Being named editor of SBC Voices was a birthday present for me (September 13). It is a great privilege. I enjoy writing and interacting with people and this has been exciting. However, there is one aspect of this that is no fun at all. It is moderating comments. We have some pretty “lively” exchanges on Voices. Sometimes it gets out of hand and it falls to me to try to make some order out of the chaos.
I do so imperfectly and inconsistently. I thought I should share with you the standards by which I am trying to operate. Our goal is here godly, but largely free discussion.
I’ve had my sanity and my integrity both questioned on a regular basis because of my attempts to moderate the discussion here. Blogging has been good for me in that regard. There was a time when someone’s negative opinion of me was a crushing blow – I’d end up in a fetal position on my bed for a few days afterward. In the more than four years that I have been blogging, I’ve learned to deal with negative opinions. I still don’t like them that much, but I’m not cratered by them.
I’ve tried to figure out the best way of moderating comments. At times, I’ve pretty much let things roll. Other times, I’ve tried the heavy hand of moderation. I’m kind of settling on a system that I am going to try, until I change my mind and try something else. So, here it is.
1) I am going to attempt to do as little moderation as possible.
I do not even read every comment. I am certainly not going to REVIEW every one and decide if it is appropriate or not. I just don’t have the time.
2) The people who comment here are grown-ups. Act like it.
More than that, the vast majority are Christians – born again by the grace of God. Act like it. Exhibit some self control. I’m not your mother and I’m not your babysitter. You are responsible for your words.
I get the strangest complaints. Someone will fill the comment stream with insults, then wonder why I do not delete the comment of someone who insulted them back.
Don’t expect me to be your Holy Spirit, except in the most extreme of circumstances. Take responsibility for your own actions and words. Most of the time, I am just going to ask YOU to exhibit self-control. You’re a big boy (or girl). Watch your words so I don’t have to.
3) Here’s a fact. None of us likes to be insulted, but neither do you die from it!
I’ve been told I had behavioral and psychological disorders by bloggers. I’ve been told I have no integrity. Guess what. I lived. It hurt my feelings, but I lived. I’ve been called a liberal and I’ve been called a fundamentalist. I lived through both. I did not die from either. I am what Jesus says I am, not what you or anyone else says I am.
4) The best way to handle insults is to ignore them.
I discovered one of the great secrets of blogging sanity a while back. If I refuse to respond to someone’s insult, the whole thing dies quickly. If I respond and defend myself, it becomes one of those back and forths that embarrass us all (and I think, sometimes, Christ). Solomon told us that a gentle answer turns away wrath. Wow! Who’d have thought that the Bible actually works.
On another site, someone made some strong accusations against my character. It hurt. I wrote several responses defending myself and telling that person exactly what I thought of them for saying such outrageous things. Had I published those responses, it would have escalated. I walked away and guess what? The whole thing died quickly.
God claims the right of vengeance and retribution. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” When I strike back verbally, I am usurping the right of God to bring justice. When Jesus was reviled, he did not answer back.
99% of the problems on blogging would be avoided if people learned that you do not have to answer every accusation, right every wrong, return every insult or defend yourself against accusation.
5) The person hurt most by the insult is the one who offers the insult.
I blog to influence others. I influence others when I make a solid, biblical point offered in a reasonable way. If I’m constantly insulting others and putting them down, I lose credibility and no one listens to what I say. The person hurt most by that is me. When I make a good point, people will just ignore me anyway.
In fact, if I am in a discussion with Mr X, and I have all the facts and Scriptures on my side, but treat Mr. X badly and insult him, I am unlikely to convince anyone of my point.
6) There are times when I will moderate comments or commenters.
- If you put blasphemy on this site. (Yes, it is my job to make that judgment.) Fair warning. I think jokes about Christians are funny – most of the time. I do not joke about God and I do not appreciate jokes about God, or Christ, or the Spirit, or the Cross, or any of those holy things. That’s just me and perhaps I am extreme. I don’t mind if you get offended at me (well, I do a little) but I do not want God to get offended at me.
- If you practice obscenity or profanity. Just do it. NOT!
- If you constantly steer the conversation away from the topic to your own pet hobby horses. I have only banned one person from commenting here since I took over. He never commented on topic, but made everything about the CR and his obsessive hatred for conservatives. I asked him nicely. I put him on moderation. Then, I banned him. Its a better site because he is not commenting here. Trolling and hobby-horse riding is the quickest way to the restricted list around here.
- While dissent from the leadership of the SBC and criticism of the actions of our leaders is fair, even healthy, there is a limit to it. Again, I have the responsibility to judge when that is taking place and someone isn’t going to like the decisions I make. But I do what I think is right even when you think it is wrong. Our criticisms should be specific and focused on actions, decisions and positions, not on the person of the leader. Its a tightrope, but I will do my best to walk that line.
7) If you want to complain about my moderation, do it by email.
I do not carry on these discussions online. A lot of you have gotten private emails from me (and haven’t liked them much). email@example.com.
8 ) If you see something I missed, tell me.
I do not read every comment here. I’ve had people whine that I left a comment up – when I never saw the comment until they called it to my attention. If someone feels deeply injured by a comment, I often remove it at their request. Again, I think many are over-sensitive and some are downright hypocritical about it. They insult others but want insults against themselves controlled. But if someone is deeply hurt, I try to respond.
The point is, you have to tell me about it. Again, I do not review every comment that is made here.
9) I don’t usually delete a comment, but an entire conversation.
Usually, when I start deleting comments, I end up deleting an entire exchange. If I delete a comment, I generally delete the comments that refer to or respond to that comment.
10) Like the Pirates Code, these are more like guidelines than they are actual rules!
They are subject to change with my moods and whims. I’m not always objective.
11) We allow pseudonymous commenters, but they are held to a higher standard.
The principle is accountability. If you are commenting pseudonymously, I will probably be more likely to delete your comments. If you have a good reason to comment anonymously, let me know.
12) I don’t have another principle, but somehow it seemed wrong to stop at 11!
- If I have a problem with your behavior, I will usually tell you by email. If your comment disappears, it may not have been anything you did wrong, but because I am deleting an entire offensive conversation. If I’m upset with you, I have your email.
- If you are constantly creating problems and refuse to exhibit self-control, your comments may become moderated. That means they only appear when I approve them.
- If you continue to create a problem, I will simply block your comments. As I said, I’ve only done that to one person.
So, I’ll do the best I can. You aren’t always gonna like it. But you are not an easy bunch to manage!