinda run together — I can’t possibly read, let alone comment on all of them. And some of those I subscribe to are people who (unlike you) haven’t thought about the public/private issue. So if they use their posts to mention where they ate dinner, and also to comment on the meaning of Advent, they’ll exhaust me fast, but I hate to unsubscribe because I might miss something. I may have wanted their thoughts on Advent, but not on their pizza tonight. But that doesn’t explain the gender spread. . . just the general facebook/blog weariness.

    Honestly, whenever I hear a church leader say that social media will save us I wonder if they haven’t computed how much time most people will actually spend reading and commenting, and whether we haven’t reached a saturation point. I miss editors who’ll tell me which sermons were worth publishing and which weren’t.

    And I always feel a bit ashamed of myself when I comment — this is sometimes a gender thing — I think women are more likely riddled with self-doubt — do I have anything interesting to say? Can I say it well? Do I sound argumentative?

    I would say, strenously, that it isn’t that men like theology and women don’t — I loved what you wrote about the atonment, but I’m less likely to tune in for stuff that is merely “interesting.” Haven’t got time, and I’m feeling sad about how little time I spend with real books these days. I’m looking for stuff that moves me, or helps me in sermon prep — I gotta let a lot else go by.

  • 1. Time. Don’t have a lot of it, and the time I do have, I’d rather spend creating my own content.

    2. Tone. Commenting here always seems like a “why bother” situation. You write definitively & don’t encourage discussion. You write what you think is correct (in both content & and comments) and your tone communicates that’s the end of it. So, why bother?

    3. Content. The posts I always seem to catch are reactionary to an event, idea or person… and the reaction is too often negative & combative. That doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Sharmini

    I’m not sure this has anything to do with me being female, but here goes… I read blogs for myself, to learn and develop. I spend a lot of time in my real life entering into discussions with people who disagree with me and I find it exhausting and very occasionally exhilarating. When a person doesn’t have to look me in the eye to disagree with me, my experience is that the politeness and genuine engagement decreases and thus I am more likely to have an exhausting encounter than an exhilarating one.

    I’m pretty hesitant to draw any conclusions about gender, but for what it’s worth, I think I’m an Enneagram 5 and I’m an introvert.

  • Monicalyn

    Wow, thanks for asking! In addition to the other insights offered in this comment thread by others, I would just add that theology blogs in general still seem to be a boys’ club. You all chat with each other on social media, comment on one another’s posts, visit together in person, travel to speaking engagements, promote each other’s books, etc. Therefore, I personally try to support women working in your field who don’t have such a built-in network of mutual admiration as all of you guys do.

    • Monica,

      I read as many women theoblogs as I can find. I’ve tried in vain to get some of them to guest post here, in order to share my platform with them.

      • Kristin Rawls

        What about secular feminist blogs? I’m thinking that would make you much more familiar with some of the modes of argumentation that you seem offended by here.

  • Jenna

    I have wondered this while reading your blog, although I do not think it is different from other theology blogs I read that are written by males. From what I have observed, it is hard to find women who are blogging about similar issues/ideas as you are. I read great blogs by women, but often they are prose-like and less academic at times (I am sure they are out there, I just have not been exposed to them). So I wonder if it is more about connection and content. I know when I am talking with a group of males about similar topics that are on this blog, I can feel like I need to assert myself or need to be invited into the conversation. I do not feel like this blog sends that message. In general, I have seen more males say things others don’t agree with or enter into negative disagreement on the blogosphere. I agree with Tanya above who mentioned self-doubt that can come with being a women in our culture. (I would wonder if men would ask themselves those questions Tanya did). Because of this, this kind of dialogue can be deterring and since posts on your blog can be controversial, I wonder if this is why I don’t always choose to engage, but you asking makes me think about changing my level of engagement.

  • Nate Dawson


    I am just wondering. Did you expect these responses?

    I ask because it is my hope that you are aware of your posture of reaction. Like Jes, among others, I agree with much of what you say and with your frustration with conservative evangelicalism. But enough already. The whole conservative evangelical versus progressive evangelical is as boring as the formerly so-called Protestant liberal biblical scholars verses fundamentalist. It is my perception, though i could be wrong, that if folks are still thinking out of such polemical frameworks, they can’t be constructively unifying. As Christians, not least as leaders and scholars, we must be much more unifying in our thinking, writing, preaching and teaching. Just my thoughts.


    • Nate,

      There are entire blogs (and blogs and blogs) devoted to making evangelicalism look silly (through church signs, YouTube videos, etc.). This is not one of those blogs. I try not to post negatively about the church more than once a week, and when I do (like with the recent Billy Graham-Mormon thing), I usually add commentary that I hope adds to the debate/conversation.

      The most popular thing I’ve done recently is the Questions That Haunt Christianity series. That is, at its very core, open-ended and conversational.

      But the brutal truth is that open-ended, generous, conversational posts do not engage people. That’s not what people share on Twitter and Facebook. So, I’m unfortunately in the same position as the evening news: bad news gets people to turn on their TV sets. Good news rarely does.

      • There are extensive Facebook conversations at my blog’s Facebook page with over 100 comments almost daily. I think this is because my only rule is that no one may treat another person’s viewpoint with dismissal or absence. Much good and healing comes of these conversations, or at least I believe it does because I get many emails saying they’ve never seen that type of interaction on a blog about Christianity before and it has given them a new context for the Church.

        • Anyone who would like to see how people like me are treated on Stephanie’s Facebook page, read this and this.

        • Jeremy K

          Stephanie, you break your ‘only rule’ as a general rule. Are you lobbying to be the new Frank? You’re well on your way.

          • Frank

            I hope that I am the new Frank. She can be the old Frank if she likes.

        • I’ve had several years of the same experience with my personal account. A moderator of conversation needs to allow everyone to interact and open the discussions in a way that fosters the conversation.

      • So this blog is all about ratings….

  • To the developing theme that I am a writer who forecloses discussion, I’ll respond yes. And no.

    yes: I write what I think. I write as I’m thinking something through. I write in response to what others have written — sometimes affirming, sometimes arguing (sometime vehemently arguing!). That’s my voice. That is, I think, why people read my posts and my books. But I read every comment, and they affect me and my opinion (except Frank’s). The comments here are no exception. And, yes, I’m an 8.

    no: As I wrote above, the commentary on this blog has grown enormously over the past few months, so there are a lot of readers who think that my posts open conversation. It’s just that these commenters seem to be men by and large.

    I make no apologies for my gender or my skin color or my background. I can’t do anything about that. Like Jes, I read a lot of theology by women, queers, liberationists, etc., so I don’t begrudge anyone preferencing those voices over mine.

    Thanks for your comments, and keep them coming.

    • Frank

      I just love all the attention I get here. Thank you!

      • XOXO

        • *cracking up at the mental image of Tony Jones actually typing XOXO*

          • Frank

            He saves that his special children! 🙂

          • Evelyn

            He types XOXO only for men.

      • Simon

        My working theory is that Frank is a fictional nemesis Tony created to increase the number of comments on his blog. In my mind, I like to think of him a member of the Lake Wobegone Separated Brethren house church that Garrison Keillor grew up in.

        What is your ecclesiastical background Frank?

        • Evelyn

          Simon, the exact thought has crossed my mind as well.

          • Kristin Rawls

            LOL LOL LOL.

  • Something else, just so you know if you’re new to this blog: I rarely engage in the comment section. Maybe I respond to comments once or twice per week. I write the post — I set the table, if you will — then I let everyone else feast. So what I don’t do is get into the comment section and argue with people in a closed-minded way.

    So I guess the meme that that I’m not open to other opinions is coming from my posts, because it’s not coming from my comments.

    • Dan Hauge

      This is a good point: I think it’s possible that your lack of commenting and ‘mixing it up’ may come across to some as not being interested in what people have to say. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, so it’s helpful that you are clear here that it’s just your MO. I used to find it a little frustrating that you didn’t respond more in the comments section, but then I just figured hey, if you’d rather spend your time doing other things, that’s cool with me. Though sometimes it does affect how often I comment–’cause often my impulse is to engage you in further discussion on the topics you raise, and I know that ain’t gonna happen.

      But–I realize I am getting completely off the topic of the post here. Sorry!

      • It’s a fair criticism. I spend about an hour per day, sometimes more, writing for this blog. I spend another half hour at least reading the 100+ comments per day. I don’t date do the math on my hourly wage for this. Responding to comments as frequently as some bloggers and facebookers do is simply not possible. I wish I could.

        Also, I’m way behind on my book manuscript.

        • As a fellow Patheos blogger, I wanted to respond specifically to this concern (your perceived lack of response to comments). I don’t read your blog, which is nothing personal. I’m pretty limited on the other blogs I read, because I do want to support other bloggers by engaging with what they write, and not just reading 30 different blogs every day without commenting. I tend to read blogs that are more about “applied” theology than pure or academic theology. I suppose that’s in part because I’m a woman for whom theological blogging and writing is a part-time gig, who is also caught up in managing a household and children, so if I’m going to read theology, I’m going to choose bloggers who have something directly to say to my daily concerns (I’m a fan of Joy, for example, who started off this thread). I imagine there are many women like me, although there will also be women interested in more academic theology and men more interested in applied theology as it relates to their daily interactions at home, the workplace, the community, and their churches.

          But back to why I commented in the first place. You use the analogy of “setting the table.” I use a similar analogy in my blogging, which is that I’m inviting readers into my living room to discuss the day’s topic. Would you set the actual table in your home, and then leave your guests to talk and eat among themselves while you holed yourself up in your office to work on a manuscript? Probably not. Likewise, I have decided that hosting my virtual living-room conversations requires me to be part of the conversation. I think that hosting a blog requires a fair amount of engagement with the conversation the blog engenders. Bloggers can’t (and needn’t) respond to EVERY comment, but I think we owe it to our readers to engage to a good extent, and in a way that invites conversation (that is, not arguing and restating our own point all the time, though I think we can do that some of the time, but also saying, “I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks.” or “I think maybe you’ve misunderstood. I meant [this]. Does that address your concern or not?”) Not being a regular reader, I can’t speak to what other people have said about whether you do that or not.

          Bottom line: I get that blogging is just one piece of your overall writing career. It is for me too. But if you are simply unable to engage to the extent that your readers want you to, perhaps you need to look at the frequency with which you blog, and cut it down to a level at which you CAN engage more.

          • To what part of the kingdom are we contributing when we create spaces for blathering and vitriol?

            I don’t read your blog. I only read this because it had to do with WOMEN but for whatever reason today I read this thread. I must say I think it is disingenuous to walk away from the “table” and kind of rude. If you have comments turned on you have a responsibility to the community you are creating.

            There are bloggers who turn off comments, like Ann Voskamp. To me this is refreshing and I admire her all the more for not feeding into the fracas. She is teaching. There’s no scrappy, unhealthy, contentious conversation afterward.

            I read Jesus Creed sometimes as does my husband, and he is always commenting to me aloud about the idiotic comments he finds people make there. He has never commented. I do comment there from time to time but I don’t even have time to come back later to see if there was a reply.

            Because I am a writer with a blog myself, I will most always comment because I have one of those blogs with lots of silent readers.

            I think a writer does have a responsibility to their readers to ensure a healthy space. You cannot do that by walking away from the table. If you’re too busy then perhaps turn the comments off. Social media/tweeting potential be damned.

            And now I am finished and left with the feeling of “So what?” or “what’s the point of all this?” And perhaps that’s why women don’t/aren’t commenting on your blog.

            Why don’t you tell all the men commenting on your blog to go do a load of laundry or cook dinner for a change, if they have so much free time on their hands.

    • I appreciate your level of engagement. I get the sense that you are monitoring the comments and only speak up when it really matters. We have very different views, so it doesn’t bother me that you “argue” with me. (I’m a middle class white male with a union job FYI)

  • Lisa Domke

    Hey Tony:
    I do occasionally think about posting a response to one of your blog articles.
    I usually don’t, however, because:
    1) When I post on Facebook I expect some kind of response and interaction. That doesn’t seem to happen with you. (which I get, time-wise, but still…)
    2) The guys who do post seem to be interested in arguing with each other…on and on and on.
    I just don’t have any interest in that kind of interaction, so I opt out.
    3) I don’t have time to put up more than a brief response anyway, and I figure…meh…why bother. I don’t have a burning need to publicly express my opinion on everything I read.
    4) I get how people experience you as confrontational and not open to other opinions…I just think that’s your schtick. Doesn’t bother me because I don’t expect you to be warm and fuzzy on your blog. Then again, maybe that brings us back to the relational piece. I invest in conversations that further relationship. Commenting on your blog doesn’t do that.
    5) I do agree with the previous “I don’t have time for theology in abstraction” comments. Many of your posts just don’t have any relevance to my life and ministry. Clearly other people are connecting with the topics and that is great!
    Hope this is helpful.

    • Great points, Lisa. Do you think that if the comment section were run on the Facebook engine, as with some blogs, that would help with point 1?

      • Lisa Domke

        Hmmm….yeah, it might discourage the doctoral-length comments of some folks.
        Of course, it remains up to you whether and how you want to respond to any post, regardless of format. (Thanks for the response, BTW) =)

        If your main goal is to simply get your ideas out into the world and promote discussion, then you have already accomplished that. If your goal is to have the blog be a place for conversation (not just argument), and more relational interaction, then some things probably need to change.

        • Laura Larsen

          Tony –
          I’m clearly Team Tony all the way & have been thinking all day if I should comment on this post. I don’t find you particularly dismissive online (although I would say I am often surprised by the differences of the online-TJ-persona and the live-TJ. I also don’t think, as others have accused, that you’ve flippantly dismissed any of these comments.

          I agree with Lisa’s last paragraph, though – perhaps it would be good to revisit the purpose of your blog. If you’re looking to get your own ideas out there – done. Leave the blog as is. If you’re sincerely looking for constructive, intelligent conversation things may need to change. Open ended questions (like the Questions that Haunt) make me feel like my voice is invited & necessary – like this blog is a conversation not a statement. Commentary on new stories (while helpful and appreciated) rarely compel me to comment.

          Lastly, it is often the angry, catty, pseudonym-ed commenters already fighting on a post that keep me from commenting. No ideas on how to change that, but gosh, the brutality of some of the conversations make me incredibly hesitant to step into the mix.

          • I’ll concur with the idea of the online Tony Jones and live Tony Jones comment. Even though I only spent a short amount of time with you, I did notice a difference in how you come across online (or how I perceive you online–there’s probably some of both) and how you are in person.

            For those reading this, I encourage you to really understand that *all* of our online personalities are not all of who we are. When I met Tony at the beginning of November, I was feeling nervous and intimidated. However, when I introduced myself to him and had actual conversations with him, I didn’t find him to be argumentative or any of the negative things people have mentioned in this thread. He was also very supportive of the fact that I, as primarily a stay-at-home-mom (who never finished her master’s), was presenting a breakout session at the conference where he was a keynote speaker.

            The one time I heard him get argumentative and push back was at the end of his talk where 2 (or 3?) people asked questions that were obviously asked in order to start an argument.

            Some of you have said that he doesn’t really seem to allow or want discussion. i can see that, but I also can see that isn’t the whole case. In his presentation at this particular conference, he expressly said he *wanted* people to disagree with him. And when a bunch of us hung out afterwards, there were a lot of conversations going on; it wasn’t as if Tony monopolized them and wanted everyone to just listen to what he had to say.

            It makes a world of difference when you can interact with someone in person, that’s for sure. I hope some of this helps us all to understand there are multiple facets to both Tony and to ourselves, and that this helps further the conversation in a productive way.

      • sr.s

        i don’t comment now (i’m a lady, btw), but i would definitely be even less likely to comment if the platform was moved to facebook. this is primarily because i don’t want my FB world to see every time i make a comment (well, primarily my conservative christian family members).

        • Good point.

        • Totally agree with this – I don’t want all my comments to appear on Facebook too.

        • Evelyn

          I wouldn’t comment on Facebook. No way.

          • Simon

            Only my “in defense of home schoolers” comment made it onto facebook for the same reason. Self-censorship. I don’t think that is a gender thing.

        • The Facebook commenting system can be used on a blog WITHOUT posts being automatically posted to a person’s Facebook wall. In fact, the default is usually for the user to have to check a box that says “Post to my wall” when posting the comment in order for that comment to appear on their wall. Otherwise, the comment *only* appears on the blog/website where that comment is being posted.

          So, Tony, I would say, don’t let that concern stop the idea of using Facebook comments. In fact, I think it might be a very good idea.

  • Erin

    The vagina contest didn’t do you any favors.

    • It was a limerick contest, not a vagina contest. And more women than men submitted comments to that post.

      Nevertheless, sorry if it offended you.

      • Erin

        It was more the “why are feminists mad at me” follow up post that bothered me. I read your blog almost daily but rarely comment.

        • gotcha

          • See, each of your responses to Erin seems flippant and defensive and cut-off. Do you see this in you responses at all?

  • Jodi Shay

    Though I regularly read your blog (& a few others), time is typically the major issue. By the time I read the posts, it’s often a few days after posting & by the time I’ve thought about it and formulated a response, no one cares any more.

    The other issue is openly posting anywhere is dangerous for me. I live in a conservative, evangelical & often fundamentalist world that does not encourage independent or progressive thought. As a female, my job opportunities are limited enough without adding any ammunition against me via postings.

    When I do post as anonymously as possible, I often feel attacked by other commenters. I have to fight for a voice in “real life;” I don’t need the same hassle and/or rejection in cyberspace.

  • kellyecl

    I noticed this same thing after reading some of the comments posted yesterday and after reading your response to a commenter the previous day. I thought to myself, “Funny how most women don’t have a tolerance for such tone.” While I find your posts very interesting, your commenters can sometimes be like boys in a playground fight. Your own posts (and the selections you post from others) can, at times, seem like a way to get noticed in the big, wide world. It seems like there might be something more under your question: Do you think the lack of women is a problem, are you looking for more traffic by adding a demographic, are you wanting women to speak out against some of your recent commenters.

    • Kelly, It’s not about traffic. Truly. I’m thrilled with how my traffic has grown this year. It’s about having a richer conversation.

      Look, I am well aware that the comments sometime degrade into schoolyard brawls. But other comment threads are brilliant and funny and engaging. I’m not looking for women to speak out against anyone. I’m just saying that you can feel free to ignore the more closed-minded commenters in the threads.

      • Frank

        I should charge you for generating responses! XOXO

      • kellyecl

        Agreed… many, many threads are brilliant and funny. Many posts are masterfully done and not so righteous. So, you say, ‘just overlook the bad stuff.’ But here’s the deal: Many women don’t find it easy to overlook those parts of your blog. Why? They create a competitive atmosphere—they affect the overall tone. We/I would be more apt to comment if we/I felt like it was a safe place to do so. Just think, today you created a safer and more responsive zone for women, and your blog exploded.

        You said above: “if there’s something about the way that I pose problems, ask questions, etc., that I can change, then I want to know.” That’s a very noble reason to ask the original question. We are telling you, in nice ways and not so nice ways. Humble pill, I bet.

  • megan

    I read several times a week, but rarely if ever comment.

    I actually don’t think you are too aggressive or you shut down conversation or you give a “discussion not wanted” impression. You are certainly direct on what you think, but that’s fine. I’d a thousand times rather talk to someone who disagrees with me but has clear and well thought-out reasons for that, than someone who agrees with me but has limp argumentation. (And, for the record, I agree with you more often than not.) But I too am pretty direct about what I think. I’ve sometimes thought I was having a spirited but good natured debate with someone, only to later find out that person felt I was trying to shut down the debate. But I really am not like that. I think I should have the privilege of stating firmly and (hopefully) intelligently what I think, and it would be idiotic of me to deny others that same privilege. My read is that you feel the same way.

    I don’t buy into blanket gender stereotypes, but if I did I suppose this would make me more “male” in my way of communicating. But I still don’t comment. Why?

    1. Time
    2. Profitability. My perhaps inaccurate perception is that most internet discussions only serve to retrench both sides. Rarely does anything productive come out of them. I’ve got enough baggage with the church and theology, without adding in anger over what some random blog commenter said about my comment.
    3. On the occasions when profitable discussion does take place, that usually requires a fair bit of committed and detailed back-and-forth from both sides, which requires a lot of time. Which brings me back to reason #1.

    For this reason, I rarely comment on blogs, period. I comment most often on RHE’s blog (a woman…make of that what you will) and that happens perhaps once a month.

    • Thanks, Megan.

      • Kim

        I agree with Megan and frankly, find some of these comments weirdly personal and mean-spirited.

  • Hey Tony, I’ve commented on here a few times and I have to say I agree with most of the statements the women above have been making. Personally, I don’t like theological throw downs and your comment section often turns into one. I’m more interested in finding some moderate space and that rarely happens in the comments (aka the bowels of the internet).

    I do find it interesting (and revealing) that you’re an 8 on the Enneagram. That actually makes me feel a lot more comfortable engaging with you. Before I would have taken your gruffness (and yeah, you do come off that way) as a personal affront, but now I know that it’s not necessarily intended, it’s just how you communicate.

    Also, I think your response to the feminist response to the limerick challenge might have been indicative of what a lot of people are saying. It was a criticism, but not an overly sharp one and it felt like you took it as a personal insult. I don’t know you personally, and perhaps you took that criticism to heart, but it didn’t feel like you did and that may be the difference. Perhaps you are open to other points of view, but if no one perceives it then you won’t be viewed that way.

    • Nicki Waters

      Thanks for this. I hate the “oh but the women are so sensitive and get their feelings hurt during strong arguments” theme that usually ensues. I hate abrasive, authoritarian male speech, but so do many, many other men. I don’t really think that’s as much of a gender distinction that Christians often make it out to be. The female void is just more noticeable here because women are already less likely to be commenting on theology blogs after being excluded from the conversation for so long. You can push men away with your tone and won’t really notice because there’s always plenty of other men around to hide their absence.

      • I agree. As a female pastor, I find that I’m fighting to be heard in a lot of other arenas. I don’t feel like I need one more place to do it.

        And as a full-time working mom with two kids, theological discussion on blogs is a luxury I just often don’t have time for.

        But I do have A Better Atonement and very much appreciate it!

  • Kim Bravo

    Hi, Tony. I’m a big fan, just not much of a commenter. Maybe I’m shy, or maybe just lazy. Probably a little of both. Thanks for your voice and witness. Folks like you and Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass and Nadia Bolz-Weber make my journey of faith way more hopeful.

  • Steve

    It’s because your oeuvre is completely absent of charm and wit.

  • jenya

    Thanks for your question, Tony. I’m female and read your blog regularly. I don’t usually leave a comment because, like others have already said, I don’t care to get caught up in the arguments. I tend to read your post and read/skim the comments to learn something from the various voices. I’m always hoping to gain something new or be challenged by a different way of thinking. I usually find the converstaion helpful, but, honestly, when it gets overly negative or when the argument is simply mean and thus unproductive (at least for me), I leave the page. But, I always come back for the next post. 🙂

  • Just a Girl

    There once was a blogger named Tony
    Who was more popular than 2012 Kony
    Yet the women couldn’t see
    How wonderful was he
    So he asked them why, then dismissed their reasons as phony.

    • ^^THIS.

      • Kevin

        I am just now stepping my toe back into Christianity after many years of wilderness wondering. (Grew up in evangelical church, fought against my own sexuality for years…yada yada yada…lots of baggage, flirtations with athiesm, now peeking back into Christianity.) Anyway, my only comment is that it makes me sad that Tony is making you angry with his responses, b/c BOTH of you have been lifelines to me with your own brand of humor, insight, and honesty. However, as I write this, I realize that being angry and “fighting” online is not a bad thing!!! Even being sarcastic is not bad…it’s just human expression and all part of developing relationships (even these online ones). I just stream-of-consciousness-ed myself into feeling better about this. Carry on. Love you both.

      • Simon

        Oh snap. Limericked. Tony, if you respond in limerick form we could have the first ever Theoblogy limerick off. Since the limerick posts did generate a lot of responses from female, that might be just the ticket.

    • Craig

      That’s clever but is it fair? Can you point to some good examples of Tony dismissing proposed reasons as phony? To challenge or interrogate a proposed reason isn’t the same as dismissing it as phony. It’s one way of seeking understanding. It’s what I take myself to be doing here.

      • John

        If one is truly interested in dialogue then challenges and interrogations are not the means by which to promote it.

        I’ve heard the tone accusation leveled against me by every woman who has ever had a significant relationship with me, beginning with my mother and continuing all the way through to my wife. I’ve also heard it from a number of men I’ve known. Fortunately, about 10 years ago I decided to listen instead of ask questions and discovered that if I simply stopped for a moment and thought back to what I had been saying up to that point rather than automatically demanding an example as evidence that what they were telling me was factual the answer was pretty obvious (and had been all along). The truth is that in many ways it is about how you put things both verbally and non-verbally, and if you have a diverse group of people telling you the same thing about how you communicate in virtually the same language it’s probably time to stop wondering why others don’t get you or your intent or your style or your personality and listen for a bit, beginning with what’s issuing from your mouth or fingertips, as the case may be. Confining things to online interactions, allow me to offer an example of the difference between dialogue and challenge/interrogation.

        Blogger: This is something I’ve noticed, and I don’t understand why it’s happening. Thoughts?

        Commenter: When I read your posts, I notice that you tend to respond in X fashion to certain issues/topics. It gives me the impression that you believe Y.

        Dialogue Response from Blogger: Hmm. I honestly hadn’t thought of that before you brought it up. Can you maybe give me a few more details so I can build a context for what you’re telling me? What you said kind of caught me flat-footed so I’m going to need your help processing it.

        Challenge/Interrogatory Response from Blogger: That’s not really how I see what I do here. What makes you think I’m like that?

        See the difference in the two? Both responses say substantially the same thing–i.e., “That’s a new perspective for me. I need more information.”–but each presents a different tone (as much as such things can exist online) to the commenter as well as other readers. The former invites the commenter into further dialogue with some degree of assurance that her perspective is welcome and the blogger is genuinely interested in learning from her. The latter asks for an explanation, and it’s very much on a defensive footing.

        If you’re looking to debate someone the latter is a somewhat appropriate (albeit not necessarily productive) response. If you’re looking to have a conversation with someone the former is really your only choice. My impression is that most people are happy to have an interesting conversation on a substantive issue, but they’re not particularly interested in getting into a public urination competition to determine the “right” answer. Simply put, if your goal is to be right you’re not conversing, you’re arguing, and how many well-adjusted, gainfully employed adults do you know who are willing to out of their way for yet another argument in their lives?

        • Craig

          John, thanks for the thoughtful response. I wonder, however, whether it’s helpful to divide things up like this, i.e., arguments vs. dialogue, being right vs. having a conversation. I come from an environment in which gainfully employed adults very much welcome arguments about ideas, though I concede that this is probably unusual (sadly, these are not religious people, which is why I also come here). When I engage with someone about ideas–theirs or mine–I’m usually interested not in dialogue or conversation per se (that’s the place of chatting and small talk), but rather in finding a partner to think with, to work out ideas with, even if it’s involves taking or advocating conflicting perspectives. I don’t want to do this with just anyone. So I also want to weed out the buffoons, and, perhaps, to humiliate the self-righteous or arrogant ideologues in the process–especially those who push ideas that not only unreasonable, but are of the kind that screw up our country and people’s lives. There’s not, I think, only one way to do this. I’ve distaste at the thought of having to be long-winded and hyper-careful simply to unmistakably strike the right tone, when this adds nothing to the content–and especially when it threatens to blunt the point or disperse the substance among extra words. I want to get at the ideas quickly and directly. This is not a male-female thing, as most the best exemplars of this approach in my life are women. And, yes, these women also experience the downside–there are those in their audiences who end up misinterpreting the “tone”. A lot of that misinterpretation, I suspect, comes from faulty or overly simplistic divisions (argumentation vs. productive dialogue, etc.).

          • John

            “When I engage with someone about ideas–theirs or mine–I’m usually interested not in dialogue or conversation per se (that’s the place of chatting and small talk), but rather in finding a partner to think with, to work out ideas with, even if it’s involves taking or advocating conflicting perspectives.”

            As long as we’re on the subject of faulty divisions, there’s a good one for you to chew on. If your experiences with dialogue and conversation have not included working out ideas and refining thought I’d have to conclude you’re doing it wrong. There are instances in which it’s perfectly appropriate to be direct, but being direct doesn’t equal being rude or lacking concern for the perception of your audience. Carelessness in presentation is a direct result of carelessness in conception. Frankly, if you don’t have the time to consider the impact of your statements and questions on those to whom you address them you don’t really have time to work out ideas. Any idea worthy of serious consideration is also worthy of a substantial investment of your care and attention–both to the matter at hand and the process of hashing through such things mindfully with another person. I realize that many, including you, find it onerous to try to craft a nuanced rationale to support their ideas, but you give your ideas short shrift if you ignore nuance. It’s simply too important to elide.

            You don’t have to be long-winded or hyper-careful in order to dialogue in a constructive manner. You will likely find, however, that a careful presentation of your ideas requires more words than you might like at first. Concision is about both economy and thoroughness. That said, if your goal is, as you claim, to humiliate and weed out people you have deemed unworthy based upon whatever criteria you choose to employ then your purpose isn’t working through ideas so much as imposing your ideas on others. In and of itself, that purpose embodies self-righteousness and arrogance.

          • Craig

            John, I think you might need to revisit that lesson you said you learned 10 years ago.

      • Craig and John have demonstrated here one of the reasons I don’t comment (no offense, Craig and John): I don’t like to comment without reading all that’s gone before, and I don’t have time to read multiple paragraphs-long comments. I’d like to, but I don’t have time. I am also quite frustrated by the women here who are simply chiming in their disapproval but without anything constructive to say. Women can bully just as well as men.

        • John

          I hear you, Becky. No offense taken. One issue with conversations of this nature is they usually take a good deal of parsing to sift out the dross, but depth on that level is often not expected (and even less often accepted) online. It’s not that people are wrong to feel that way. They’re just busy.

          Craig, what part of the lesson do you think I should review? I can only assume you mean to imply that my tone is off-putting, but I would prefer not to be presumptuous. What’s troubling to you about my responses?

    • great!

  • I’m new to the blog world. Just warming up and building the nerve to actually pipe in. Oh… and I’m not only female, but a Catholic, so I’m not so sure that anyone here should really want to invite this broad to speak. 😉

    • If you’re cool enough to call yourself a broad, Leslie, then you’re totally welcome on this blog. Speaking for myself only, of course. 🙂

  • I read your blog posts regularly, and have commented a handful of times, and I have never felt excluded or unwelcome in the discussion as a woman. Most of the time I just do not have the time to post comments or do not wish to descend into the fray that ensues in the comments section. That is not unique to this blog, but rather one of the features of social media. You can choose whether or not to engage in the conversation. I also am an enneagram 8, with a similarly brusque communication style (actually quite rare among women), so while I appreciate your forthrightness and ability to distill an idea into a couple sentences, I can understand why that does not necessarily appeal to everyone and can come across as harsh or authoritative. I also understand that the conversation about the emergent church/theology in general is intended to provoke conversation, and sometimes in order to start that conversation, you need to engage in provocation. Hopefully we can also be respectful as that occurs, but our humanness gets in the way and we all can behave badly. In the meantime, keep up the conversation. I think it is important.

  • Pingback: Stop! Collaborate and LISTEN! On Gendered Absences in the Theological Blogosphere « James W. McCarty III()

  • I’ve got a writing deadline, which of course means I’m going to take 20 minutes to respond to your question since you specifically asked me to Priorities. 🙂

    Some observations:

    1) You’ll probably see this pattern repeated to some degree on other theology-based blogs. See Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, Homebrewed Christianity, etc. This may simply be a reflection of the demographics you find on a typical seminary campus (though, from what I understand, those demographics are becoming more diverse, so hopefully that will change some things). Women are interested in theology, of course, but there are still fewer women who are formally trained in theology than men. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that.) So it would follow that you would see more men engaged in a theology-centered blog than women.

    2) Of course you’re an 8! This explains a lot. I haven’t spent enough time in your comment section to see how you handle disagreement there, but in my experience, both male and female readers respond really well to vulnerability, openness, and genuine curiosity. Dan likes to say, “always assume there’s someone in the room who knows more about what you’re talking about than you do – then you won’t be surprised or defensive when they speak up.” That’s a good way to think about the comment section I think. Maybe try posing more questions that you don’t have answers to already (kinda like you did today, actually). You don’t want your blog to turn into a theological pissing contest where everyone’s just trying to outsmart one another. Maybe women are quicker to spot that sort of thing than men, so they stay away. I don’t know.

    3) I want to go on the record and say that you, Brian McLaren, and Tripp and Bo at Homebrewed have been incredibly encouraging and supportive of me through the years, and I appreciate it profoundly. You have given me some amazing opportunities and have been incredibly complimentary and supportive. And that means a lot…especially coming from a world where my gender was always counted as a liability.

    4) Now I’m going to get all radically honest: I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why, but sometimes I still feel a little uncomfortable with the emerging church dudes. Maybe it’s the CONSTANT need to return, (giggling), to the vagina controversy (my goodness! i’m so over it, guys! can we please talk about something else? like, my BOOK maybe?), or maybe it’s the fact that at emergent events there’s always enough alcohol flowing to encourage at least one guy to say something mildly inappropriate, or maybe it’s because I still don’t know what the hell process theology is, or maybe it’s because theology is sometimes treated as a sport with winners and losers and points scored…I don’t know. It’s like, when I’m a woman in the conservative evangelical world I feel completely invisible; when I’m a woman in the progressive/emerging world I feel a bit exposed, like a spectacle. I hate offering that critique without any solution to it..and without even defining it properly… but it’s just what popped into my head. Maybe some other women can comment on it.

    Anyway, thanks for helping me procrastinate on this writing deadline. Some emergent theologian wants me to fly out to Minneapolis in the MIDDLE OF WINTER to help create curriculum. 🙂

    • Thanks, Rach. Helpful as always. I hope we’re ameliorating the emergent thing, but we haven’t solved it. That’s for sure.

      Now, back to that script!!!

    • I really like the advice from Dan about knowing that there is probably someone who knows more about what you are talking about than you do and to not be surprised or defensive when they speak up. I need to be reminded of that sometimes (particularly as a seminarian!), so I am going to take that into my ministry and writing. Thank you!

    • Also, no more talk about, well, you know. Not here at least.

      • haha! That would be nice. 🙂

        I mean, I brought it up and all…but seriously, it’s run its course.

        • Agreed. I would have let it lie, too, but it was just too perfect for the limerick contest.

        • as i like to say, “vagina is the new penis”.

    • I completely agree with all of these, especially #3. Tony, you will always have a special place in my heart and in my faith. Thank you.

      Re: #4, I’ve definitely experienced this same dynamic. I don’t want to be invisible, but I don’t want to be a spectacle either. I just want a seat at the table and to have my perspective valued for what it is. I enjoy discussing all sides of an issue, pushing back, being pushed and challenged to consider alternatives, listening, and learning. When things get competitive, I back off. I don’t think faith is about winning. I think it’s about learning.

      • “I don’t think faith is about winning. I think it’s about learning.” <<that's it!

    • Rachel, you make and extremely resonant point about being “uncomfortable with the emerging church dudes.” I myself, and a substantial number of people I know out here on the outskirts of Pennsylvania’s Amish country, would call ourselves “emergent” in our faith, but are swift to disassociate from “emerging church” personalities.

      Uber-conservative as this region is — a region heavily touched by Amish and Mennonite religious culture and values — it is starting to see an acute upsurge in progressive thought where Christian faith and practice are concerned. But ask almost any such informed progressive about “emerging church” and the first answer you’re likely to hear is: arrogance. A boyish, competitive arrogance that just puts a bad taste in the mouth.

      And that has become a wound for the emerging church movement: it seemingly is no longer being propelled by vision, but by personalities. Put more to the point, the emerging church personalities are more popular/notorious now than the vision they promote.

      Those personalities are now the subject of the “conversation.”

  • Kristin Rawls

    Hi Tony,

    So, I know we’ve sparred in the past, and I hope you will accept these comments and read them in the measured tone that I intend. I’ll start by saying (1) I’m not mad and (2) I don’t stay mad after sparring with someone once online.

    That said, I am nodding along a lot with the things Stephanie Drury and Dianna Anderson are saying.

    But beyond the tone of your particular blog, I personally have not found emergent/post-evangelical discussions fruitful or productive *for me.* I’ve tried numerous times to articulate why, but finally in a twitter discussion today, I realized that a lot of the rhetorical conventions automatically exclude me from the conversation, regardless of anyone’s intentions. One of the examples I’ve been thinking about lately is the way in which discussions between ex-Christians and liberal Christians often turn into discussions about what “the church” as such should or shouldn’t do. This is when I check out because I don’t share the same investment in the future of Christianity, and I notice other ex-Christians becoming quieter at this point as well. Sometimes I’ll think to myself, “I don’t CARE what happens to the church,” but that doesn’t quite capture what I mean.

    I would like for the church to stop abusing people, but I cannot relate to discussions about the future of the church as such. I can’t come up with a list of things that just need to be fixed – and then everything would be all fine and I’d return again. Articulating this at all is not easy. And it makes me tired.

    This is something that I see come up over and over again in dialogue between liberal Christians and ex-Christians. It’s often a Christian-specific discussion, and as such, it’s… Well, it’s awkward, and I don’t really have anything to contribute when Christians veer into prescription territory because my answer to abuses in Christianity isn’t to “make Christianity better.” When people make that rhetorical move – the one that assumes that I would come back to church if its problems could be solved – I feel alienated from the conversation. It feels like this implicit co-opting happens, and it’s not always easy to name, and the people who’ve done it later try to apologize and assure me that they DON’T presume that I want to be involved again (But their motivations aren’t the point. It’s the way the rhetoric operates. And the fact that I have nothing to say in discussions about how to make the church more inclusive because improving the church isn’t my concern.).

    About this blog – The commentariat here often feels like a gathering of people with “smartest dude in the room” syndrome (It’s partly the mansplaining). I have a visceral and hard to control desire to crush people who have this affliction, and so it’s often better for everyone if I don’t engage. It’s a problem – and it’s actually one reason I got out of blog commenting more generally. I tend to react with, “Yeah? YEAH?” and then throw myself with abandon into the “I’m cleverer than you” competition – and I don’t like how I feel when I do this even though “winning” provides a high at the time. I guess I’m susceptible to the disease as well, is what I’m saying.

    Finally, Tony, I don’t find you to be particularly gracious about things when you feel slighted in some way. And in my own experience, you have interpreted social awkwardness and poor hearing as a personal affront. I find this sort of thing particularly difficult to deal with in Christian circles, in which I feel that whatever I’ve done has been cast as some sort of moral or spiritual failing or inferiority. I have a long history in evangelicalism complete with lots of childhood “why aren’t you trying to be a better PART OF THE GROUP??” shaming related to the way introverts and misfits are targeted with that “well-meaning,” cheery Christian bullying. And I don’t like to insert myself into situations that produce the same kinds of feelings. I realized after Wild Goose that the terrible feelings it gave me weren’t entirely specific to Wild Goose – it was all tied in with every other camp-like Christian retreat I’d ever been on. All the old feelings were brought back up. I experienced a lot of spiritual abuse at these retreats, and I don’t feel safe in any environment that reminds me of them. It’s best for me to excise them from my life, not keep trying. I kept trying to perform Good Evangelical Christian for a very long time. I just can’t anymore.

    • Nicki Waters

      THIS x10000

    • Kristin, you absolutely and utterly nailed it! Exactly!

  • sofia

    I look forward to the day when the full spectrum of gender is more prominently discussed than a dualistic divide.

    That said, to try to answer this question, I wonder if women tend to simply feel more free to live in liminal space, not feeling constrained by dogma, and therefore not feeling a need to answer some of the Questions that Haunt, for instance. I can only speak for myself, and that’s true for me. I would also agree with a prior comment that it’s likely that there are many church leaders from a more conservative/traditional Christian background (male) who read this blog.

    • Kristin Rawls


  • I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and I will admit that often it appears that your posts are quite straightforward, meaning they are more like a descriptive report rather than inferential dialogue. Perhaps at times you will follow your post with a vague question for engagement, but normally I don’t feel enough pull to respond. It has seemed that you didn’t really care about my response at all, not necessarily in a negative way, but because you had a foreseen agenda with your post. From my web-o-sphere perspective, Tony Jones is a bit standoffish.

    And I say this only because you seem to be truly asking for feedback. I appreciate your effort to learn and grow, as we all are in our own respective blogging worlds. You are an encouragement to myself, personally, as I attempt to formulate where I stand in this post-evangelical, post/current emergent mess we call Christianity. Thanks!

    • Krista, you’re right, ending a post with a question is often a contrivance. I try to do that only when I mean it. But I need to think about how to do that better.

      And, you’re one of the women theobloggers I read. Glad to have your voice here too.

    • Vicki

      Kristin, I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t comment either. And, I think you’ve got something here. Tony, I like that you introduce commentary that is new and even provocative. But, I don’t tend to comment and I think it has to do with the fact that my response isn’t really part of what you are trying to obtain. You critique, teach, and present new material. That’s fine, really, but somehow that style doesn’t cause me to want to respond. For me, it may be as simple as that.

      Since Rachel responded here . . . and since I do find that I comment on her blog and not yours . . . how she posts and her style may well be something for you to consider.

  • Lady Aanya

    Just thought I’d put in my two cents.

    As a woman who has never read a single thing you’ve ever written, exept this post and your responses on it, I see a split image here:

    on one side: The image you have of yourself.
    on the other side: The image you actually present.

    You present as defensive, self-righteous, and didactic. Notice I didn’t say you ARE… my guess is, (based on the responses here from people who DO read your blog) that you are thoughtful, have strong opinions, and enjoy the beautiful truth that often emerges when conflicting sides engage. But that is the way you appear.

    You noticed that you’re not getting the reaction you expected, so you asked for a mirror. Now you’ve been handed a mirror and it shows you have a milk moustache. Instead of saying “I tried to wipe that off!” or “That mirror must be dirty!” (“I read as many women theoblogs as I can find. I’ve tried in vain to get some of them to guest post here, in order to share my platform with them.” or “It’s not about traffic. Truly. I’m thrilled with how my traffic has grown this year. It’s about having a richer conversation.”) try saying “I didn’t realize that” or “how can I change that” or maybe even “Perhaps I’ve been approaching this wrong”.

    So how to wipe off the moustache? Listen to those who are so graciously donating their time to tell you what is wrong. Go back and re-read those defensive “but… I did it right!!! why isn’t it working?” statements and rewrite them. Make them feel like you are grateful for their contributions.

    • That’s a pretty good string of metaphors.

  • Kristin Rawls

    Oh, also? Post-evangelicals are some of the least feminist-aware people I’ve ever met. I was sort of shocked when someone responded to some of my critiques of an emergent event by telling me that women were “preaching and teaching” as if this was some sort of proof that no feminist awareness was needed. What I meant was: Why hasn’t anyone read any feminist theology past (the very vile) Mary Daly? Why doesn’t liberal Christianity seem to have Third Wave feminism? Where’s the discussion of privilege? Why is “mansplaining” taken as on offensive term when it’s Third Wave Feminism 101?

    • Kristin Rawls

      Where are the feminist critiques of redemption and forgiveness narrative – about how they often silence victims for not being “forgiving enough”?

      I want to be clear that I’m not shaking my fist at you so as to say, “You should be writing about THESE THINGS, Tony.” Just that the things that often get discussed on your blog often aren’t relevant to my experiences of Christianity.

    • Kevin

      Kristin – I can only speak for myself, but I am a “post-evangelical” and have become increasingly aware of my own lack of awareness regarding a feminist viewpoint. I am at a point where I seek understanding of my own ignorance, yet I’m not sure how to ask for help. I know you said you are not really interesting in “fixing” the Christian church, so I don’t want to get on that subject. Maybe I should ask this: what advice would you give someone, any human being, who wants to grow past their own blind ignorance regarding feminism as a perspective, as a way of life, as a lens through which to understand the world more fully? Are there specific blogs, books, etc.? Right now, all I can do is understand that I DON’T understand, and approach the subject with humility, an open heart and an open mind.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Kevin – Yeah, sure. Hm… I guess for the basics I’d recommend blogs like Feministe and feministing. There’s plenty of room for critiques of these – they tend to be white and middle class-dominated, but I think they’re a relatively good non-academic place to start. Dianna Anderson and Sarah Moon also have really, really good blogs about ex-evangelicalism and feminism. Also, the blog, “Are Women Human?” about LGBTQ perspectives, feminism and evangelical culture.

        I didn’t come to feminism through North American feminism though (And I feel alienated by a lot of Movements), but through post-colonial feminism (Gayatri Spivak, for example, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”) and Marxist feminisms. My favorite theorist is Wendy Brown, who is unfortunately best known for being Judith Butler’s partner (I find her work more impressive than Butler’s, for whatever reason.). If she were still taking students and political theorists were still getting hired, I’d have stayed in academia.

        • Kristin Rawls

          Also, there’s a website called “Derailing for Dummies” with quite a few of the basics that often come up in online debates.

          • Kristin Rawls

            It’s written in a jokey way, hence the title. But it’s good.

        • Kevin

          Thanks for taking the time to respond! I’ve copied and pasted this info so I can go back and take a look at these resources.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Sure – and thank you! I really appreciate the kind of response you had here. What I don’t like is, “Well, how can I know anything if you won’t EDUCATE ME???” There’s a lot of that, but “Hey, what are some recommendations?” That’s awesome.

        • Thank you for this, Kristin. I need to learn more about this perspective, too.

      • Christians For Biblical Equality is an excellent resource.

  • I’m late to the game here, but I comment on blogs for 2 reasons. 1) I have a very strong opinion to share, and 2) I’m trying to network with another blogger who writes for the niche I’m trying to elbow my way into, to get my name out there, to draw people to my own content. Do you think that this blog’s male-dominated audience is willing to give attention to other female commenters, by clicking over to their blogs and following them on Twitter? It is quite rare for a female writer to attract a male audience.

  • Because they’re all over at my blog http://WWW.thebuzzsawreport.blogspot.com!!!

    • Kate

      Spammy McSpammerson!!!

  • Mary

    Yes to Joy, Kelly J, Michelle, Denika, ….., Stephanie, …… I lost track.
    I am a daily reader for a long time. I noticed the lack of women early on (Actually notice this in some other similar-veined blogs, too.). It seems consistent for ALL the afore mentioned reasons. I comment a little but see the competitive spirit among some of your (mostly) male participants, dismissive tones….. not why I read.
    I like the “what’s happenin’ in the “emergelical” world” aspect- probably why I continue.
    Mostly, I am post-emergent in my beliefs. I do not care who is right. I am hoping for discussion of deep Christological spirituality that transcends divisions, doctrine, etc.
    my thoughts

  • Kate

    I’ve never read anything on this blog before, so I went back and skimmed several posts. Nothing interesting going on here. Sorry that ladies don’t love cool Tony.

  • Luke Allison

    Geez. I’d say Tony has earned a six-pack of Surly Furious after this virtual drubbing.

    • I’m home. You can bring some by. 🙂

    • Kate

      To be fair, he asked for it.

    • “Virtual drubbing” Whaaaaat? You ask women for their feedback and then when they answer you whine about it? That makes no sense.

  • Tuning in late (which proves my first point about why I personally don’t comment):
    1) Not enough time. I think I speak for a lot of women (and I see that I’m echoing other comments) when I say we’re already multi-tasking to death and taking the time to write thoughtful comments is just asking too much.
    2) It’s intimidating. I’m not a trained theologian and I don’t feel I can offer academically acceptable comments on your blog, although I do enjoy reading it. I saw a couple of others mention the fact that most of your comments come from men who are in the ministry or in seminary. And I think the women who are pastors or in seminary are also wearing multiple hats and don’t have the time either.
    3) Finally, I think being a woman raised in a patriarchal society adds to my feeling of intimidation. Fear of appearing less intellectual than your male readers makes me shy away.

  • ft

    Thanks for asking. I usually read blogs but I rarely comment. I feel unsafe when I do. My stuff, most likely. When I comment theologically, I am normally invisible. When I comment on women in ministry, I feel unsafe and vulnerable to attack. Thanks for asking.

  • John Totten

    Hi, I’m a therapist, Seattle School graduate, former student of Dwight’s, and a guy who has a hard time giving a crap, so I certainly haven’t read all the comments but from reading Tony’s, it seems like he asked the question in order to defend himself from the answers.

    Now you may be a very very good friend of Dwight’s and may have shared all kinds of beers and cigars with him and you probably know him way better than I do, but I have seen him cry many times at his own failures, ESPECIALLY around the issue of excluding the Other from dialogue.

    Yet, you seem to be more defensive than anything. Now I don’t own a Bible anymore, but aren’t the only sacrifices that God wants a broken heart and a contrite heart?

    • Craig

      Tony, if you ever want me to voluntarily leave, take Dr. Totten’s advice. Shed a tear when you insult the next fundamentalist. Post of video of yourself blubbering next to a dead duck. Show us snot on the beard. Hey, it might even go viral.

  • Hey Tony,

    Mark me down for the “pressed for time” category. I tend to be a comment-less reader. I find that I tend to only comment on blogs that are humorous or somewhat inane, mostly because I find it difficult to jump in on debates or issues in the cyber world where I have so little control over how my tone or humor is perceived. The times when I have jumped in on issues that I feel strongly about, I tend to find myself getting frustrated with other commenters, not necessarily the author of the post. I often skip the comments because there are normally just enough wackos out there commenting that make me want to jab myself in the eyeball. So I stick with the posts and move on from there.

    I suppose that’s why I’ve always looked forward to face to face conversations with you (which, by the way, are always pleasant and invigorating). Hope to see you soon!

    • In other words, sometimes your commenters scare me. 😉

  • Dolph Ludwig

    Because you have the intellectual capacity of George W. Bush, the ego of Russell Brand, and the look and stature of Andy Dick. A woman would only respond to say ‘you suck.’ Clearly you opened that door tonight. So, you suck. That is all.

    • Oh, please! Tony DOES NOT have the look and stature of Andy Dick.

      • Dolph Ludwig

        Super sweet website. Love the shirtless pics.

  • Dee

    You can add another female voice.
    I enjoy the various view points on this and other sites, but neither have nor care to have the time to count the angels dancing. Keep up the good work.

  • Jon Duns Scrotum

    OMG…. Rachel Held Evans Gently! It’s true, Trip and Bo are the reason the internet EXISTS! Please… they are all the same and all are up each other’s egos. Most people do not need the excuse of emergent blogging to ignore the real people around them and go drinking with their “friends.” With Tony, the reason women do not read or comment on your blog is…. why would they? What on your blog is at all appealing to women? I’m pretty sure any women who have been ITCHING to comment on your posts have now moved on to simply reading another article at Jezebel. I’m sorry you aren’t every women’s hero.

    • ME

      you had me at Scrotum

  • Ballsthasar Hubmaier

    Per chance this very blog post might answer your silly question with a bit of self-reflection. You could use these comments to guide your reflection, like a prayer labyrinth. Are those still a thing? If so, at the center of said labyrinth, you’ll find your hubris.

    • Jon Duns Scrotum

      Sweet David Bowie Christ this post is amazing.

  • Rebecca

    I’m baffled by the meanness of so many of the comments. I read this blog regularly. I don’t comment for no reason other than that I just don’t take the time to comment on blogs. But I appreciate your posts and don’t experience you as shutting down conversation. I’m troubled by how utterly unkind some of the responses have been. I, for one, thank you for putting yourself out there and writing thought provoking log posts.

  • Dude. I haven’t finished reading all the comments, just the ones at the beginning, and I had to give you a little encouragement cause you’re taking a beating from some of the women above. I for one love so much about you. Your blog is in my reader and I read every post. I love the questions you are asking and the ways you are helping us to think. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep calling myself a Christian or not, but you are one of the few that makes me want to stay a follower of Jesus. Thank you.

    • a daily reader

      This has been a tough conversation!

      I will agree with other female commenters that the tone in the comment section is incredibly off-putting. The comments seem to devolve into a pissing match pretty regularly. I wouldn’t comment here because 1) I’m not a seminarian or in ministry and 2) I’m pretty sure I’d be disrespected. I wouldn’t necessarily count that as a slam against you, Tony. I think it says more about the attitudes of some of your commenters. I read RHE and Slacktivist regularly as well. They have their trolls and argumentative commenters too, but their comment sections don’t seem to flame up quite as often or as nastily as yours. If you want more women to participate, I think either some of your commenters are going to have to lay off the @-hole junior high boy stuff on their own or you are going to have to get more serious about moderating or steering the conversation to less obnoxious places.

      That said, I’m really interested in the ProgGod stuff. Already read something from the Advent challenge that I thought was great. People post more in-depth since they’re linking to their own blogs AND there’s not so much ridiculousness in the comments. More of this, please!!!

  • Jen

    Tony, first thanks for noticing. Whatever the spurred the questions, thought, observation, etc. Thanks for engaging it. This question is showing up in several circles at the moment and I am uncertain where it emerged first. I think is also leads to the question who else is missing. If you think gender is hard to determine by made up names – race, orientation, education, age, denomination can be even more obscure. I’d be interested in those demographics as well and not just for this site.

    In the spirit of full disclosure:
    1. We’ve met, had conversations in person, and eaten meals together (Soliton and you’ve been the speaker at retreats for my students). While we in no means know each other, there is something different in this world of online conversations, at least for me, if we have connected in actual life rather than only through a screen. Maybe it is that a larger piece of each other’s humanity and/or personhood can be seen or can be imagined. (or maybe it is just me) 2. I am on round three of seminary (MA, MDiv and now a DMin) where I am the only woman in the program. 3. I have commented on this site a few times in the past, but not often.

    That being said:
    1. Time is precious and limited.
    2. If I do comment, I am making an investment. As such, I intentionally limit what how much I post/reply online. I want to be engaged, to listen to hear what others are saying and to be heard if I comment. If I post, I am committing to the long haul of the conversation. This means that I am going to read all the comments first and to process it. As a personal practice of restraint, I do not post quick replies (keeps me later cleaning up messes I make).
    3. What is the tone of the comments? I am not interested in “winning” or one-upping – when/if I see that in comments on a post here, I will not join in the conversation. If people are not engaging other comments, I am not going to post. If the author doesn’t come back and rejoin the conversation, I am less inclined to post. If people (including the original author) are dismissive of others, I will not engage.
    4. The internet community of people who I do not actually know, is not my primary community for these discussions. On many topics, it is a risk for me to post. (I have had my comments printed and delivered to my office before.) I look for safe places to discuss/disagree/challenge/be challenged/question and the open internet isn’t it.

    Specifically for your blog:
    1. I primarily read your blog through google reader. If I come back for a second read, I visit the site directly and read the comments.
    2. While I read a good number of posts a second time, there are a good number that I don’t read past the header and preview lines. Some turn me off right away (ones that look like they are crafted to increase traffic, pick a fight, self-promote/jr high boy humor). It is your blog and you should post whatever you desire. As a reader, I filter by titles/first lines.
    3. This goes for most blogs I read, I am not interested in all topics/links/articles that are interesting to the author. I’d rather engage elsewhere.
    4. You’ve mentioned not having success in having women taking you up on your offer to guest post here. A woman’s voice is a afterthought/response and not a part of the posts. It isn’t asked for (except for today and you did get a good bit of response). With that voice missing from the beginning, the conversation has already been shaped.

    I get asked to be “the female perspective” about a certain topic/idea/you name it on a regular basis and frankly it is both tiring late to the game. (In addition to the crazy idea that one person gets to represent half the population.) Let me clarify, the structures and boundaries have already been set, the prompt has been written, the first direction has been set. Often I say (or want to say) can we backup and rewrite the prompt or reshape the question. (I think of this past political season and the conversation revolving around women’s health care that was initiated and carried out primarily by men.)
    I’d ask is there a way to partner with women before the post goes live, to shape what is posted, to shape the questions and not just replies or answers. To me that goes to the larger questions of what women are shaping, challenging, teaching, writing, influencing you? And how? Who are you a true theological partner with and not just someone who you do something for as a favor.

    This isn’t a request for you to change the format of your blog, but an attempt at an honest response to your question. Sorry for the length of this post, but I did warn you earlier that I make an investment when I comment.

  • Speaking for myself, there are two main issues.

    Tone: Here I have to agree with Joy. You can be confrontational in the way you approach issues. You’re respectful and give a fair reading of people you disagree with, but you present it in a way that makes me think I really need to have my thoughts together before I offer an opinion. Combine that with the comparative short length of your posts. (Or at least it seems that way to me?) I often tuck what you say to think about as I ride the subway or go about my life, and quite often am better for the pontificating.

    But that happens long after I’ve left your page. With a longer post, the time it takes to read the post often gives me time to think through what the author is saying and formulate at least a first-flush response while I’m sitting at the computer. With you, I’m more likely to discuss something you said on FB or in a blog entry of my own, than I am to come back and comment on your page. Which leads me to:

    Technology: If Patheos provides a way to receive some kind of notification that I’ve received a comment, I’m yet to find it. This is after asking at least three Patheos bloggers and sending an email to the help request. That means I have to remember to come back to see if anyone has actually replied to what I said. In theory, I want to give bloggers the benefit of my comments, since I’d want the same for myself. But in practice, the lack of notifications takes away my other main reason for commenting: to participate in a dialogue with others who were interested by the topic.

    So if I don’t have a worked-out thought that I feel is up to your standards by the time I read a comparatively short post, and if I don’t think I’ll get help working out my thoughts or fine-tuning them through dialogue…. as much as I want to comment in theory, it’s just not a good fit in practice. I’ll make an effort to come back and check to see if you or anyone has thoughts on these points, but you can also reach me privately at my email address listed with this comment, if you want to discuss any of this.

    Btw, I think Joy is right in her point above. Controversy sells, but it seems to sell much more with men than women. That doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for truth and make a case for a point. But I know for myself, there are some posts where I’ve felt just a little yelled at (probably unintentionally), and that’s definitely a disincentive to throw your opinion out there, particularly if for technological reasons I’m not sure I’ll be around to defend it.

  • John McCauslin

    Maybe it’s as simple as the difference between those who relish the rough and tumble of a debate style encounter and those who enjoy the intimacy and vulnerability of encounters which feature exploration and personal sharing. I admit to enjoying both, but usually at different times. It requires extraordinary skills to engage in both at the same time – and maybe it’s just not possible. It seems that Tony’s style is the former. If that is so, then it is not surprising that his blog attracts certain responses and discourages others.

    I also found the whole exchange about abusers fascinating. I see a significant congruence between the sensativity of those who have suffered at the hands of others to inadvertent triggers pushed by innocent third parties, and the defensiveness of those who inadvertently push those triggers. It seems inescapable in human society. Those whom society has invested with systemic power (white males) often (and inadvertently) irritate the wounds of those who have directly suffered abuse at the hands of the systemically powerful (the injured include women, people of color, etc). Defensive reactions by those in power to the painful emotional response of the abused only make things worse. Even if we did not cause the abuse, the system has cooped us to a degree into a shared status with the actual perpetrators of the abuse. To move forward we, and I mean to include both those in power and those who have suffer direct or indirect abuse at the hands of the powerful, have to accept that, and with that in mind, we need to partner in seeking ways to promote genuine healing.

    In any event, it is counterproductive to respond with the defense that I did not cause your abuse, nor does it help to defend with protestations of our own wounds – our wounds are not the ones bleeding at the moment.

  • I read through your post and all the comments with interest and am still contemplating why I don’t participate in comments on your blog or others. I am a bit surprised with the amount of psychoanalysis going on, but I think that says something about the conversation. And in turn, I found myself psychoanalyzing myself. I have theological interests, work in Christian education, am currently working on a DMin. I have tried to engage in Christian blogs at times – I keep up with my own sporadically – but like much of my world, the blogosphere just feels like another sphere where I don’t want to “go public” with my thoughts because it’s another forum for being squashed instead of encouraged to use my gifts. That may sound silly since making a comment is almost-anonymous. Even in our day and time, it takes courage (feels like I should use the word valor) for many women to step into theological conversations because of past experiences of being marginalized and disrespected. It perhaps takes a lifetime to recover from having been taught that your theological comments should only be shared privately at home and not publicly from a pulpit or classroom. So, I think if you just remember that there’s an innate sensitivity for many of us and encourage our participation, it goes far. It “feels” to me that I’m entering a boy’s club where the boys all pat each other on the back and encourage one another (there’s a lot of tweet love between theological men), while I have to prove myself worthy to be there. I have actually found many men to be encouraging – asking me to write guest posts for their blogs, writing a foreword for my book, asking me to speak or participate in events. But, the reality is that more people (men and women) have not encouraged my theological interests, so it remains something where I feel vulnerable even after a lifetime of living out my call to ministry. And, it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit that. I hope my comment helps you think through what really is an important question. Thanks for asking it.

  • I probably shouldn’t say this – I’m almost positive several people will take it the wrong way – but I feel compelled to… I am all for equality – for women, for all sexual orientations, for minorities, etc. But, what this feels like – from my very limited perspective – is several people wanting to be treated equally until they actually are.

    Tony seems to be responding with “I’m going to give you the same shit that I give everyone” – which, to me, is hilarious and fun. Maybe there is some argument to be made that people, in general, shouldn’t be treated that way, but I’m not in that camp.

    I have to tell myself this every day: take a breath.

    This is just the sense that I get from a lot of the feedback here.

    • John

      I wouldn’t agree with the notion that you shouldn’t say this sort of thing. Truthfully, I suspect a great many men feel exactly this way. However, I’ve always been puzzled by the general atmosphere of metaphorical dick-measuring that holds sway in so many male-on-male interactions. Lots of guys have learned to disguise that activity to some degree, but what you describe strikes me as precisely that. I’m not trying to represent the following as your attitude in particular, but there seems to be a belief floating around in many men’s heads that being rude and disrespectful to others as a means of asserting yourself is perfectly acceptable–even laudable. It’s not. It’s simply bad manners and empty posturing masquerading as intellectual process. So if you (the generic you, not you personally) think equality for all means you get to be an asshole to everyone in the name of making your point I’d say you’ve missed the mark by quite a lot.

      • I think you make a great point, but…I’ve been around true assholes. A lot of them. I used to work for an Acts 29 church! Assholes are the norm in those circles. I think there is a huge difference between what I perceive Tony to be doing and what I experienced under those kinds of men. Maybe I’m completely missing it. But, I did learn a lot in my own six months of intensive therapy…like how to spot an asshole (a “not safe” person) when I see one. I don’t see it with Tony. Maybe it didn’t take? Maybe I need a redo?

  • JTB

    Hi Tony,

    As I’m not a regular part of the community here, I have just a couple practical things to highlight from the comments above.

    There is something true in the twin observations that both the Internet and seminary (and in some instances, church itself!) are male-dominated spaces. That certainly contributes to the gender-skewed stats, I’m sure. But while we note that, I don’t think this should function as an I’m-off-the-hook-now observation. Rather, it ups the ante for someone who, like you, occupies an influential place in those spaces and who cares about the absence and silence of women in those spaces. It means you’re taking on something bigger, in some ways, than your own personal role–though the reflective question of how you fit it into that larger structural problem is of course necessary and painful (as this post evidences).

    The second, very practical thing I want to highlight is the issue of comment moderation. I don’t mind duking it out a bit, and while I took some hits it was nothing I couldn’t shake off and laugh at. But I was appalled at the way another commenter was attacked personally and rather viciously in the comment thread on the limericks–and on an off-topic tangent as well. Both of these commenters appeared to be regulars in this space. I understand that there’s an issue of time involved but creating a welcoming and safe space for thinking-with-each-other simply takes some deliberate attention, and when people so egregiously misbehave there needs to be some action taken. If you really can’t invest the time in taking care of the community created by the blog and the people who regularly (or occasionally) put themselves on the line to comment, then maybe you should consider closing comments. The free-for-all where you’re as likely to be viciously attacked as seriously engaged is not a space where many people are going to want to jump in there, especially if they aren’t already part of the “insiders.”

    Thanks for asking the question. Now, if only John Boehner would follow your example…:)

  • Just a brief comment on “arguing on and on”, which I am sometimes guilty of. As well as sometimes ending sentences with prepositions.

    Communication is difficult. It is more difficult without visual queues. Defining terms in religion is particularly difficult. Not knowing the background of the people you are communicating with adds to the difficulty. All of this adds up to the necessity of some lengthy clarifications, back and forth, apparent repetition.

    I should add that Tony’s blog is fairly unique in that, I have stuck with conversations sometimes beyond my comfort level and found some resolution and agreement in the end.

  • the holly

    where are all the women? what a question. it’s one i’ve been mulling over for years as a blogger and over the past few years since i’ve had to quit a public presence online.

    what i know is this:
    1. tony, you have always been quite encouraging to me in ministry and in theological exploration. thanks. i realize that my experience with your blog comes after knowing you in person and working with you in emergent for years.
    2. i find the comments about how you come across helpful. perception is NOT everything, but it is something. if it was everything, you’d have no following. you being an 8 on the enneagram and involved in ministry and leadership for years, i’m sure this is not news to you. your edge is still there. i live with an 8 and how i experience him and you are very similar. i enjoy the challenge, obviously, more than i am annoyed by it.
    3. while stuff like the enneagram can help us understand folks, those descriptors are not totalizing, nor are all of us experts. let’s be careful in assuming that since we are somewhat familiar with categories that we absolutely know tony.
    4. i did not hear tony ask for folks to question his motives or psychoanalyze him. this train of conversation is disturbing to me. trained professionals get this wrong. let’s be careful of projection. he asked the question that many have asked before: where are the women? how might these spaces be structured to encourage that voice to be heard?
    5. fwiw, at the points in my life when i’ve either been too tired or too discouraged with the church to read god-focused blogs, i continue to read yours.
    6. the primary reason i don’t comment is time. i think of something i want to say but want to have all my ducks in a row before i comment and by the time i get back around to it, the moment has gone.

  • Robin

    I don’t typically read the comment section of blogs, much less comment on them. My limited experience reading them has shown many comments to be extreme and belligerent. I don’t have time for that, nor am I interested in it. Even in this comment section, some people accuse you of always being right and not listening to other opinions, yet they write their own opinions with the same sense of infallibility that they accuse you of having. Some pretty harsh comments were written about you that I believe would have been expressed a little differently in an actual face-to-face conversation. Maybe that’s it, I prefer conversations to cyber-banter.

    I’m new to your blog, and you’ve been addressing some great topics. I’ve even discussed your blog face-to-face with people over coffee. I realize that you miss out on knowing those conversations are happening…but I don’t end up pissed off at cyber-freak strangers.

  • Robin

    I rarely read comment sections of blogs, much less comment on them myself. My limited experience reading them has shown that many people who post comments are belligerent extremists. I don’t have time for that, nor am I interested in it. While the comments posted here weren’t necessarily belligerent, some people accused you of writing with a sense of arrogance and not listening to other opinions. I feel that they wrote with the same sense of infallibility that they accused you of having. I believe (hope) that those opinions would have been expressed slightly differently had they been spoken to you instead of written. Maybe that’s it, I prefer conversations and question whether they can occur through comments posted in cyber-space. I am new to your blog and have found some of your recent posts intriguing. I’ve even had conversations about a few of them with people over coffee. I realize that you miss out on knowing these conversations are taking place… but I’m not getting pissed off at belligerent strangers.

  • JPL

    Ok, so I’ve discovered a couple of valuable points:

    1. For God’s sake, don’t ask a group of women why they’re not speaking to you. They might start.

    2. Tony, you might consider that hounded, hunted feeling you’re now having the next time you go out to shoot innocent birds. If these people had shotguns, and you had feathers…same deal. Just saying.

    3. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. In fact, they will kick the living crap out of me with the smallest of provocation.

    4. Frank feels bad for Tony even those he’s conservative. I feel bad for Tony even though I’m liberal. Apparently “Testes uber alles.”

    5. I can only hope it’s Mark Driscoll’s birthday, since he couldn’t help but laugh himself silly watching Tony Jones blasted mercilessly for his chauvinistic, man-pig ways. Mark will have to change his pants before advising his next female congregant on the evangelistic power of blowjobs.

    And so we see the eternal paradox that plays out between liberal and conservative Christians throughout time: conservatives destroy “the Other”; liberals destroy each other.

  • B-Lar

    Interestingly, the atheist community is grappling with this question, although they are a little more down the line that you. You have taken the first step in that you have noticed the problem, and also the second in that you have asked what the problem might be. These two steps are easy. The third is then to take the answers aboard without making excuses or getting defensive. The problem that has been prevalent whenever this question is asked is the tendency to minimize or disregard the answers because they dont fit with your existing worldview… and atheists dont have 2 centuries of entrenched theological dogma to contend with. They just have to contend with breaking apart social conditioning. Your occupation puts you at a disadvantage when grappling with the question and answers effectively.

  • Wow! You’ve got comments now! I really don’t have time to read them all but I read some of them, forgive me if I’m repeating something.

    There are a couple of points I’d like to make. Don’t confuse reading with commenting. Obviously, by this long list of comments there are women reading your blog just not commenting. So they’re listening.

    I read your blog consistently. I almost never comment.

    I’ve met you a few times. Heard you speak several times. Read your books. I like what you have to say. I do NOT think you need to change what you write for women’s sake, I don’t know why you would. I find the notion insulting. You write what interests you. I don’t find what you post offensive to women, quite the contrary.

    I do not however enjoy the comment section. I’ve decided lately that I don’t like the comment section of most blogs. They’re irritating, if not infuriating and I’ve decided that I have no relationship with the people in the comment section so why waste any emotional energy on them? I’ve learned to trust your tone. I don’t hear it as harsh. Some of the people you attract in the comment section I find harsh and argumentative and I have never found it helpful. So I’ve made a practical decision (for my own peace of mind) to ignore them.

    I understand what people say about your tone being combative but I have to say…being quite disillusioned with christianity…that I find it a relief when someone will step up and call a spade a spade. I struggle to continue to identify with christianity because of some of the convoluted nonsense that some very public christians do and say. To have someone else point out the nonsense makes me feel less alone.

    Even when I’ve disagreed with something you’ve posted I’ve not been enticed to comment. You are seldom to be found in the comment section and I don’t want to discuss it with the likes of Frank (sorry Frank…you might be a very nice person but I’m afraid that’s not the impression you give) because I really don’t care what Frank or other strangers think about it. I’m not interested in spending my time doing that.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • kim

    I read your blog every day. I would never comment. The tone of your comments as opposed to say Rachel Held Evans community, is night and day. Rachel has obviously worked hard to foster in depth, thoughtful, intelligent and generous commentary and community. This may be a regular gathering of the fellows, but calling it community, I am not saying you are, would be an incredible stretch. I do go the internet for information, but I’ll be honest, knowing another’s story and hearing his/her heart, goes a long way toward opening my mind to challenge. This is not that and so it rarely warrants more than a quick read from me.

    I appreciate the information you share. I often share it with others. But, discussion in the comments feel more like the sophomoric sparring matches of my undergraduate days than helpful insight from mature believers who have lived a little. Such an atmosphere does not encourage me to share my understanding or thoughts here.

  • I would love to continue this conversation, it seems like to big of a deal for it to just drop off. Tony got some intense feedback and I am curious about how it is sitting with him today or what he would like to communicate now. It would be tragic (no hyperbole!) for a conversation where people are begging for relationship to end abruptly with no resolution!

    • Your comments are not being blocked.

      I don’t think that “resolution” will be quite so easy on this topic.

      • Resolution would be a bit of a journey and it won’t be overnight but I hope that this community can help process it with you, if you feel it is a safe place. Which you may well not and I totally understand. When I’m on the receiving end of difficult criticism it is incredibly painful because it touches on such deep-seated issues for me. But it’s always been absolutely the best thing that has happened for my relationsihps and my marriage and my parenting and I wouldn’t trade one word of it and I hope I’ve done well by you here!

        • (It hasn’t always been the best thing for my spelling though. #relationsihps)

  • It seems my comments aren’t going through on here…have I been blocked?

  • Evelyn

    Thanks for deleting my comment, Tony. I’m glad you read it. It’s too bad that you favor GAYS at the expense of 50% of the population on your blog.

    • You are welcome to post your feelings about gays, Evelyn. You may not personally insult other commenters on the basis of their sexuality.

      • Evelyn

        These are my feelings about gays, Tony: I have many gay friends and gay people who live near me. They lead perfectly respectable lives, have partners, children, and careers. I like some of them and love others. I’m not going to let someone like R. Jay suggest that they are a bunch of whoreish walking penises or vaginas and generally drag them through the mud and I’m not going to let him so disgustingly insult me without saying something about it. His “flamboyantly defiant” commentary does not help any viable societal cause that I can think of and is actually quite damaging.

  • Evelyn

    And, by the way Tony, while you are censoring, you might as well censor this:


    Because it is a hell of a lot worse than ANYTHING I’ve said to R. Jay.

    Then, again, why should you care, I’m just a walking VAGINA!!

    • I respectfully disagree.

      • I doubt this will be very well received…but honestly, if you censored more hateful, angry, unhelpful, hyperbole, I might be more inclined to comment. I’d like meaningful conversation that ends with increased understanding. When it gets angry I can’t hear it/read it anymore.

        • That is something I need to consider, Tracie.

      • Evelyn

        Tony, if you are going to use words like “respectful”, I’m going to have to reply and hope that you are listening. If you are listening and you think that you aren’t being misogynistic, you really have a screw loose and REALLY ARE MISSING THE POINT. Earlier in this comment thread, R. Jay commends a woman on using the term “broad” to refer to herself. In the comment section of your next post, R. Jay says that he “identifies” with a woman (Brianna). I understand that R. Jay might be a gay male who thinks he is “womanly” in some way or wants to explore his feminine side and we should accept that: kind of like when a transvestite wants to be called “she” and we should call her “she” because that is what “she” identifies with. The problem is, that the “she” that R. Jay is identifying with is a sexualized, Madonna-wanna-be (the singer), whorish stereotype and he is pushing this view of womanhood on women. In a conversation like this, using words like “broad” is veiled hate-speech especially coming from someone who commented on your video post about the “stylish” baptism by saying “take that bitches” and especially after he went on about how we should turn ourselves into flamboyantly defiant sex objects. This is OBSCENE and extremely offensive.

        If R. Jay doesn’t get the point and he thinks he is funny, he is either insane or completely disingenuous in which case I have no desire to continue ANY conversation with him. The fact that you are egging on one member of an oppressed group to oppress another group when you are a member of the dominant group is, quite frankly, disgusting and your blog has no integrity for me any more. I’m not feeling like you take ANYTHING that women say seriously and I have my doubts about the fact that you feel bad about being “attacked” by women. If you persist in your support of R. Jay’s denigration of us, you deserve EVERY criticism you get and more.

        Please excuse my obscenities in previous posts. That happens when people are so angry they really can’t speak. You REALLY DON”T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND HOW OFFENSIVE THIS IS, TONY. IT IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE.

        • Evelyn

          P.S. If you think you can attack feminist ideology like you can attack theological ideology, think again. Feminist ideology is built on real-world experience of abusive and enslaving behavior against women. It is not some “what if” system of logic built on abstractions. Believe me, I thought feminism was a hoax and was silly for nearly 30 years of my life until I hit the glass ceiling (so-to-speak) and found out how very real the oppression and denigration of women is – the reality had to be obvious to me for me to get what it was all about and it was obvious.

          This is’t a joke or a fabrication, Tony. You’re talking about people’s lives and what they do with them.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Not to put too fine a point on it, but not all feminists agree about all things. I disagree with more feminists about things more often than I agree with them. To wit, I also think demonizing trans people on Evenlyn’s part has veered into hate speech. Tony, if you were the type of blogger who noticed this type of thing and who didn’t allow hate speech on your blog (whether in this case or the very MANY cases of men who have said sexist things on this thread), I’d be more interested in discussions here.

  • We’re having a vibrant conversation about this post on my Facebook, Tony. I’ve been thinking about what I wrote yesterday and what a friend of mine wrote on my FB. There’s something about titling a blog “Where Are the Women?” that seems off-putting.

    Instead may I suggest, what my friend suggested, “What have I done to alienate nearly half of the population?” The first question assumes that women *should* be reading your blog. It is almost a privileged question to ask that. The later suggests a invitation and personal responsibility.

    I also have to say that this post has ignited me to make a more aggressive (oy! the lovely 8 energy) presence in the blog world. I am a theologian. I am a woman. I need “to be the change I want to see.”

    • Your proposed title is laden with assumptions that I don’t know to be true.

      And, yes, please let your theological voice be heard!

  • EMag

    I think that one of the other points of consideration here is that you seem to be working from a hard and fast gender dualism. Men are posting; women are not. Yet, reality subverts that binary. It is not an either or situation here. I think that a robust theology of the Trinity helps us rethink our anthropology as more plural. In other words, I think that a helpful way of thinking about the conversation would not be to ask what are men commenting and women not, but rather ask about the particular types of people who are commenting. Each of them is far more complex than their X or Y chromosomal genetics. I wonder what types of genetically male commenters are responding, as well as the female respondents. How about the genetically male and female commenters who are not responding? How can we think about the complexities of the conversation and the reality of complex, plural existence in ways that broaden the discourse, and especially the listening, rather than close it off prematurely with simple binary thinking. In other words, a social trinitarian theology of personhood should honor the complex particularity of individuals, which in my estimation your question inherently does not.

    • I totally agree. I’d love to move beyond those polarities. But it seems that my question did, indeed, touch a nerve among many women readers.

      • JRB

        Do you totally agree? Your post presumes that you think of “women readers” as an essential category. If you totally agreed, then you would not seek to move beyond polarities by writing with binary categories.

        • Craig

          JRB, what’s an “essential category”? There is, I take it, a somewhat disturbing pattern in the commenting readership. Do you agree? If so, how would you characterize it?

        • Kristin Rawls

          I have also picked up on the essentialism.

  • Liz

    Tony – Thanks for asking the question. As a woman that reads your blog I sincerely appreciate you noticing the disparity. I’m not employed in Christian ministry and I don’t have any kind of formal Christian education but I am a serious follower of Christ who has been connected to the emergent and/or progressive Christian movement/community/conversation for several years.

    Years ago, when I was first distancing myself from the conservative evangelical community and discovering the emergent conversation, I commented on lots of blogs and facebook pages that I no longer comment on today. When you asked the question today I realized that the main reason I stopped commenting on your blog and some others was because I had ended up with the impression that certain bloggers have a boys club going and aren’t typically welcoming to females. That isn’t to say that I got treated poorly so much as just ignored. I’m not sure how you solve that but one thing that comes to mind is that you might spend some time investing in interacting with and promoting female Christian bloggers.

    I also want to say that I am sorry that you have received some harsh comments in response to this post. I personally don’t know you but I thought some of the responses bordered on being mean.

    I wish you well and I hope you are able to filter through all of these responses and find something that helps you.

  • Channing

    Tony – I’m not a reader of your blog usually, but have been following this post. I do follow Stephanie’s blog, though I don’t *always* agree with her stance on things. That being said, just thought I would chime in on her thing about abusers and reminders of them – just looking through this post’s comments I would kind of have to second that (though I don’t know how indicative of the rest of your posts are – I apologize if this makes generalizations, I am just trying to clarify to some small extent).

    I was not raised in a religious atmosphere and came to that on my own, but my father was very abusive psychologically and, for a while, physically. I still do not speak to him because every time I try to let him know why I feel the things that I do, he brushes them off. He turns it back on me. He deflects and places blame everywhere else. I am always the first person to acknowledge my many faults and continually strive to work on them, because knowing that I am less than I could be hurts. Knowing that I affect other people negatively… that really hurts. I care a lot about what other people think up to a certain point (obviously you cannot please everyone). Because of those things, when my father responds to me flippantly or tries to render my arguments invalid – I stop trying to interact with him. I know it won’t get me anywhere. People are drawn to that cognitive dissonance, replacing fact with their own beliefs at every possible cost. I get that… but it doesn’t make me want to try very hard when I know I will only be hitting a brick wall.

    Because of this past with my abusive father, when I run into people who deflect or never take responsibility for their faults, I don’t want to be around them. They could be wonderful people just working through things, but it makes me shut down and stop interacting because I feel like there’s no point. It reminds me of my abuse, it makes me feel so deeply sad. And further, though it doesn’t have a whole lot of relevance to this conversation I realize, it makes me remember how my brother, my only sibling who was one year my junior (I am now 25), died in a car crash this past July. It makes me remember how my brother had to suffer through that abuse his whole life and he died right as he was finally about to escape that and to start his own life. It brings up a lot of emotions because my mind is a web, and the smallest similarity to something in my past that I wish I could wipe away can send me spiraling out of control with my emotions because there is so much there.

    Sometimes my husband has a tendency to talk over me. He just gets caught up in a debate and starts talking louder and louder, interrupting me before I finish a thought. It makes me stop talking and I just have to go away. I love my husband, deeply and truly. He is a wonderful man and I don’t regret my marriage for a second – but when he does those things, he reminds me of the way my father treated me dismissively, and I don’t want to be around him right then.

    If that happens with my husband, whom I love, who is usually so thoughtful and caring, then imagine what it’s like when people come here. If they see something that brings up similar issues, it might shut them down to conversation and interaction. If you seem flippant often, then that would further discourage people. Your attitude reminding them of something else far worse doesn’t mean they’re comparing you to that thing/experience/person, it just means that something has started a chain reaction that leaves them with a bad feeling in the pits of their stomachs. So, please don’t take offense to something like that… just take it in, think about the reasons why that might be the case, and if you can do anything about it. Just my two cents. I hope this hasn’t come across as hurtful or offensive – I wish the best for you and your blog, and I think a better atmosphere and more understanding is always good no matter what part of the planet (or internet) it is.

  • I’m here. I’ve been in the church for 40 years, gave a graduate education to “serving the Lord” at a failing church instead, am raising three kids, the oldest 17, and this is the first year they’ve all been in public school. Ever. I am learning to breathe and wondering how to pick up the pieces of an exhausted woman who loves God, but feels utterly cheated by the system, completely burned-out and angry with conservative Christianity. There’s another way? I am gasping for air. I read every one and listened (and loved hearing all the fun and banter and opinions) with you and Dwight at my dream school…if I didn’t have three kids, two dogs, and a mortgage in California, I’d be there yesterday. The Internet and bloggers like you are one of my current lifelines. I know from experience that the most provocative among us can be the most critical of ourselves. Don’t stop being you. I would miss it right when I’m wondering if women can be honest and vocal (and angry), too.

  • Okay here’s my response as to why I don’t comment on most blogs.
    1. When I do comment it’s usually for the purpose of connection. The internet world for me is a wonderful place to find other people going through similar things as me. I’m looking for that sense of belonging that we all need and i’m not finding it in my current physical location. I feel a sense of belonging here because you think similarly to me in terms of theology. That is why I read. I do not comment in that way because connection type comments seem inappropriate between a man and a woman, especially on-line. I tell Elizabeth Ester that I love her all the time even though we’ve never met in person. It would be weird for me to tell you that I love you, I think. =)
    2. The other purpose for my words would be conversation. I would be very interested in a conversation with you. I am not interested in a conversation with most of your commenters. And the comment section of a blog isn’t a great space for real conversation. Especially, like someone else mentioned, since I have no way of knowing if someone has responded to me unless i wade through all the comments again. In fact half the time I don’t even remember what post I commented on and weeks have past by the time I try to look back. I would love it if there was a way to get an e-mail about comments that are a direct response to my own.
    3. I have not gone to seminary and I am a woman. Do my uneducated thoughts on theology really matter to you? I assume not because of the culture I grew up in…the culture I’m still a part of. You have not put that culture in place, but it’s still there. It will take A LOT of effort on your part to fight this and make us feel welcome to speak. That makes sense, right?

    That said, your argumentative and defensive tone I very much understand. Progressives are under attack often by conservatives. Being defensive is a natural reaction to attack. I would love to have Brian McLaren’s attitude to all of it, but I don’t know how he does it.

    That’s all. Love You! =)

  • Courtney

    Wait a minute….you ask where the women are…then you ban a woman because she disagreed with you?
    This should answer you question.

  • Ellie

    I respect that you’ve opened yourself up to feedback and even criticism. It might hurt but may it bring you growth and wisdom!
    Honestly, I have felt personally dissed by you (we’ve met a couple of times) and I have made the assumption that you have no interest in my theo-blog. So, no, I’ve never left a comment.
    That being said, I do value your voice and perspective. And I believe you have a good heart. May it grow ever more spacious. Peace.

  • New Reader

    I’m new here. You’re new to me. I think my husband would like your style.(hehe) You’re kind of a RUSH style blogger. Guys dig it, girls not so much.

  • Ted Seeber

    Theology in general is a male pursuit. Always has been.

    Whenever you find women involved in religion, even as pastors, the main focus is on social justice, not heavy philosophy or theology.

    Pope John Paul II says this is because of the special “feminine genius”. You’ll find something depressingly similar in the world of business and finance.

    It isn’t that women can’t be good at these topics, just that the priorities of the male brain and the priorities of the female brain remain different, despite recent attempts over the last century or so to force them to be the same (to the detriment of both genders, sadly).

    • Channing

      Wow… these types of sweeping generalizations are really offensive to me. Maybe you ought to throw some “usually”s or “often”s in there somewhere, instead of just saying that women think like X and men think like Y, and the results are always Z.

      Theology has been a male pursuit because women always have been belittled in the church and still are. Loads of people still believe women should not be involved with theology and that they should pursue things like baby-making, working with children, cooking, homemaking, and little Bible studies about pleasing their spouses and submission. It is not that women are not interested in theology or philosophy, but they are discouraged from it most of the time.

      If women do go into religion, maybe it is because they are so bent on helping a particular group that they ignore the naysayers – purpose drives people into action. Men who wish to go into theology only face cultural shifts – from Christianity to atheism, for example – while women still face sexism in culture, deeply within the church (even apart from the biblical elements of it, men are often uncomfortable receiving leadership and instruction from women), *and* the cultural shifts. It’s no wonder this drives women away. It doesn’t lessen interest, it just keeps them out.

      Women can be and are good at these topics, and they often do have these priorities. Men likewise can have priorities in social justice issues and do those very well. This is not a case of women’s brains being so vastly different – it is a case of cultural tolerance for women to hold certain positions.

      • Ted Seeber

        “these types of sweeping generalizations are really offensive to me.”

        The offense is all on your side of the screen. I am not in control of your lack of control over your emotions.

        “Maybe you ought to throw some “usually”s or “often”s in there somewhere, instead of just saying that women think like X and men think like Y, and the results are always Z.”

        At which point you’ve proven my point, haven’t you?

        “Theology has been a male pursuit because women always have been belittled in the church and still are. ”

        Which is exactly what I said. The priorities of males are different than the priorities of females. When discussing male theology, “belittlement” and “offense” simply don’t enter into it, because we’re talking in generalities, not in specifics. Getting mad over a generality, from the male perspective, is simply irrational.

        “Loads of people still believe women should not be involved with theology and that they should pursue things like baby-making, working with children, cooking, homemaking, and little Bible studies about pleasing their spouses and submission.”

        How is that not being involved in theology?

        “If women do go into religion, maybe it is because they are so bent on helping a particular group that they ignore the naysayers – purpose drives people into action. Men who wish to go into theology only face cultural shifts – from Christianity to atheism, for example – while women still face sexism in culture, deeply within the church (even apart from the biblical elements of it, men are often uncomfortable receiving leadership and instruction from women), *and* the cultural shifts. It’s no wonder this drives women away. It doesn’t lessen interest, it just keeps them out.”

        Sexism is a myth born from wanting to be the other gender and believing that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. There is no sexism in Christianity, only a recognition that gender differences DO exist. I realize that makes modernists and post modernists angry, but that is because modernism and post-modernism is largely about the denial of simple reality.

        “Women can be and are good at these topics”

        As I said before

        “and they often do have these priorities”

        I didn’t say that they couldn’t. I said that they largely don’t, preferring instead to do what you are doing, concentrating on emotion rather than fact.

        “Men likewise can have priorities in social justice issues and do those very well.”

        But only when they tackle them as men do, by actually solving the problem instead of just emoting about it.

        ” This is not a case of women’s brains being so vastly different – it is a case of cultural tolerance for women to hold certain positions.”

        Your very post proves that this is wrong.

        • Channing

          Your whole post is a pretty big joke. Insinuating that I am writing an angry note that is supercharged by my emotions as a woman is sexist and, really, incorrect. Good job, troll.

          You seem to have no real knowledge of psychology, especially in relation to men and women and any differences between them. You cannot speak on behalf of all people with a penis, just as I cannot speak on behalf of all people with a vagina. Levels of testosterone or estrogen do not change the entire way people synthesize information.

          I have seen so many men anti-feminists that do indeed get angry about male treatment on several subjects… maybe it’s regarding child custody issues favoring the mothers, maybe it’s that they’re angry that women can receive military benefits without putting themselves in combat or that women aren’t a part of potential military drafts. I see this sort of thing all the time. Men do it, women do it. Humans do it.

          Sexism is not a myth, and it is not born out of wanting to be another sex or gender. Gender is a social construct and it is fluid. It varies from place to place and from person to person. Sexism is a collective mentality and just as bad as racism. It is treating someone a certain way and denying them certain things because of an arbitrary selection of nature. This is all fact, which you are choosing to ignore.

          Women are capable of being both rational and emotional. So are men. We are all, as human beings, a combination of the two. Women are involved in every possible field of work, and many of those involve a high level of education and rational decisions that need to be made daily. They don’t tackle these problems by simply “emoting” about them. They use rational thought processes like any person would. Men, likewise, use a mixture of rationality and emotion in most processes. Maybe you don’t – or think that you don’t – but most people do, regardless of their genitals.

        • Liralen

          *holds up a placard with a big 9.8 written on it*

          Excellent job! You covered all the bases: arrogance, condescension, dismissive, accusations of being emotional. Almost perfect! I would have given you a 10.0, but the allusions to penis envy gave you away. Might as well have just called her “hon”.

          Thanks for the laugh.

  • Hi Tony,
    I real pretty much all of your posts. I enjoy your writing, and your honesty is refreshing. I agree with so much of what you say. I can tell you’ve been to hell (a few times) and back, and I won’t trust anyone who hasn’t, so I guess I find your posts trustworthy, believable. I used to comment. My thing is this…Once I find that bloggers are not interacting with or responding to the comments, I won’t comment anymore.
    no hate from here

  • Amazing.

    Your Q. Where are all the women on my blog? Answered in spades.

  • Mary Fisher

    Tony, why haven’t I commented on your blog.
    1. I have never read it before
    2. Now I have I may read it and repost it occasionally – a friend told me I had to come here to-day.
    3. I tend to use my ontime time to post about good books…eg Old Testament scholar Mobly’s brilliant book “The Return of the Chaos Monsters”, posting good blogs written by other people, And
    4. Building up relationship with a bunch of extremely sharp, extremely well educated, very conservative young Muslim women who have converted into following the prophet. So I use my web time in those ways…
    5. A question back to you…who are some good female bloggers you read on biblical studies, theology, philosophy or culture… I am seeking to find them.

  • tsara

    Not having read all of the comments here and speaking only for myself (I am a woman), I have to say that past experiences trying to comment on blogs with majority male readership or a tone that is (significantly) argumentative, authoritative, and/or caustic have not been pleasant ones. It’s worse when the subject is religion (or atheism, or feminism), and especially bad when I use my usual (female-gendered) username. (Even just talking in real life in similar situations is unpleasant.)
    The usual result of my speaking up (as in, offering a not-specifically-solicited opinion or comment) in male-dominated environments while recognizable as a woman can be boiled down to ‘your life is wrong, so shut up.’
    (examples: name calling [b*tch, slut, retard are the most common]; being told that I shouldn’t try to instruct men on anything; being told that (because I am female) I am incapable of thinking rationally; being told that (also because I am female) I am incapable of considering “women’s issues” objectively; with being told every single time I make a mistake that “this is why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote/drive/go to college/pick a thing” or that I was proving that women are only good for sex, sandwiches, and babies; or with having anecdotes from my life being picked over aggressively by people telling me that I was lying, or delusional, or just plain crazy; etc.)

    Even when the discourse is relatively civil, having people pick apart the most minute detail of every half-considered comment that I’d fired off on, say, an aspect of the issue that I thought the blogger had forgotten about is just not pleasant for me. I get that this last one is something that a lot of people may enjoy, but for me? I’m used to getting ‘your life is wrong, so shut up’ in response to things I say, and that feels like more of the same. And since blog-reading and commenting is a thing that I do for fun, I’m not going to waste hours of my life every day actively making myself feel like shit by arguing on the internet.

  • I am a big fan of Tony Jones. And Tony’s “brand” has always been as a theological provocateur who doesn’t soften the edges of what he says or try and win a contest in magnanimity. In general women are socialized to be fair-minded and aware of not stating our opinions too boldly (lest we offend or alienate) and to make sure everyone stays friends. This isn’t a completely bad thing, but as a result most of us have never learned to hold a position or stand firm in an argument because we are too busy trying to make sure people like us. So of course less women comment on the blog of a guy who’s not terribly concerned with any of that.

    Look, Tony is arrogant. He can state his opinion in a way that makes it seem like anyone who disagrees is an idiot. But he’s smart as hell and putting his stuff out there and he isn’t afraid.

    Personally I don’t tend to engage in argumentative threads because I have a wicked temper and, as a recovering alcoholic, I don’t want to verbally eviscerate people and then have to go and fucking make amends later on.

  • kalimsaki
  • Stacy

    Dear Tony,

    I am curious. My daughter (Channing) wrote you a very thoughtful and meanigful response. You have since banned her from the website. Why? Did she write hateful and mean things? NO Did she write nasty words, call you names? NO Are people being banned because you do not like their responses? YES. WOW and you call yourself a christian? Can’t take the heat? What’s up with that? There are many responses on here that are extremely more volatile than my daughter’s. I am really dissapointed. Don’t worry, i would not dream of coming back to this site. I am a REAL christian, this site does not have any God in it.

    • Neither Channing nor any commenter on this thread has been banned.

    • Channing

      Mom… maybe you should have asked me if I had been banned before making this comment? I didn’t say any such thing anywhere at all, and I am confused why you thought so…? Please stop stalking me around and reading the comments I make on other sites; it’s weird. I love you, but it’s weird.

      Also, have you taken any time at all to read anything on this site? Don’t make any accusations when you don’t really understand what you’re trying to talk about – ok? Please? Not doing me any favors here, mom.

      Sorry, Tony.

      • S. L. Hill-Tanquist

        OMG, did this really happen? Oh, my dear Channing–what an Ann Landers moment this is!! Can’t help myself…must laugh…not at YOUR expense, dear…

        • Channing

          It did indeed happen, much to my chagrin! But worth a laugh in retrospect.

  • Maybe women (on average) aren’t as competitive as men. When I see a blog post with lots of comments, some saying what I was already thinking, I don’t see a need to add my voice. If I have nothing new to say, why say something just to say something? (Except this time. Haha…)

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    I offered a personal response to Tony yesterday, privately. But I think a back-door offering of support is an inadequate response to this discussion.

    I’m perhaps an unlikely candidate to interject on Tony’s behalf. There may be less common ground between Tony and I—theologically—than many of you, as I’m still embedded in the evangelical world that is often (and sometimes rightfully) critiqued here.

    My guess is most of us speak from a history of hurt and disillusionment. And I wonder if, because of that, some of this dialogue transitioned to being less about constructively critiquing Tony’s blog and more about enthusiastically grabbing up the opportunity to be heard…and in some cases to release disgruntlement.

    I applaud the people who courageously offered honesty without resorting to name-calling or attacking Tony’s personhood. To others, I say I understand these comments are emotionally-charged, but none of us can CREDIBLY accuse people of mistreatment if our verbage is in itself volatile and insulting.

    It’s easy to perceive bloggers one-dimensionally, as blogs tend to capture only the most vibrant and dynamic parts of personalities without the subtle nuances that humanize us.

    We can hypothesize, for example, “In his confidence, Tony is dismissive of other points of view.” Then, unfortunately, that hypothesis often becomes our filter for processing future interactions. When we read posts or comments, we tend to look for evidence that supports our hypotheses. “See, Tony is dismissing someone right there!”

    The trouble of course is that this approach filters out the good balance in the person; it fails to contextualize them against all of the good and soft and kind expressions that are equally representative of them.

    At least in my life, in the worst instances of this, I’ve sometimes written fiction over reality, speculating motives onto people that weren’t indicative of their real character or heart. And I’ve vilified people…later realizing I was the “villain-maker” not them.

    But I hate that trait in myself. I don’t want to be part of a vulture culture where I use my woundedness as justification for wounding others.

    Regardless of whether I agree with his theses, Tony is a brilliant communicator who has done his homework and achieved confidence by comprehensively studying his subject area. He uses the blog to advance ideas that challenge norms which he believes detract from a better way of living. I don’t fault him for seeking to be as certain as he can about his most passionate convictions. When we’ve devoted ourselves to learning well, it should take a talented communicator and a knowledgeable series of communications to back us down from our positions.

    When you interact with someone like Tony, there is always a possibility that behind the antagonistic taunt lies a volatile person. But I have not found that to be the case with him. Instead in my real life experiences, Tony has demonstrated he is a more generous, compassionate, and multi-dimensional person than these comments give him credit for. He is a good example of how a good-hearted person can use provocative ideas to make people think.

    It’s helpful for me to remember this is not a conversation in Tony’s living room, where he would be a warm and hospitable social host, it is a provocative context aimed at challenging our thinking. It’s not a place to exchange social pleasantries, though he’s capable of that, it’s a place to engage difference of opinion. When I read the blog in light of it’s genre, it allows me to receive the posts without unfairly placing the demands of other kinds of social interactions on them.

  • Alicia

    I read but don’t post for a few reasons:
    1. Your posts are thought provoking for me, but not conversation provoking (yet). So, I read and I think. A lot. And for a long time.
    2. It’s not really you that scares me off. But, many of your commenters are brutal and I’m trying to figure things out… In other words, I’m already vulnerable as I spiritually shift. I don’t need a punch in the gut while my whole theology is changing-that’s brutal enough as it is.
    3. I’m not sure what I believe right now and your comment section seems dedicated to proving points. My points are in flux.
    4. Until very recently, I have been in full time ministry at a conservative church. I’ve been underground and that has nothing to do with you!
    I appreciate your writing. After a lifetime in the church, you are introducing me to and helping me consider ideas I’ve never been exposed to. I am grateful for you. Maybe I will engage as a commenter in the future, when I’m personally ready.
    One more thing, I’m also an 8 and reading these comments has been hard. I know many people who would say these things about their interactions with me. Even my own kids will sometimes say, “You’re scary!” It’s hard to hear-I hate it. I know what you know-we’re very tender at the center. It’s been great to hear the personal comments from women who know you and have experienced your warmth, generosity, and encouragement.
    Thank you for your blog. Thank you.

  • I’m wishing now that I hadn’t used the word ‘abusive.’ Some people have told me that they feel like when I said Tony’s posture reminds me of abusive Christian men from my past that that was a giant trigger. A therapist told me yesterday that when you bring the word ‘abuser’ or ‘abusive’ into a conversation with a man, even if you’re not directly calling him either of those words, it is akin to using the word ‘whore’ in a conversation with a woman. That makes sense to me. I feel like Tony seemed affected by that term in a way that made the point of the conversation peripheral, and because of that I wish I hadn’t used that word. My husband said last night that if I used that in any way regarding him that it would be extremely difficult for him to hear. Ugh. I’m sorry I used that word.

    • You need a better therapist. Preferably a feminist, not someone who pretends that calling out abuse as abuse is the same thing as calling women a name that’s been used to stigmatize their sexuality for millennia.

  • Kim Hampton

    “How is, “You’re not an abuser, you just remind me of one,” different from, “You’re not Hitler, you just remind me of Hitler”?”

    Really? You jumped to Hitler rather fast there. I’m so disappointed.

    To not see that there is a world of difference between someone saying that something you said/did reminded them of something somebody else said/did WITH someone saying that you are like Hitler (or reminding them of Hitler) says something about you that I don’t think you were intending to say.

    But I think it might explain why there are fewer women commenting on your blog than you would hope. To jump so quickly to Hitler shuts down conversation faster than a speeding bullet. As somebody who did my undergrad work in political science and history, has an M.Div., and plans on getting a Ph.D. in religious studies, the only time I want to talk about Hitler is when the conversation is about tyranny and/or mass manipulation. And if he comes up in religion, his name better be tied to Bonhoffer (and the Confessing Church), who offers a religious response to tyranny.

    However, you brought Hitler into the conversation because you were trying to lash out because you were hurt by a comment. (at least that’s how I see it) I’m sorry you were hurt by somebody’s honest comment and hope that you will eventually see that the comment was not intended to hurt. But because of that, this will be the only comment I will ever post here.

  • Jennifer

    Hey Tony, I’m a newer reader.
    I’m one of those who reads blogs in my reader and very rarely actually leave comments on any blogs. But I love theology and I have been enjoying your blog.

  • UnityChaplain

    I am a women, I just found this blog this morning after truly being up all night with an ache in my belly after 3 weeks of arguing with the HM at DDS. I prayed my ass off last night, no s#!t, asking for guidance and help. In an act of Divine Order unfolding I found this blog. You know have one more woman commenting. A meat craving but abstaining vegetarian,smart a$$ but very kind, bi-racial (negroid/caucasian) grandmother. A 50 yr old Divinity student, animal lover, overly sensitive to attack Chaplain in training. I found this blog after searching for opposing views to the HM. The knot in my gut is still there because I have one more semester in a one year program but now I have resources outside those being forced down my throat. I am getting your books and reading them during winter break from Duke. I am beyond saddened by the bigoted (which it is) theology and I hope for some restoration of a my optimistic perspective after reading your work. I will enjoy reading them with a bunch of dogs laying around me and a meatless lasagna. LOL

  • Kate

    I don’t read your blog because you troll for comments in a manner I find puerile. Examples and commentary: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jacobs/trolling-the-homeschoolers/.

  • Pingback: New Comment Policy (Or, Where Is Frank?)()

  • Emily

    I’m a bit of a latecomer to this conversation, but thought I would add a few words.

    I’m a single female evangelical pastor – that rare breed – in a medium-sized multi-ethnic church (700-ish weekend attendance). I preach, run our classes, tend to newcomers, and oversee prayer ministry. I attended Fuller and am a voracious reader, and generally feel confident engaging in theological arguments. But I face, almost daily, assumptions that I’m “less than” that compel me to have conversations with men (and women) in my congregation and wider denomination to expose their biases and the hurt those biases cause.

    As an example: I’m 35 and live communally with a couple who are 7 years younger than me. It recently came up that a few families in my church assumed that since I live with – what … a man? a property owner? a married person? – that I am under his “spiritual authority” since it’s “his household” and that I somehow cede personal choices to his direction. That cost me time and energy and relational equity to point out the implications and resulting hurt. I lived alone in Asia as a missionary in an impoverished place for years, but apparently I need a younger, less-qualified male to help me make decisions now because he has a penis? Sigh.

    So, why spend more time on blogs dominated by men who also make the same kinds of assumptions, and then spend time and energy having to defend points like I’m playing some sort of competitive sport? I just don’t care enough. I’d rather read more theology and paint and hang out with people in my community and swim laps at the local gym. I occasionally read blogs because I’m interested in the Emergence Faith conversation. It feels like the people engaging in these spheres are “my peeps” and I think I’d find many friends among those doing the same sorts of things I’m doing (reviving mysticism, building bridges with scientists, working out how to fully include the LGBTQ community in the life of the church while respecting our traditionalists … the Romans 14/15 conundrum), so when I need some solidarity I’ll peruse blogs to remember that I’m not alone in this move of the Spirit. And that it will be okay. And my hope will revive enough to keep going. The easy thing would be to quit pastoring. But I’m called, I mostly love it in spite of the challenges and pain, and I’m really good at it. Blogs are usually encouraging for me, but staying out of the comments section helps me maintain my sanity.

    • Why? Your Bible forbids you from saying anything inside of a church.

      • Guest

        Not to mention that the LGBTQ ‘community’ is not to be included in the church. People with all sorts of sexual issues and in need of guidance are welcome to come and get help with their problem in the hope that they will fully repent of such degradations, but the unrepentant and defiant are not to be welcomed, ‘for whoever says to them ‘welcome’ shares in their evil works’. But women are not very good at preaching anyway, they’re too emotional and tend towards frivolity. They just haven’t got the knack for it, and when they don’t even know the Word of God they’re completely useless. Why, some of them are just plain daft. This is true of men as well, especially Pollyanna leftist types. That’s not a real preacher, that’s a shill for the devil.

        • What the bloody hell is your problem?

          LGBTQ isn’t a sexual problem, pastors raping little children is.
          And not good at teaching? Says who, a fantasy novel? Too emotional, tend towards frivolity? Would that explain the kind of bullshit people like Mark Driscoll catch themselves in all the time?

          Being a shill for the devil would require the devil existing and for your invisible sky god existing, so while you kids act like pieces of shit, I will stay here not believing in fairy tales.

          • Guest

            Clearly, I am not the one with the problem.

            • Yes, I am the one with the problem. You believe in fairy tales, but I have the problem. Yes, that makes perfect sense.

              • Guest

                Well obviously.

        • The LGBTQ community does not have problems. Well it does, but of those 98 other problems, sexual issues is not one of them.

          You know what would really help? If rapist pastors repented.

  • Sheryl Hill

    I am not a follower of this blog–just got a recommendation from Twitter, saw this conversation and was able to handle about half of it. So I can’t comment on the quality of Tony’s comments–only on the empirical absence of women’s responses. It is estimated that one out of every three women is the victim of rape. No one knows how many people have been the victims of childhood abuse(=18 years as POW) because whenever someone tries to bring it to light, the public fights back (see Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery, Part I). But it is so common that it pretty much certain that every reader knows people who are victims–members of your family, friends, churchmembers, the irritated person in the check-out line, pretty much anyone with that “deer in the headlights look.” A large percentage of the victims are women. And male victims are likely to be feel equally threatened, isolated and in pain.

    As a victim of clergy sexual abuse, I get a panic attack if I try to attend a United Methodist church service. I love the UMC, but that’s how PTSD works. I have become Catholic because I was not victimized there so it does not trigger me. Which is more like Hitler–the Catholic church or the UMC? Neither. The question does not compute. All I know is that when any adult male argues with me, my body goes into a state of fight/flight, my mind goes elsewhere, leaving my mouth flapping without cognitive control–a state I avoid like avian bird flu.

    Theology in the abstract is not Christian theology. God became concrete in Christ. Jesus warned the disciples not to send the children away “for to such belong the kingdom of God.” Jesus touched lepers, spoke to unaccompanied women, healed Jairus’ daughter AFTER the unclean woman touched his garments–technically rendering him unclean and unfit for healing–but such technicalities were trumped for him by the important stuff: healing, salvation, the incarnation of God’s love for the outcast.

    It is painful to listen to victims of abuse. It is much easier to dismiss them as over-sensitive and to point out that their perceptions don’t match reality. As if that is their fault.

    Paul Tillich said that listening is one of our most sacred moral obligations. We have a moral obligation to make an effort to understand victims of abuse–today’s outcasts, today’s untouchables.

    Recently a victim of childhood abuse suffering from complex PTSD was able to write a book describing what it is like from the inside–it’s a brief book, not explicit. I don’t know the author, I don’t even know if she wrote under her own name. But I recognize the truth of her experience and I recommend that everyone get copies for everyone they love because this book is truth–a chance to set ourselves free: No Comfort Zone: Notes on Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Marla Handy, PhD.

  • Some of your posts are pretty cool, but if I were to hazard a guess, sometimes the reason one doesn’t comment in a community is the atmosphere that greets commenters. I have left supposedly inclusive and emergent pages because environment was so hostile. Who needs it? Good luck.

  • MakeItSnappy

    I’d rather read Elizabeth Esther’s blog. Or Love, Joy, and Feminism. Both blogs are more relevant to my life. I’d go back to church if I wanted to be talked at by a white, Christian male.

  • AKSinChicago

    I suspect your readership is skewed because far-right-wing conservative Republicans who call themselves “Christian” and vote against women’s issues are chasing women away from Christianity in general.

    Examples include voting against the Violence Against Women Act’s renewal and the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, plus the push to de-fund Planned Parenthood (which provides far more women’s health care than it does abortions)… and then those same *men* are telling women that they know what is best for women’s health, and that *their* beliefs about when or whether a woman should have an abortion are predominant over the woman’s own beliefs.

    Many women who disagree with these Republicans see that they are, often loudly, touting their Christian beliefs, and so ALL Christians are assumed to believe the same sorts of things. I have personally encountered that idea more times than I care to think about, to the point where I have an elevator speech that “Not all Christians are like *that*. Genesis 2:7 says…..”

  • Ghost_King

    WOW- lol so many woman with daddy issues that commented- ill say that goes for almost every negative post on here, males included…that said i dont think that all of these so claimed “woman” are biologically woman at all, especially “just a girl”… Tony you dont need to give ear to insecure woman or men that react the way some of these people did- your doing a great job and i know a lot of woman feel the same way… Haha had a good laugh at some of these posts- making an issue out of nothing, so typical of most humans.

  • I read Patheos off and on, but don’t tend to comment. Maybe women just don’t comment as often. I have a blog that’s directed to women, but mostly men comment.

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