I have always envied some of my friends who seem to have a knack for maintaining their cool when they deal with comments on blogs. I watch men like Bart Barber and David Rogers continue to gracefully engage even the most belligerent responses.
I do not have that knack. Comments get under my skin. I try to be careful about what I write – most of the time. If you think my articles are harsh, you ought to see the first, second, and third drafts – the ones I didn’t publish, the ones I toned down and smoothed over before I arrived at the ones I published. I make a sincere effort to honor Christ with what I write, an effort I am sure fails often, but one that is genuine. And then the comments start and my blood pressure begins to rise.
Complaint time: I have come to dislike interacting with blog comments.
I have been doing this for about 10 years and I’ve interacted with tens of thousands of comments. I am tired of it. Many (most?) of you are gracious, informative, adding perspective to the posts. But there are those who needle and gnaw and whine and twist – and that is just the comments that we publish. You ought to see the stuff we flush into our trash compactor. Vile stuff at times. I have been called names I had to look up on google. My integrity, decency, honesty, and even my salvation is regularly called into question. I have gotten used to this but it wears on me. I am tired of it.
A friend who is also a well-known Christian leader gave me some advice years ago. When Voices was beginning to build its audience we were more of a forum. We published articles to start a discussion, which would often go 300, 400 or more comments. Several went over 1000 comments. I engaged comment after comment, spending hours of time and much frustration doing so. He gave me this remonstrance. “Dave, write more and engage comments less.” He may have told me to ignore the comments completely. I haven’t ignored comments entirely, but if you look in our archives, my involvement in the comment streams is less than a tithe of what it used to be.
Confession time: I have lost my patience with many commenters.
I decided some time ago that I don’t care if everyone likes me and that there were people who were wrong in both their views and their attitudes. Coddling them was aiding and abetting their ill-effects on the SBC. When I started blogging I wanted to unite everyone into a gigantic group hug, but I’ve come to realize that there are people who simply are not going to join in our cooperative mission. There are Calvinists with divisive spirits who love to eviscerate anyone who doesn’t agree with them, calling them heretics or SJWs or charismatics or whatever other term presents. This last SBC presidential election showed that there is a dark underbelly within the SBC old guard that is hardhearted and mean-spirited. JD Greear is a man of character, a conservative who loves Jesus, the Gospel, the SBC, and our Cooperative Mission. But one state paper, several blogs, and many SBC leaders engaged in a campaign of deceit and personal destruction to attempt to defeat him. It was an evil act and those who joined in needed to be called to repent before they were invited to unite.
But what I found as I became bolder in calling sin as sin is that my spirit became poisoned by anger. There is a passage in James 1 that troubles me.
My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. James 1:20-21
As I became more convictional and convinced I also found myself angrier and quick to deal out verbal smackdowns. Man’s anger – my anger – does not accomplish God’s righteous purposes. That is why blogs like Pulpit and Pen, many discernment blogs and bloggers, and others go astray. Maybe, at one point, they had an honorable purpose. But once you let anger take hold you become destructive and you serve the interests of the enemy whose purpose is to tear down Christians, sow discord, and destroy the church. Anger is demonic. Look at Ephesians 4:26-27.
Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.
When we allow ourselves to be gripped by anger we give the devil an opportunity to use us for his destructive purposes in the church. Anger is explosive. Yes, there is a way to “be angry and sin not” but it is easier to ski down Mount Everest. We justify our anger as “righteous” but how often is that really true? As I became less concerned with everyone liking me and more concerned with speaking truth, my anger grew at those who were recalcitrant, petty, whiny, or belligerent. Anger is a poison that floods the soul and I have felt it. Even righteous anger, not dealt with properly, becomes a sickness of the heart..
My tendency is to blame YOU for MY sin. Commenters do this and commenters do that so I am justified in my anger. But nothing anyone else ever does justifies my sin. I should speak the truth but I am called to do it in love. As I have spoken the truth I have failed to do it in love far too often.
If I have displayed anger to you, I apologize. I repent of that. I do not apologize for my convictions or for expressing those. But I do not like where my heart is sometimes – that rising tide of anger I feel inside as I fight these blogging battles. I have to own that and confess that to God and to you.
Commitment time: I am not going to engage comments for a while.
First, story time. I have always joked during my sermons – it is who I am. But about 20 years ago I came under deep conviction that my humor at the time was unholy. I was preaching hard truths and then telling jokes to “lighten the mood.” What I was doing was joking to make people like me even if they were mad about what God said. The Spirit showed me how unholy my humor had become so, for a time (turned out to be several months), I shelved humor in my messages until I learned to use it in a less self-centered way. I realize some of you think humor has no place in the pulpit, but that’s you. God bless you. I believe God uses me as I am as long as what I am is devoted to who HE is.
Right now, I find myself unable to engage comments without anger and frustration. It would be easy to simply blame that on the commenters and say, “they are jerks.” But even if I am the innocent party provoked by the sinful commenter (and that is not always the case, to be sure) my anger is not justified, does not accomplish God’s work, and is sin. If I am walking in the fullness of the Spirit I should be able to exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness no matter how I am provoked.
So, while I work on this I am going to write, but not comment. Sorry. It is not that I see myself as above engaging comments, but until I am able to do it without anger and with the grace of God, it is better that I don’t.
I have been part of the blogging world for 12 years now and I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. Those that burn out are often those who fail to check their spirits frequently, who justify their anger as righteous. They burn out, they blow up, they fade away. Blogging does two things very well.
- It gives voice to every Baptist. It is the most democratic thing we’ve seen.
- It shows off publicly any character flaw we have. What is in your heart comes out of your fingers as you type posts and comments.
I want to be a positive and godly force in the SBC and right now, I am struggling with how to do that while I engage comments. So, for the forseeable future, I will not be active in the comments (except perhaps as a moderator).
Hopefully, this will be quicker than some other aspects of my sancification. I turn 61 next month. I want to be commenting again before I’m 75.