An Open Letter to Women Readers

An Open Letter to Women Readers November 29, 2012

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was a challenging and inspiring day for me. I had no idea that the question I posted would elicit such a passionate response. I’m glad it did. My primary feeling this morning is gratitude that so many of you responded with such heartfelt passion.

Some of your answers were hurtful. I was told that I am reminiscent of an abuser; my intellect was challenged; I was psychoanalyzed; and I was repeatedly called defensive. I don’t begrudge your right to post what you think of me. In fact, I am happy that you felt that you could be honest. If nothing else, I hope this blog is a place of honesty, both from me and from readers.

Other answers were affirming — women who read every day but don’t comment took the post as an opportunity to speak up about why they don’t. I am glad that post provided a space for your voices. And I hope those will be the first of many comments from you.

Almost all of the comments were helpful to me. I have read and re-read them (and they continue to come in today — in fact, I hope that you will keep commenting there). In fact, last night, Courtney helped me unplug for a couple hours. She had read all of the comments, too, and we spent some time talking about the post and the responses.

Several of you have corresponded with me privately — including women who wrote challenging comments — in support. I deeply appreciate that.

I think it would be premature for me list the ways that I will change my blogging as a result of your comments. But I think that I cannot help but change.

Among the themes that are emerging, one is that many women find my tone overly aggressive. This, of course, is not news to me. For the past 15 years, my “brand” has been about provocation and theological and cultural argumentation. If and how I should ameliorate my tone in order to welcome more readers without forsaking my current readers is something that I will consider — and continue to talk to Courtney about.

Another theme was, I hope, heard loud and clear by many of the men who regularly comment here: when a comment thread devolves into a pissing match, many women lose interest. We all want the conversation to be robust, but we also need to be aware of our pitch as we go forward.

Thanks again for all your comments. I will continue to read them and to consider them.

Your Friend,


P.S., I hope that some of you will contribute to the latest #progGOD Challenge. I tend to think that women’s voices are particularly important when considering the doctrine of the incarnation.

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  • I thought that was well-said, and I know that I am planning to write something for the challenge about the incarnation.

  • Kenton

    On a side note: when I first read the title of that other post, I immediately thought of the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by the Kingston Trio, and thought “Uh, let’s see the young girls have gone to…uh… young men! Yeah, of course!”

    (When will they ever learn? When will they e—-ver learn?)

  • Hello! I just tried to comment on the last post and it seems my comments aren’t going through…just checking here….

  • Oh! Good! The comment I was trying to leave (that wasn’t going through) was this:
    “Is this conversation still happening? I feel like a lot of intense information was given to Tony yesterday and I would hate it if the conversation just dropped off. I’m wondering how everything is sitting with people today. It would be tragic (no hyperbole!) if a conversation in which people are begging for relationship ended abruptly!”
    Then I came over here and saw this. So yay!

  • One of the comments (by Travis Smith McKee) said “Just because you say all are welcome doesn’t mean all feel welcome.” That got me thinking how do I call out what I consider bad behavior, theology, etc. without sounding like a close-minded jerk? Personally, I kind of like the whole “provocation and theological and cultural argumentation”. It makes things interesting. But, I do understand the need to be more open. Let me know what you come up with.

  • Somehow I missed your last blog in my feed, otherwise I would have piped up. I post comments from time to time, mostly because I am a blogger, too, and also have a lot of time to read and re-read on the web. However, I have found myself on many occasions writing a comment, and upon getting ready to post it, decide it’s just not worth it.

    I, like some of your other commenter on the previous blog, am weary of the conversation. Am I a Christian? Sure, in the most heretical sense I suppose. My God is not traditional, and allows for the “search” (and in no way am implying that your God is or is not this way, Tony).

    Do I want to fight for/with North American evangelicalism? Not really, I think it’s silly and a waste of time. Was I hurt by the church in my past? Yes. Do I think that all of religion is at fault because of my one experience? No. Has the church and it’s leaders messed up many times, again and again? Yes, absolutely. But have they not also done good? Indeed they have.

    And that’s my point. I don’t comment often because I am done being bitter with the church and it’s leaders. I am done fighting within a structure that I no longer belong to. I guess that makes me lazy.

    I do sometimes feel like the things you post about are theologically and denominationally limited—as in, it feels like you post a lot of rants about Driscoll, Piper, Bell, Rollins, etc., and I guess I’m just past that (or maybe I don’t check in on your blog enough).

    My understanding of being like Jesus is indeed to challenging people and structures, but it is also to live a life of abundant grace. With that comes letting go of the critique of the church and leadership structures that I can’t change, and don’t have any interest in being a part of anymore. I did that for the wrong reasons for too long, so I’ll let you field those ones.

    • Brianna, I truly loved what you wrote here. It reflects an immensely large portion of my own sentiments. And so I identify so much with your words. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks for listening and taking our advice seriously, Tony. I know that takes a special kind of courage. It was good for me to think about why I didn’t comment as much as I’d like. It also gave me the chance to say that even though I don’t always comment, I do usually read your posts and more often than not find them thought-provoking.

    On the #proggod challenge, I want to try to participate. Is there any kind of a closing date? If you mentioned it in the post introducing the challenge I couldn’t find it.

  • Traci Smith

    I was offline much of yesterday and didn’t jump in when originally asked. I just went through the entire comment section of yesterday’s post. Wowzeee! Here’s my perspective, perhaps useful for balance. 🙂

    I love intelligent, reasoned debate. Love it. I enjoy making arguments, listening to the arguments of others, changing my mind. I love it when I can say “that was a good point” or “wow, Frank, I hadn’t thought of that.” The problem, as others have mentioned, is that the comment section of this blog (in my experience) has little of this. Now, I could have bad luck in terms of which posts I try to comment on, or which comments I wade through, but my experience has been that the debate in the comment section here is not very conversational and substantive.

    Also, you don’t comment frequently in your own comment section, which would raise the level of mature conversation, in my opinion. Though you have been accused of being a jackass, my experience of you is that you add to the conversation and open it up rather than shutting it down. Sometimes you deliver information in a jackassish type of way, this is true.

    Finally, let me say a few things about my experience being a woman in ministry and theology and all that, since it seems like you’re asking. When I went into the ministry, an attorney friend said “don’t join a woman in ministry group, just join a group for ministers. I hate it when lawyers from women lawyer groups. We’re all just lawyers.” And I thought she had a good point, and I did what I thought was the “I’m over the gender divide thing” way… I tried to “play with the boys,” and I got TOTALLY run over. I mean, wow. You didn’t do it. In fact, if you were around, I have the sneaking suspicion that you would have defended me and beat some of them up. But the woundedness remained and I’m trying to rebuild and join the game again. In the meantime, I participate actively in a few “girls only” clubs, and I always hear the voice of that woman lawyer friend in my head. I know that’s sort of abstract and not concrete, but trust me, long stories, all of them.

    Hope it’s helpful. I love your blog, your recent post about Rob Bell made me read the New Yorker article, and I should have commented on that and other posts to share my opinion. I’ll take this post as an invitation to post more and try and step up. 🙂


  • jamie west zumwalt

    Tony, I don’t know if you were aware when you posted yesterday’s question what kind of deeply personal responses and critiques you would receive. Under that kind of critique, it is nearly impossible to respond without defensiveness. I want to bless you for your willingness to continue to interact with the people who commented and your attempt to become a better blogger, a better person, and a better man. As a woman, I thank you for considering our experiences with your blog. Bless you! And may God continue to help you process all the criticism, as we all move closer to experiencing together the justice, equality and kindness of the Kingdom of God.

  • JRB

    Tony, not to pile on, but I wonder if you have learned much. 24 hours is a pretty short turn around for reflection.

    For instance, when do you think that “women’s voices” are not “particularly important”?

    Consider going a step further, where you can believe that all voices from people are important to everything. “Women’s voices” are not one thing. Essentialism is the enemy.

  • Simon

    Tony, you are a brave man. I appreciate your challenge to us commentators as well. We also create a tone. Good stuff brother.

    • Kristin Rawls

      OH yes, A VERY BRAVE MAN to take on these SCARY WOMENFOLK. Seriously? Why would women want to be part of a blogging community that treats us this way?

      • Kristin Rawls

        Yes, I know, that was aggressive, and it was sarcastic. And I don’t apologize for it. This is the thing – If I wanted to teach basic anti-oppression to people who just aren’t interested in getting it and think this kind of thing is acceptable… Well, that’s what I did as a university instructor, and I got paid for that.

        • Kristin Rawls

          To be clear, I am not suggesting that everyone in these threads has been dismissive. Some of you have not, and I thank you for that and want to recognize it because I do not find it to be the norm here.

          • Simon

            Kristin, I guess I was referring to the scariness of opening yourself up to any kind of criticism. Not just “Scary Womenfolk.” But comments like yours are a little “scary.”

            It is brave to expose yourself to criticism, not because women are doing it but because it is scary to be vulnerable. Perhaps you don’t think he is vulnerable enough, not doing this in the right way, etc. But the fact that even his questions are viciously critiqued is just another reason why it is a daunting thing to do (especially in public). Kudos to Tony for doing it whether its perfect or not.

            In my comment, I was also trying to take a portion of responsibility here for a tone that is too aggressive in my comments. It was useful for me to be reminded that I may needlessly close off a conversation to women. Maybe I am trivializing or patronizing strong women such as yourself who clearly aren’t put off by aggressive dialogue. I don’t know. This is a new conversation for me.

            As a rule I don’t write with a gender (male/female/GLBTQ) in mind (I recognize that this is the privilege of my gender that I am not compelled to constantly reflect on my gender).

            But here I am in the conversation, a total novice to the blogosphere. I showed support for Tony’s decision to receive criticism (something others say he doesn’t do enough), in the process I attempted to reflect on my own comments. Your response is in your words “aggressive” and “sarcastic.”

            Scary indeed.

          • Simon

            Kristin, I have a follow up question. When I say, “Tony, you are a brave man… Good stuff brother.” What is it that you are hearing in my comment that is objectionable or “dismissive” of you or women or anyone’s response? Is it the masculine affirmations?

            What I tried to say was, “Tony, it is not easy to invite criticism. When you pointed out that some of the criticism also applied to commentators like me, I thought that was true. I am taking it to heart. Your self-reflection is encouraging me to do the same. Thanks.”

            What did you hear?

          • Kristin Rawls

            Simon – For some reason I’m unable to reply below your comments. I read comments about being brave in cases like this as judgments of the comments – and all the many THOUGHTS and EMOTIONS behind them. If that’s not what you meant, then I apologize.

            I guess I don’t really feel like asking for feedback is brave if someone wants to be a public figure. You open yourself up to criticism when you write books and travel and do speaking engagements. And seriously… If you’ve made a brand out of aggressive argumentation, it seems like the height of ridiculousness to be offended if someone says you’re an asshole. In Tony’s case, “asshole” is his brand! What is so terrible about pointing this out?

          • Simon

            Thanks Kristin, I can’t reply either. Apology accepted. Comments were about Tony not you,or any comment in particular. This has just been a very confusing conversation for me to participate in. I agree that being a public figure opens you to public criticism. Clearly people can and do do that to Tony all the time. I’d push back and say there is something different when you offer an invitation to critique. (Which is why I gave him encouragement).

            For example, people say surly things about President Obama all the time, but that is different than the President, say, turning to his base in a blog and saying, “I noticed you weren’t as enthusiastic about my candidacy this time around. Why is that?” The President would of course never do such a thing. It would be foolish, because he would make himself vulnerable. He would give his critics more power, then they might normally have.

            In my mind, that is what we would want a person privilege to do?

            My question is when a person of privilege makes themself vulnerable, do they retain any right to defend themself?

            For example, Tony, white-male-elitely-educated-author/blogger-business-owner is the definition of privileged from several points of view. He says, “Women what you think?”

            Someone says, “Your brand is ‘ass hole’… ass hole. You asked; I answered.” “Oh, are you sad? Deal with it. You big baby.”

            Has he yield all right to respond if he disagrees both with the tone and substance of the comment?

            I am not saying either the substance or tone necessarily is wrong. (e.g. “Sorry oppressed person if you are angry, that invalidates your argument”). What I am trying to get at is, when a person with privilege is in dialogue, what rhetorical tools might they use if/when they disagree?

          • Kristin Rawls

            @Simon – That is an interesting way of looking at it, and one that didn’t occur to me. I guess I see blogging differently – blogging is a practice in which introspection takes place. It’s more surprising to me when I *don’t* see people asking, “What I could I do to make this a safer and more inclusive space?” I think this is particularly surprising with people who do politicized, ostensibly progressive blogging. I think it’s expected then. What has sometimes surprised me among some liberal evangelicals is that this is isn’t always given, as it may be in other social justice communities.

        • Greg

          It is more than aggressive and sarcastic–it is the type of pointless name calling that people of real intellect (as opposed to egoism) should and do abhor. So, Kristin, if you ever wonder why some people don’t seem to pay attention to your comments (e.g. about privilege, etc.), look to your own rhetoric. That—and not the fact that people “just aren’t interested in getting it”—is probably to blame.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Dude. You need to read “Derailing for Dummies.” It addresses this point. In conversations about oppression, it is inappropriate to call out a member of an oppressed group for having, oh, EMOTIONS about oppression. It’s not always easy to summon an acceptable “tone” when discussing sometimes that applies to your life. This is called the “Tone Argument,” what you offer here.

            And I guess I should say this – My problem with Tony is not strident argumentation. I know that a lot of people do find that problematic, but that isn’t really what bothers me about him. My problem with him is that I do not believe he argues or participates in debate in good faith. And I believe this is ESPECIALLY true of how he interacts with women – at least, beyond the one or two women he considers “important” because they share a similar audience.

          • Frank

            Greg I fear your truth is falling on deaf ears.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Frank: That’s a-okay, I’m sure I’m going to be sufficiently PRAYED FOR now.

          • Frank

            Thanks for proving my statement true.

          • Kristin Rawls

            LOL, Frank, you crack me up.

          • Frank

            And you wonder why you are not taken as seriously as you believe you should be. The only person holding you back is yourself. Lets see how wise, intuitive, intelligent and self-aware you really are.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Greg. You don’t not want to get into a pissing context with me, I can promise you that. So, I’m going to, um, “extend grace” to you by not responding.

          • peter rollins

            Don’t you remember the advice that your mom gave you as a child? No matter how nice they look, never feed the trolls! You only encourage them 🙂

  • Kristin Rawls

    So, in the other thread, I brought up the issue of privilege, and this was sort of ignored (except by Kevin – and I appreciated that exchange). But I think Tony provides a useful example of how privilege operates here. Specifically, are there any women in the same circles who have branded themselves and made careers out of an acerbic or aggressive persona? I personally have been punished in life – and ESPECIALLY in Christian circles – for being an assertive woman. That you’ve been able to get this far partly on the basis of this kind of persona is illustrative of the kind of lack of self-awareness I’m referring to when it comes to privilege. I would not dream of engaging in some of the kinds of conflicts I’ve seen you take on, Tony – and still expect to have a place in emergent world (or in any career).

    • Kristin Rawls

      (I know someone is going to mention Nadia, but I think her career is different. I haven’t seen her make a name out of, well, being aggressive in conflict.)

      • Traci Smith – An example of taking the negative stereotype and creating a brand out of it…

        • Kristin Rawls

          NOT AT ALL an equivalent example. That’s an oppressive stereotype taken up and subverted. Tony is not being oppressed.

          • No, but he is being pressed…and it’s healthy.

          • Traci Smith

            I wasn’t saying Tony is to be compared to, I was saying that there are people who are asserting their own voices and making a brand out of it. I thought I heard you saying that no woman could make a career out of being defiant and assertive.

        • Kristin Rawls

          I was referring specifically to a career in emergent/post-liberal Christianity. Also, I think the world of that blog, but I don’t know the author well, and it’s not clear to me that a career has been born of it.

          • Traci Smith

            How is it clear to you that a career is being made out of this blog but it is not clear that a career is being made out of that one? And, you are right, that blog is not about emergent Christianity.

    • Traci Smith

      There is an interesting TED Talk given by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook that references a study that shows how success is positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. It is true, like it or not, that assertive women are often labeled as bitches and out for ourselves. It is also true that women are not equally represented at the top of any level anywhere in any country, so this is an important conversation. I do think it’s possible, though, for women to engage in the dialog and make our voices heard. If our response is to not say anything (guilty as charged) rather than to jump in and sit at the table, what do we expect?

      Also, the way we talk about men and women *theologically* is of utmost importance. I think this blog has tried to point that out by being an “ally to women” and calling out Driscoll and others who insist on a biblical interpretation that would deny women and others the right to even leave the house, much less sit at the table….

      • Kristin Rawls

        I’m confused by this comment. Could you clarify what you mean? I feel like I’m being lectured to be grateful to Tony for being an ally. I don’t particularly consider him an ally. Taking on Mark Driscoll is the emergent equivalent of conservatives taking on Fred Phelps – it requires no moral courage because EVERYONE in these circles loathes Driscoll.

        • Traci Smith

          My aim is certainly not to lecture, and your point about Driscoll as an easy target is well taken. You and I might have different ideas about what constitutes ally. Tony and I were at the same seminary at the same time. He was a preceptor for a class or two of mine, (precepts being small group discussions) and so I had the chance to get to know him in a sort of “acquaintance” way. Perhaps this influences my feelings about him as an ally or not.

          • Kristin Rawls

            Ah, I see. I mean… I don’t know Tony well. Based on his online persona and the brief in-person interactions I’ve had with him, I don’t view him as an ally. And the question – “Why don’t women comment here?” is not the best question to ask. Better questions would be: “What could I do to make women feel safe commenting here?” “What can I do to be a better ally to women?” “Do you think of me as an ally? Why/why not?”

    • Craig

      Kristen, you’re making some nice points. But it’s remarkable to me that you think that one your points “was sort of ignored.” Perhaps it was, but at least generally speaking I bet that you are one of the least ignored commenters here. And maybe it wasn’t even a complaint.

      But it got me wondering if you have ever commented on a blog like this under a male-pseudonym. If so, were the reactions you received interestingly different? Or, in what ways would you expect them to be? Have others tried this? Have any men here tried this in the opposite direction?

      • Nicki Waters

        This is a really interesting suggestion. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of doing that but now I’m intrigued. And I would LOVE for some men to try it as well.

      • Kristin Rawls

        No, I’ve never commented here at all until now. And only now b/c I have a lot of thoughts about the whole thing, and I was kinda shocked Tony bothered to ask the question at all. Many years ago, I decided to drastically reduce blog commenting and to reign in my participation in blog conflicts – by only commenting under my real name. Before that, I commented under some variation of my first name, mainly at feministe, never here.

        It’s an interesting question, but it’s not something I’m going to take the time to do.

        I haven’t seen Tony discuss or respond to my questions about privilege – or consider the issue of privilege at all. It’s possible that I have missed it b/c these threads are getting long and difficult to follow. I mostly meant that he ignored the issue.

        • Kristin Rawls

          For context, I met Tony at Wild Goose Festival during its first year in North Carolina. I had at that point left the Christian conversation several years ago, and didn’t really have any expectations or ideas about what emergent culture or the event would be like. Or, well, I didn’t think the whole thing would feel so…evangelical. I’ve had some very good conversations with some of the folks involved in that since then, but Tony has not been one who is open to criticism.

          • Kristin Rawls

            For more context: Wild Goose was (for me) one of the most painful and least inclusive experiences of the past few years of my life. It’s never going to be the thing for me, but I think many of the organizers did learn and try in good faith to hear some of the critiques. Attempts at being better in year 2 (and I didn’t get to go much to the recent one – only VERY briefly) were clunky at times, but most of the organizers did seem more open. It was hard for some to hear the criticisms right away, but many have opened up to more fruitful conversations with me since then.

          • Craig

            Kristin, the context helps. I’m also peering in as a kind of an outsider–not to Tony’s blog, but to the emergent culture (I had to google “Wild Goose Festival” just now). But I’m familiar enough with evangelical culture to know that any group of people coming out of this background is going to have a hard time understanding and dealing with what you’re saying. I’m glad you’re saying it, but I can also sense why it would be a painful and soul-depleting effort. I can see why you would want deeper allies.

    • Nicki Waters


  • Tony,
    I just wanted to let you know that reading through the comments made me realize that a lot of the criticism you received regarding your tone could be applicable for me. Over the past few years a lot of my conversation around theology has been perceived by some as argumentative, seeking controversy and more concerned about being “right” than building dialogue. I know my goal isn’t necessarily those things, and I’m guessing yours is not either. I know it’s hard to hear people say that your tone is reminiscent of the spiritual abusers from their past, like Stephanie has done. I see that caught you off guard, likely because you thought that your progressive theology would actually be appealing to Steph and her audience since they do tend to be quite progressive. I feel like what is happening here is that opinionated and strong male voices speaking in a theological context has a lot of baggage, both historically and culturally. Christianity has been used as a tool by many to assert the dominance of and the obedience to those “alpha males”. I think sometimes those of us on the progressive side of the scale tend to think that since our theological views are so far away from those who were/are spiritually abusive in the classical sense that it would be crazy for anybody to associate us with them. Heck, a lot of the reason we now proclaim these progressive theological views is to offer a correction to the doctrines that hurt so many people…so how could we be likened to the abusers? I believe you are trying to create a better, more peaceful, more grace-full, more open, less judgmental, less oppressive world. I’m not sure if Stephanie would even disagree with that. What I hear her and others saying is that the tone and style of presentation you (and I…to throw my lot in with you because I know I do the same thing) sometimes use can be an emotional trigger to those who have suffered at the hands spiritual abusers. It’s not that they disagree with the point you are making and they’ve expressed that they aren’t calling you an abuser…it’s just that the way we present ourselves may have the unintentional effect of conjuring up all the baggage of male-Christian dominance.
    Is it fair that those of us who aren’t teaching that women need to stay at home bare-foot and pregnant, that women need to submit to inherent male headship, that women should not be allowed to speak in the holiness of our sanctuaries, etc. should have to carry this burden? Should we be given some more slack because we are actively trying to convince people these teachings are *not* correct? Maybe… However the reality still exists that we were culturally born into privilege by right of our “dangly bits”. Even if we think it was wrong that our historical Christian culture bestowed on us that privilege it doesn’t change the fact that we were. It doesn’t help the situation when we look and sound like the men who setup that hierarchy…even if our message is contrary to theirs. Triggers do not always have to do with content. A lot of time triggers are visual and auditory. If we really want to change the way women are valued it’s going to take some deep humbling, an intentional giving up of the power we inherited, and an intentional and extremely visible giving back of the power to those from whom it has been taken. I know you have tried to do this (as RHE attested to yesterday). Some people haven’t seen you do that though, and it might help if it were a consistent theme on your blog.
    The lesson I’m taking away from all this is that if we truly want to engage women in a more meaningful way then we should walk softly because so many Christian men have stomped so aggressively.

    • Beautifully said, Jim!

    • Nicki Waters

      Jim, you sound awesome and extremely self-aware. I loved your entire comment.

    • Vicki

      Very well said and on target. Thanks for putting yourself in our shoes.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Just agreeing with all these comments – agree that this was really well put and really helpful for the conversation.

    • Kester

      Probably the most thoughtful response contributed to this conversation. Well said. Thank you.

    • sr.s

      YES. what jim said.

    • Tucker FitzGerald

      Isn’t this pomo 101? I can’t hear what you’re saying over the way you’re saying it? Assuming that content negates or balances out method and context feels pretty silly. Drinking bottled water while complaining about corporate profits from public water supplies and plastic waste doesn’t balance out to neutral.

      Chalking the glaring (though typical) gender ratio of who feels safe / welcome / allowed to speak under Tony’s umbrella up to ‘baggage’ feels rather precarious as well. It also shifts the responsibility back to those abused by Patriarchy. “Their” baggage is what creates this tough reality?

      Us straight while men “having to carry this burden” feels like it downplays and minimizes so many realities. This isn’t a past issue that we’re disconnected from.

      As a straight white male, I can say that (almost?) all of my demographic are riding a tide of unearned, unjust privilege in which our voices are cherished, invited, celebrated, respected at the cost of other’s hopes, dreams, and thoughts. And when we take that tainted blood money (unjust privilege) and spend it like its ours, we’re participating in the system. We’re part of the problem.

      And taking power (especially when its unjustly accumulated) and using it to reinforce systemic devaluing of women’s voices, rather than using it to derail that system, is abusive. The full fruit of a system that places value on people based on gender, race, sexual orientation is devastating. American slavery. Witch hunts. Hitler. Tony’s hyperbole actually fits just fine for me.

      My family living in comfort while my Jewish neighbors are massacred, my family profitting from the war industry, from the confiscated Jewish wealth, while homosexuals and gypsies loose everything, is a very clear picture of the abuse I participate in when I live with my straight white male privilege, turning a blind eye to the violence being done around me, in my name, benefiting me.

      It doesn’t need to be so dramatic of course. But when we look around our university, and 90% of our professors are male, when we look around our church board, and 75% of the board is male, when we look around our clergy conference and 95% of the attenders are male, when we look at the Christian (Emergent) publishing industry, and 80% of the authors are male, when we look at our doctors of Theology and 90% of them are male, and then we scratch our heads and shrug, we’re in denial.

      When I say (and I often do) “I make no apologies for my gender or my skin color or my background. I can’t do anything about that.” I’m copping out of my role in creating environments too dangerous for women speak up in. I’m washing my hands of my agency.

      When I say this conversation does “indeed, touch a nerve among many women,” (and I often have) I’m putting the responsibility back on the harmed. Me asking why are there so few black people at the country club does, indeed, touch a nerve among many black people. The bigger truth is that my own nervous system is dangerously numb in these arenas.

      The 10% of those in powerful roles being women doesn’t negate the reality of Patriarchy. Just do the math. It means that women in the 1st percentile are valued comparably to men in the 9th percentile. Its a mathematical portrait of how we value and welcome people’s voices. Its 9 times easier to get into that role as a man. It’s 9 times harder to get into that role as a woman.

      “Learn to walk in a room and count the people of color—and know what you know. The absence of people of color in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Learn to see how many women are in charge. The absence of powerful women in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Learn to see and feel those spaces that are unsafe for queer people. The absence of queer people in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Allies know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are real and NEVER tell people, ‘You could be wrong, you know.’ Such a statement presumes that you have greater insights than those with lived experience inside of multiple oppressions.” –Six Rules For Allies, by Omi Osun/Dr. Joni Jones

      • @tucker. BOOM. yes.

        the sad part is that although women are fully capable of speaking up for ourselves, we still have a hard time being heard and are routinely dismissed for saying all the same things. thanks for wading into this conversation.

      • Great points, Tucker.

    • SKhan

      ‘Heck, a lot of the reason we now proclaim these progressive theological views is to offer a correction to the doctrines that hurt so many people…so how could we be likened to the abusers?’

      Bingo. It’s so easy to do a 180 without realizing how many things you still have in common with the very people you’re railing against. Reminds me of the atheism+ debate wherein a new generation of privileged atheists is only slowly admitting that racism and misogyny are pretty rampant or at least accepted– if only because people assumed there was no longer any need to address them.

  • jenya

    After yesterday’s post, I was looking forward to your response. Thanks for taking your readers’ thoughts seriously. I hope that you will be able to find a way to adjust the tone while continuing to present “provocation and theological and cultural argumentation.” We know it’s your brand and that’s why we all follow your blog. I hope your regular commentators will seriously consider all the feedback as well. You said it perfectly: “when a comment thread devolves into a pissing match, many women lose interest. We all want the conversation to be robust, but we also need to be aware of our pitch as we go forward.” I have to add that many of yesterday’s (and today’s) comments have challenged me to examine my own hesitancy to be assertive and enter into controversial conversations.

  • Audrey

    Okay, this is the first comment I’ve ever left. I didn’t comment on yesterday’s post because I did not care for the question. The framing was this: “Why aren’t YOU doing this thing” instead of “What am I doing that is preventing this thing” and it turned me WAY off. I would suggest that if that is base zero of how the blog is conducted, it may be very telling of why something feels off.

    • I noticed this as well.

    • Curtis

      Wouldn’t answering “I am not doing Y because you are doing X and that is preventing me” be a way to answer the question you are looking for? What did Tony do that prevented you from giving the answer you wanted to give, to the question you wanted to be asked?

      • Traci Smith

        Amen, Curtis. “Why aren’t women commenting?” invites people to give answer. Sheesh.

        • Penny

          Because you can’t hear the difference doesn’t mean there isn’t an important difference. FWIW, I agree with Audrey: the first phrasing shifts the responsibility, the second accepts it.

          • Curtis

            So shift the responsibility back in your response. If you are interested in conversation, rephrasing the question to a more correct form seems more constructive than refusing to talk until he gets the question right on his own.

            Rephrasing a question is always an appropriate response in a conversation.

            Of course, if you are not interested in conversation, then choosing to remain silent out of righteous indignation is an appropriate response as well.

          • Penny

            Audrey and others have been trying to speak to the original question, which was how Tony can invite more response and feedback from his women readers. They’re speaking, but clearly they are not being heard. Is it any wonder that they fall silent?

            Please, do go on with your lecture about appropriate conversational tactics. It’s such an enjoyable distraction from the point.

          • Audrey

            Curtis: It’s not my job to interpret tone, assume that what I am hearing ISN’T really what I am hearing, then reverse it in some hope that what I have to say hasn’t already been said about a billion times already. Tone is absolutely what the entire discussion is about, so pointing out that it’s a problem is literally addressing the issue anyway.

            And feel free to assume me having “righteous indignation” if you like, but the entire point of this is “What is happening to cause a thing,” and guess what: my lack of desire to engage a question phrased as a “why aren’t YOU etc etc” is literally the answer.

  • Like some other’s I missed yesterdays post in the business of the day and I’m now seeing it but I’ll pitch in my 2 cents here.

    Firstly, I appreciate and read, follow your blog because I enjoy the conversations you bring up, theology, christian culture etc etc. I appreciate the wit and snark that sometimes comes along with those things as well – sometimes.

    When I thought about why I don’t really comment or get involved in the commenting here two things came to mind. One was the issue of tone, as other women brought up. But as I thought about this it’s not so much your overall tone turns me OFF of commenting as it doesn’t inspire me to comment. Which seems like much of a muchness, I know but there’s a subtle difference.

    I follow perhaps 40 blogs and news sources through facebook, or a reader etc. I can’t comment on everything I find interesting, or get involved in conversations everywhere. When I think of the places I do get involved it’s usually a different kind of tone and approach that encourages me to get involved, less of a ‘let’s debate this’ approach and more of the ‘these are our stories together as a community’ approach.

    Now, I’m not against debate – my facebook friends are probably rolling there eyes at the several on going debates right now even, that I just can’t keep my pedantic self out of. But I use up all my debate brain power and heart with people I actually already know (it drains) and when I do comment in communities where I don’t know people (blogs I follow) it’s usually in a space where the tone, the message, the theme is centred on encouragement, hearing peoples stories, community and unity.

    So it’s not that debate, abstract theological, social, church issues etc are bad or uninteresting to me – I talk about them constantly elsewhere, and I enjoy reading your thoughts and even the commenters when I have the time.

    I guess, I tend to comment/interact with ‘strangers’ on blogs where there is more of an emphasis on ‘construction’, and leave my comments of ‘deconstruction’ to my personal realm of interactions.

    We need both deconstruction and construction. They are both vital to growth within the church.

    No closing thought to end with. Akward ending feels akward

  • I am impressed by the desire to have heart-felt reflection time about this. I didn’t finish reading the comments yesterday because they started to take a turn toward “this is what you’re doing wrong and I’m glad you asked.” I’m not sure if that was your intention but it was the result. I am a sensitive person and it started to hurt after reading some of the comments. It takes a strong person to read and reflect. I know you will take the time needed.

    On another note, I don’t realize what I was getting myself into when I answered the call to ministry

    • Sorry for double post! Dang iPad paste function! Ah well..

  • I am impressed by the desire to have heart-felt reflection time about this. I didn’t finish reading the comments yesterday because they started to take a turn toward “this is what you’re doing wrong and I’m glad you asked.” I’m not sure if that was your intention but it was the result. I am a sensitive person and it started to hurt after reading some of the comments. It takes a strong person to read and reflect. I know you will take the time needed.

    On another note, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I answered the call to ministry (specifically in the Swedenborgian Church). I was ignorant to the stereotypes associated with female clergy. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to find outfits that don’t look frumpy–attempting to take men’s “fashion” (for 50 yr old men) and apply it to me. That is a metaphor for what I faced…unknowingly.

    I was fortunate to attend Pacific School of Religion where professors such as Rosemary Radford Ruether taught. While it was amazing to hear the feminist perspective on Scripture…I missed out on some of the basics. However, living in the Midwest has made me appreciate these “women only” voices in theological instruction.

    When I participated in Clinical Pastoral Education and did my patient visits, there wasn’t a day without the comment, “There are women as ministers?” This was in 2006. Google images doesn’t help our cause with the image being portrayed. The landscape is changing slowly but will it matter when Christianity as a whole is shifting? As more women become ordained (as is the trend in our little corner of the world as Swedenborgians)…will ministers as a whole be relevant? Are the two connected?

    When women participate in what has predominately been a male-centric paradigm, a shift is bound to occur. How men respond is telling. Ministry is one place where this is happening and our recent elections reflect this as well. Thanks for asking the questions and thanks for listening…in your own way.

  • sofia

    It’s easy to hate online.
    You can’t please everyone, so just be yourself.

  • Kristi Outler Byrd

    I’ve experienced what I refer to as a spiritual mid-life crisis and certain blogs (this one being among them) have been extraordinarily helpful to me. It is not overstating matters to say that the things I’ve learned from reading your blog (among others) have helped me maintain my faith during a time when I feared I would lose it. I’ve been challenged to think about things in new ways. I think being challenged is a good thing. For me, I am grateful and just want to express my thanks.

  • Jess

    My suspicion is that you regret your post yesterday and would do anything to sink back into your previous naivete. Ergo, when you say “I’m glad it did…” you’re likely being dishonest. You only saw the tip of the iceberg yesterday and earlier today- hence the spillover into this post. If you want to be more in touch with women you will need to shed many, many things. It is my opinion that you will not be able to bridge this gap through thinly spread conversations and postings over your online networks. You should consider working through some of the issues that have been posed (again, tip of the iceberg) with a professional. Sometimes real inner-work has to be done in private. As long as you continue to put on the show you have been maintaining for as long as I have known of you, I do not believe you will be successful. So, if you’re legitimately seeking change and reconciliation, take it from this reader that I will trust you to handle that on your own. If you are successful, we will be able to tell the difference, and you won’t need to simply update your persona to reach another facet of your target audience.

  • nathan

    Wow. If I’ve learned anything over the last couple days it’s this…

    The Holy Spirit has thankfully withdrawn to leave her work in the capable hands of many people who have been blessed with the gift to see into the heart and mind of others.

    It’s a veritable Pentecost of a completely different kind.

    I just didn’t know that such a set of gifts would result in the overflow of angst and venom.

    Look, folks, Tony asked a question. Questions should open conversations up. Conversations are inescapably dialogic. So Tony didn’t waive his responsibility or right to engage with the resulting conversation.

    Can’t you see the irony when he asked the question, people answered with your a discussion killing ass, he responded (since it’s a conversation) and then the complaints are manipulative whining about “defensiveness”. Not fully agreeing with you, nor asserting his right to continue to self-define out his self-understanding isn’t wrong, nor defensive…it’s simply being part of the honest conversation.

    Would you rather he bow down to your infallible assessment, shut his mouth, and shuffle off to his ontologically problematic corner of phallic whiteness?

    Many of your responses were downright…patriarchal.

    I’ll refrain from psycho-analyzing people I don’t know, despite it being in fashion, but it’s clear, based on the actual words written by others, that Tony’s honest question opened up a deep vein of anger, disdain, and venom.

    Pretty sad.

    • Nicki Waters

      “manipulative whining” – classic.

      • nathan

        If you put someone on the defensive and then hold it against them for being, well, defensive, that’s what it’s called.

        So many people want T to “take responsibility” for how he communicates, but too many of these commenters didn’t take responsibility for their own communication. (manipulation and hypocrisy)

        Equality means he doesn’t have to defer to your own poor communication and lack of self-awareness as you un-reflectively vent away about what you believe to be his own behavioral/awareness issues. (manipulative whining) He’s not here to be some Girardian scape-goat for all your frustrations in general. In the words of Alanis Morissette: I’m not here to be the filler if the void is solely yours.

        On top of all this, some people are trying to punish him and psycho-analyze his follow up letter saying he will continue to process what he’s learned here. (more whining and deeply ungracious)

        But if he doesn’t say things according to some exacting, exigent set of amorphous principles that require god-like omniscience on his part with respect to feminist and womanist and mujerista thinkers PLUS any given commenter’s ph-balance, blood-type, current state of their relationships, past church experience, the contents of their kitchen junk drawers, how you got stung by a bee in 4th grade while a boy laughed at you, and if you just happen to be feeling grumpy today, then he’s just “not getting it” and “not self-aware” and “needs deep therapy” and “didn’t ask the question right so I’m all butt-hurt and won’t step into conversation because he really doesn’t want to know because he’s responsible for my interior world even though he actually doesn’t know me”.

        Time to learn some self-differentiation, folks. It’s a basic life-skill of the emotionally healthy. But I hope these last couple days made you all feel better.

        • Jim Wangerin

          “Another theme was, I hope, heard loud and clear by many of the men who regularly comment here: when a comment thread devolves into a pissing match, many women lose interest. We all want the conversation to be robust, but we also need to be aware of our pitch as we go forward.” – Tony Jones (above)

          Ironic that as you attempt to defend Tony you actually have done exactly the opposite of what he requested of his male commenters. There’s no need to belittle others to make your point. After seeing what you’ve done here, Nathan, it’s of little mystery why many women don’t feel safe posting here. Take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really feel better about yourself now that you’ve put Nicki in her place.

          • Nathan

            There’s no irony on this one, Jim. I know exactly what I did, I’m glad to have done so. I’d do it again. Happily.

            I don’t shine to people, regardless of their gender, shitting on someone when they genuinely opened themselves even to difficult feedback. Direct critique is different tha some of the pent up reactionary bullshit Tony received.

            I don’t feel better, because my feelings about myself have nothing to do with this interaction with Nicki. I don’t care if she “learned something”, nor if “she or others understand my viewpoint”.

          • Jim Wangerin

            You really don’t see that the way you are treating people is part of the problem here? Do you really think anybody would want to have a conversation with somebody who doesn’t give a shit if they hurt you?
            So your argument is that people shit on Tony (which is arguable)…so believe you’re justified on shitting on all of them. That’s immaturity and as you put it “reactionary bullshit”.
            If you don’t care if anybody gets something out of an interaction with you then why even participate in the conversation? You’re just trolling at that point.
            By all means if you have something constructive and you can say it like you’re talking to another human being then we’d all be glad to engage you. However all you have been doing is belittling others. It’s not about “shining” to people…it’s about treating people with respect and acknowledging that they have real thoughts, real opinions, real experiences that you won’t actually understand without taking the time to talk it out with them. You have devalued a lot of the women and their valid experiences in this thread with your rant. I suggest you apologize to those you have mistreated.

          • Adriene B

            Yes. This. EXACTLY.
            THANKS, for stepping in Jim. I guess that what you just wrote is the sort of thing I would hope that the host or instigator of the conversation would step in and do.
            Maybe Tony will, maybe he won’t.
            But nobody is holding their breath waiting for an apology from Nathan.

  • KRS

    Tony, I appreciate your openness and vulnerabilty. I enjoyed your discussion group in Seattle. Your points were made with great teaching. Not that I ageed with everything, but your dialogue was inviting. I enjoy blogs with learning in respectful dialogue. Respect is an easy form of love and for me that marks Christian life in all arenas.

    As I have aged, I have found the wisdom of women surpasses dogmatics. In my opinion the wisdom women offer comes from learning to live with both the heart and mind engaged. Some do it better than others, but they are a valuable source that is often too quickly dismissed.

    Tony, I really enjoy what is happening here. You are opening up your blog to potentially untapped theological insights. I look forward to what comes next. Thanks for asking the tough questions.

  • toddh

    I’m a fan of the snarkiness. Good for you for being open to critique, but I like the way things are done here. Everybody has a different blogging style, and if you aren’t mixing it up in the comments, that’s ok by me. Although, I’m also not the target audience of the open letter 😉

  • Mary

    Peace to you & bless you, Tony ….. I’m sure yesterday was a tough one.

  • Sarah Erickson

    Pretty much what KRS said although I wasn’t in Seattle,and Nary. This has been an exhausing conversation to try to read and follow. If I think I have a lot to digest, can only imagine how it is for you. Blessings, friend.


  • If I may, I’d like to offer up a different perspective as someone who considers Tony a good friend and who is a fellow Enneagram 8. I honestly think this has FAR more to do with 8-ness than gender. If Tony speaks from an assumed position of “authority,” it’s not because he’s a white male. It’s because he’s an 8, and every last one of us thinks we have something important to say. While that may be admittedly annoying at times, may I point out that it ALSO means we think every last one of YOU has something important to say, and we believe (and will defend) that you have every right to say it whenever you feel like it. (This is probably partly what led Tony to ask the question in the first place. Commenting, in the 8 world, would be a natural state of affairs. If a section of readers are not commenting, it’s worth asking why.)

    What seems to be confusing for people, though, is that while 8s freely give everybody an even playing field, it does NOT mean that 8s are going to take 2 steps down when responding. We’re going to respond from the exact same place we started, because we consider you an equal. So if someone leaves a provocative comment, Tony is going to respond squarely. It’s not an attempt to be belligerent or intimidating or mean or defensive. It’s just what you do with equals. To do anything else would be disingenuous and patronizing. If Tony were to hold punches, THEN I could see a reason to be offended. But I don’t see why he would. If Tony doesn’t consider women to be the proverbial weaker sex, there’s no reason why he should treat us as such.

    To put this another way, it’s not that Tony “dishes it out but can’t take it.” It’s that when you dish it out, he IS taking it. And he dishes it right back, because he assumes YOU can take it. That’s respect (in an 8 world). If equality is what you really want, you’d be hard pressed to find it in more potent doses anywhere else.

    If I may continue to tread on perilous ground (because this comment really bothered me), I’d offer that the difference between Tony and the fundamentalist abusive patriarch is that the latter is trying to scare you or intimidate you into silence while Tony (and healthy 8s everywhere) are trying to evoke you into a direct response because he values your voice. One is trying to silence your voice, and the other is trying to engage it (and yes, sometimes provoke it). These feel totally different in tone to me, but then again I know Tony, and I realize blogs don’t always translate tone very well.

    I guess I’m trying to say that Tony asked the question of women who read his blog because he wanted a straight answer. So here’s mine:

    Tony, I don’t comment more often because you already know what I think about most things, and at this point in my life I’m not really all that interested in debating most of the topics on your blog, though I find them worthwhile and important. I also tend not to comment on many blogs in general, because the tone in comments is nasty almost anywhere you go, and it usually veers off topic, and I’m already short on time in reading the post itself, much less keeping up with the comments. But I like your blog and I think you do a great job of varying your topics, and I’m thankful for your voice and perspective. If I have any critique, it’s that you should write more about Moltmann. 🙂

  • @Tony Jones – I hope you are paying attention here. Some of your commenters are really putting on display why this is in some ways an unsafe place for many to have healthy and respectful dialogue. I don’t think it’s enough just to say in a post or conduct policy that commenters shouldn’t mistreat each other in tone. I think if you really want to solve the nastiness in your comment section you’re going to have to take a little bit more responsibility for what goes on there. You, as the host of the blog, have a special role which gives you a bit more weight if you choose to pop into comment threads where people are mistreating each other for the purpose of bringing the conversation back on track to a more healthy place.
    A little bit of you jumping in to say “hey, this is getting nasty…let’s watch the way we are speaking to each other” would go a long way. I know RHE has been particularly successful in this area. Perhaps you could seek out the council of Rachel for some advice on keeping your commenting section from degrading into an unsafe place for dialogue.

    • Probably worth mentioning, since you had indicated before that statistically your comment section is busier than ever, that quantity of comments doesn’t equal a safe environment for commenters. A lot of times on the web the most nasty threads are the longest. If not kept in check you’ll end up with a lot of people simply arguing and emotionally provoking each other. Which is fine if you’re going for page hits…but not if you’re trying to produce a community engaged in robust and meaningful dialogue.

  • Nathan


    I think people need to lay in the bed they’ve made. I also think there are times that, regardless of if its fruitful, that some things shouldn’t go unanswered. Call it Karma, or whatever, but you don’t get to go through life poking people in the eye and then crying foul when someone doesn’t accept it carte blanche. I think people who pull that crap are picking a fight and don’t get a pass.

    Again, would you rather Tony accept their pronouncement s about who he really is, where he really is coming from, his real motivations and therapeutic needs, lay down for it all and then shuffle off, duly rebuked and everyone else self satisfied? I’m just calling the BS, because raging BS deserves to be called. In your mind, you’re calling my BS. Great. I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t care if people agree, like it, whatever. And, for the record, I understand what you’re saying, and in a different situation might navigate the way you suggest.

    But to come lob bombs and then to cry foul when called on it, or to be passive aggressive by running off to your fb page of sycophants, just shows a lot more about others than it does about me. The difference is I’m not willing to make claims about what’s going on, if people are “self aware” or holding my hand because somehow they are responsible for my past pain they have no way of knowing or rightly be asked to carry.

    Maybe everybody who couldn’t live up to their own standards were just having a bad day. Maybe they had too much spicy food at lunch. Maybe they didn’t take their meds. Maybe a loved one just died. Infinite numbers of reasons are possible. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me because I didn’t agree to the standard of communication certain people expect T to personally maintain, while clearly exempting themselves.

    If those actors can admit the irony of their own bad behavior, then maybe a convo is possible. but you can’t come in as a demonstrably bad faith actor and then say its because everyone else was the problem.

    • This is what you’re not getting, Nathan: you can address people and make your points without explicitly belittling them and calling them names. If you had came to the table and suggested that perhaps some people are projecting their issues onto Tony without all the vitriol then there would have been a chance for constructive dialogue…that perhaps people would have considered what you had to say and adjusted their tone/approach/opinion in response. You killed that chance by demeaning them.
      There is no difference between what you are doing and the criticism you are leveling at “them”. You say that you are “not willing to make claims about what’s going on, if people are self aware…” yet you did in fact accuse people of not having “self-differentiation”. I’m not sure you really understand that you are at least just as guilty of the offense as anybody you are accusing. You too came in lobbing bombs at people and claiming your “side” was wronged.
      You had a choice to make…you could have sought to defuse and help the situation and instead you chose to escalate and instigate further hurt and misunderstanding. You may not have came into this situation with that standard of communication…but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should just accept your approach to conflict, that is to steam-roll the opposition by belittling them. You can do better…I suspect you’re not actually a bad guy. You could take the high-ground if you feel others are taking the low road…and your points would have more credibility. Rolling in the mud then shouting about how dirty the other people are is inherently contradictory. The demand that others clean up their “bad behavior” before you will clean up yours is also not going to get you very far. If you want others to take a higher path than you have to demonstrably show that you are there or taking steps to get there. You can’t just demand they get up there while you’re slinging mud at them.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Jim – Exactly.

        And I’m fully aware that I’d be eviscerated here if I took on a tone similar to the lovely “Nathan” up here. I don’t know who you are, Nathan, but you’re starting to sound like Tony if Tony were mere Id. And this is not a pleasant thing. Not a psychoanalysis. Just an observation. You’re exemplifying the kinds of issues many of us have had with Tony…on steroids.

    • BTW…you don’t really know anything about what is going on over in the FB group. We “sycophants” over there are doing a lot of post-processing and self-reflection; asking how we can acknowledge what we did wrong, how/if we hurt Tony, what points were valid/invalid, and how we can seek peace if not all out reconciliation. Oddly enough we didn’t even need somebody playing the roll of troll to get us there. I’m just as shocked as you must be!

  • 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.

    • Kristin Rawls

      Hm… I think it’s okay because I don’t think you were the only person who read things this way. You didn’t call Tony an abuser or make assumptions about who he is as a person. And I also find therapy speak…sorta difficult in confrontation anyway. If you’ve ever tried to alert people to the persistence of some abuse and been silenced because you weren’t using enough “I” language, maybe you’ll know what I mean. 🙂 But unless we’re dealing in some kind of slur, I tend NOT to take harsh language all that seriously.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Of course, I first got schooled in online conduct on feministe, where one of my favorite former guest bloggers routinely told detractors to “go f*** themselves with a tire iron.” So, my tolerance of harsh language is perhaps…above average.

    • Nicely said Stephanie. Shows a lot of maturity to own the possibility you may have hurt Tony by using a word that was an emotional trigger to him.
      Still hoping this will have some sort of positive resolution.

    • James

      Stephanie, I wish that Tony would recognize this from you. Really. I’ve been watching this convo since it started, not wanting to really jump in. At first I really saw both ‘sides’ arguing *at* each other – I felt that if everybody would just stop and listen to each other, they would realize that they’re all really basically arguing both sides of the same coin, just coming at it from different angles / life experiences. As I said on another forum, it felt like a conversation between a foreigner and a national who meet in a third world marketplace:
      Foreigner (in English): How much for the yams?
      National (in native language): These are nice kasavas, aren’t they?
      Foreigner: No, I want to buy the yams.
      National (slowly enunciating): These are KASAVAS.

      But I’m starting to change my mind about the conversation, honestly. Stephanie is making an honest attempt to bring resolution and understanding, but Tony is ignoring her. Tony, I know you like to ‘spread the table and invite people to eat’ (which sounds incredibly narcissistic, and assumes everything you offer is wonderful and people can choose to ‘eat’ your incredible words of wisdom, or, if they’re morally lacking, not), but I really think you owe it to Stephanie to engage here, and at least acknowledge this comment, especially since you got into it with her earlier up on the thread. Be a man. Stephanie is.

      • James, please do not assume that the best attempts at reconciliation in this case should be public.

  • Kristin Rawls

    Some other things in the realm of feedback:

    I love Fred Clark’s writing/Slacktivist. I stopped commenting as frequently when he moved to Patheos because the commenting community he’d built at his blog was suddenly infiltrated by evangelicals interested in discussing whether or not homosexuality is a sin. I am past that. But if you want to an example of another evangelical blogger who does NOT generally alienate women and non-Christians, I think Fred is a great example. He’s well-versed in anti-oppression rhetoric, and he just seems to get it. I’m not always so interested in talking to people who don’t get it online – I talk to them ALL THE TIME in life. It isn’t really that all evangelicals are alienating to me, though most are. And Fred seems to think the evangelical project is worth saving, but he doesn’t try to shame me for being “close-minded” about ideas I lived with for decades (Adam Kotsko put it this way earlier today on twitter, and I have to say… Yes. This. Tony’s posts about saving evangelicalism? Are alienating. I do not wish to talk with people who attempt to shame me for being done with the whole project.).

    I think it would be interesting to compare the number of ex-Christians who comment frequently on this blog, as opposed to the number of us who have often felt comfortable doing so at Slacktivist.

    I’ve said this already, but for me, it is not about strident argumentation. I’m good with that. And I can be just as arrogant as the next person in the “I’m over-educated and cleverer than you” type of pissing contest that these things sometimes turn into.

    Oh, the other thing? The ONLY church community I’ve felt comfortable in in the past ten years (and even then, not comfortable enough to join and get involved) was a tiny Disciples of Christ congregation. I do not appreciate Tony’s dismissal of mainline Christianity or his assumptions about “dead churches” or his conviction that the only hope for Christianity lies in its evangelical and post-evangelical iterations. That, AND I’m not so invested in the future of Christianity in the first place.

    As for intellectual discussion: No, I’m not intimidated by it. I just don’t want to get into it with people who don’t realize that, for example, no serious philosopher today takes John Caputo seriously as a philosopher. No one outside of emergent Christianity and maybe a few comp lit students with poor grounding in the history of philosophy. He’s not a philosopher. He’s a preacher. I read a page of one of Tony’s books once. He actually states that Nietszche was trying to create a sort of “moral paradigm.” I learned around my freshman year of college that Nietzsche’s aim was to dispense with morality altogether. I don’t need my advanced degree in philosophy to know that I won’t get a serious intellectual discussion if I really want to talk theory here.

    • Kristin Rawls

      And I would never dream of acting like I’m an authority on some of the theologians who get discussed here. I didn’t do theology. I did philosophy. So, it would be nice to see some of the same kind of humility – and in particular I know that philosophers do not take kindly to being misappropriated.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Oh, and at Slacktivist, there are a lot of intellectuals and professional academics outside of theology, and so I don’t get slammed for saying things like this. That’s nice too.

    • Craig

      Kristin, everything you say makes me wish you’d stick around here–but not because sticking around here would profit you in the least.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Heh, I’m not sure this is a widely shared sentiment. 🙂 I’d say… Read more of these other blogs if you want more of this kind of engagement? Anyway, I’m not a consistent blog commenter anyway. I’ll get deeply involved in one conversation and then disappear.

        • Kristin Rawls

          But Craig, feel free to find me on twitter if you like. I’m more consistent there.

    • Rachel

      “I do not appreciate Tony’s dismissal of mainline Christianity or his assumptions about ‘dead churches’ or his conviction that the only hope for Christianity lies in its evangelical and post-evangelical iterations.”

      This. So often in reading this blog I feel the door is slammed shut on mainline Christianity in a condescending, sneering tone. It certainly does not invite open dialogue.

  • Justin Harvey

    pump the brakes, nathan. you obviously have been stirred emotionally by this conversation, and i’d challenge you to do some reflection as to why. you care enough to come on here and rant and sling accusations and defend tony (and yourself?), yet you claim that you don’t actually care.. but that kind of dismissiveness doesn’t match your tone and your obvious anger. i don’t expect or even suggest that you respond here with any answers as to why you are so stirred. i’m not going to analyze you (as if i could even begin), but i will say that it sounds like you should think and process (hell, even PRAY) before you speak..

  • Nathan


    My last comment is the explanation of my thinking.

  • natha


    i totally get it. and you are right. but tge point should be made to few who did that to T. they arent off limits simply because of their gender or the freight of patriarchy.

    i wasnt trying to elevate. for me it wasnt time and by the time i weighed i was making a conscious choice to give some people a taste. sanctimony doesnt feel good. so while i hear you and even may agree, i made a choice, not an emotional reaction. that might make me a bad guy to some, but i own that i chose it with no regret.

    as far as selfdifferentiation goes, my comment was based on the actual inflammmatory words of people, not the perceived tone.

    and i chose to mirror it.

    • The conversations regarding what was a fair criticism, what was transference, etc is going on…it’s just not happening on this site. It’s just not considered a safe enough place for some people to have that full conversation in what’s turned into a hostile environment. Some of it will probably trickle back as things cool off…and/or when/if Tony is ready to continue the discussion.

      Thanks for owning your stuff.

      • Kristin Rawls

        Well, he didn’t really own anything. I mean, he pretty much says, “Yeah, I did this, but it was intentional and totally awesome so nyah.”

        • You’re prob right Kristin but shhhh, I’m just looking for an exit door 😉

          I think I’ve gotten about as much out of this back and forth with Nathan as I’m gonna get. Can’t spin the wheels in this rut forever.

          • I’ll leave any further correction in your capable hands 😀

      • Nathan

        Welp, I don’t feel bad about it. And I still think its playing the victim to say they can’t own their shit here, when they led with venom. The only person with any class is Stephanie Drury for the abuser comments.

        • Kristin Rawls

          “Class.” LOL.

          • Nathan

            I know I know… Haha

        • Kristin Rawls

          Did you ever think that maybe you just have a limited perspective on online conduct and etiquette? Like, I’d love for you to be a guest blogger at feministe if you thought this was bad.

          • Kristin Rawls

            I mean, there’s not even any real cursing or anyone telling anyone else to “fuck off” or anything here.

          • Nathan

            Oh I’ve seen it…
            And I agree.

        • Nathan

          And by this I mean admitting it was a bad move.

        • Audrey

          Did you really just say “playing the victim.” Did you really just say that. I mean seriously, did you just suggest that people who had been abused by those in positions of power were “playing the victim” in order to badmouth someone who made them have triggering episodes about their past?

          Think really really hard about this one.

  • Nathan

    Nope it was intentional and I don’t regret it. No awesome. No Nyah.

  • incognedo

    I am not a women so I cannot relate in many ways to what women have had to deal with. It is obvious that women have been treated like trash, subjugated, and abused through out history. There is still a great deal of abuse that goes on and covering up of that abuse. I am not an author, I do not write well, I usually respond emotionally and can be passive aggressive. I E I am human. I actually admire those that write well, do not make grammatical or spelling mistakes. Physical and learning disabilities makes this rather hard for me, I do not offer that for sympathy, just who I am.

    Dr. Jones I read your blog on a regular basis, I started back during the posts concerning Young Life Capernaum and wept with you concerning the “essentials” issues. Having been involved with the ministry it broke my heart and was sort of left by the side by the road by the corporation when I voiced some unrelated concerns. Many hear have spoken of voices and being left out. I can tell you from the cheap seats many are left out of the conversation, with a vengeance. In my limited experience with missing children, more experience in convalescent hospitals and the elderly, acute psych, and much more experience with those in developmental centers. I worked with adults with severe behaviors and profound physical disabilities, I will not repeat what I was told by the faith communities concerning these people.

    I cant relate to much that is posted on your blog, we live in different universes as you question God, seek answers, think on issues etc. In my reality one does not seek God in such situations one is just glad God has not killed your blank and sent you to hell. I got that part of my religious experience in spades. I could care less if I go to hell, but when it was made clear that those I worked with and a few assorted family members were most likely roasting in hell right now it shook me up.

    Your blog offered my a more temperate view of the faith, you, Randal Rauser, Bishop Spong, and others kept me from going insane. Of course I do not agree with what is said, most of the time I dont. Being incredibly cynical a gift from my evangelical past I figure Satan is somewhere in all this noise then I think on the one redeeming factor in my life. The students I work with, they are the heart and soul. I have never seen more pure grace than shown by those I work with.

    I do not post on most comment threads or blogs because I am thinned skinned, when fellow believers tell me I am a spiritual abortion, apostate, liar, devil, evil, filth, scum, trash, God hatter, heretic, atheist, and other such phrases do hurt. I understand they are effective and that is why they are used and that alone justifies their use. But they do hurt. I actually remember the first time someone told me I hate God, and God hates me. That was many years ago, I still do not hate God, but I am a bit agnostic as to God hating me. I do lean to the hating me but that is just my personal view.

    Dr. Jones, there are many more like me to some degree, many more. Leaning on the pressies to just chucking the faith and moving on. For the most part, in my experience the faith would love to see us fall off the cliff. Actually that would require some interaction actually the faith could care less and we get that we really do. One thing I am totally convinced of, I am not the only one that feels this way.

    For what its worth your blog has made me a better servant to those I love more then my soul, for that I am grateful. God keep you and yours.

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  • Tucker, I wish you had a blog or some sort of platform. Your voice is so needed amid the latent misogyny in Christian culture.

  • Bobby Ray

    To All (Especially you Tony Jones):

    The demon I had to overcome was that even in defense of women, a man can be hypocritical to what he’s even saying in their defense from a misstep in relational orientation. Christian egalitarian spirituality is an orientation of the heart that masters you– you don’t master it. Identifying one’s struggle with the struggle of women means shutting up and listening to their struggle; not having to intellectualize away some feminist criticism so you can feel (once again) intellectually superior as a man. What a man doesn’t need to say is something powerful in defense of the dignity of women and then shortly thereafter say “See, I knew the whole time this is what you broads needed.”

    I see this kind of thing all the time in Emergent circles (of which is still very male-dominated) and the Christian intellectual circles that work from a framework of theological liberalism as the foundation from which they piece together their theology (of which, as a post-modern theologian and apologist, Tony Jones, this is what you do). Small wonder why Enlightenment thinking (and its subsets) is so incredibly arrogant and many of its elite are so damn sexist. And so, I say, the relational break comes from our tendency to reinterpret Christian thinking through the lens of Modern thinking (of which this is where post-modern thought comes from). The relational break comes from our Enlightenment and Modern influenced brains that suggests the point of our interactions as humans is mastering truthful ideas rather than us worshiping a truthful G-d– of whom is not an idea but simply “is.” Therefore, G-d must be sought amidst how we interact as people who experience G-d differently. So the most basic question we must get right before we are going to have repentant answers is a question of relational orientation (an issue of politics) NOT an issue of LOGOS. The relational orientation of our hearts should inform how we use our spiritual formation and the intellect that comes thenceforth; otherwise we begin trying to master each other rather than submitting ourselves to being mastered by G-d. And so….

    Soren Kierkegaard said it best when he said:

    “Even if ‘women are to keep silent in assembly’ and in that respect should not teach, keeping silent before G-d is precisely a characteristic of true godliness, and this, then, is what [men] should learn from women….It is also from a woman that you also learn a faith that is humble in relation to the extraordinary, a humble faith that does not believingly or doubtingly ask, “Why?” “What for? or “How is it possible? but humbly believes, as Mary did when she said, “Behold, I am the Lord’s handmaiden (helper). She SAID it but, take note, that to say it is really to KEEP SILENT. It is from a woman you learn the right way to listen to the Word [of G-d].”

    This is what I feel Tony Jones misses (and what I’m missing right now, because I’m not shutting up); that to say anything about the respect for women’s experience in this world means shutting up and listening in silence to the G-d speaking through them; because (at least for a Christian) such a discipline is fruit of true godliness– an undoing of the power structures we create with our words and the powerful actions that come from those words.

    Renounce your power…then try again. Our first call as Christians, Tony, is to guard our relational orientation toward each other; not that our brilliant ideas prevail at the expense of that relational orientation; because you will never experience G-d as a person of whom lies outside the inheritance you were born with (white, ,male, American…fill in the blanks), and its immanent upon a Christian to be silent and listen when those who are outside what we can experience are speaking– because, in some way, G-d is speaking in those moments.

    Peace, brothers and sisters.

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  • Rebecca

    I just came across this today…and I realize it is an old post. I am wondering…has your readership changed? Are you getting more comments and interaction from women since your “where are the women?” question and this post? Just curious. I read you regularly and enjoy all of it even if disagree from time to time. Makes me think…and I like that!

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