Recently, I was reading through some of my old posts here, especially those right after I assumed the official position of Chief Mugwump of SBC Voices on September 13, 2010 (my birthday!). My philosophy and commenting policies have gone through quite a bit of (shield your ears) evolution over that time. I’ve never completely figured out how to corral this herd and have sometimes let things go too far and have perhaps at times come down too quickly and too harshly. In my defense, I’d only suggest you try this job (you can have my salary too) for a week and see how you handle it.
I was very invested in this for the first couple of years. The last year or two I’ve grown busier with other things and less engaged here. I’ve considered giving it up a time or two, but I do enjoy operating this site. So, I trudge on, doing what I can in the time I have. This year, I have started a writing project for my church. We are trying to read through the Bible in a year, and I am writing a daily devotional (southernhillsbc.blogspot.com – if you are interested) to accompany the readings. It is my favorite writing project ever. Just taking a thought from scripture and writing about it has been energizing. However, it takes time away from the time I can spend here.
So, some of my policies have evolved (sorry, again) to fit the necessities of my schedule.
My Vision for SBC Voices
When he handed me the keys, Tony Kummer, who owns this blog, told me only one thing. This site cannot be about one viewpoint but a place where every side has a voice. That squared with my vision.
I want SBC Voices to be a place where Baptists can discuss issues related to our churches, our ministries, our lives and our denominations. I desire it to be a place where different opinions from within the SBC world can be heard and debated reasonably and with respect.
When I first took over Voices, it leaned toward the Calvinist side of the aisle. We were not and exclusively Calvinist blog, but we were more Calvinist than not. I’ve worked hard to balance that. We now have a wide range of bloggers from hardcore, passionate Calvinists to those who reject Calvinism. We have some traditionalists (in the normal sense – those who like traditional ways) and some contemporary-leaning folks. I’ve tried to make this a place where you will hear different sides of SBC debates.
The respectful and reasonable? That is a goal that can be elusive. We are passionate and convictional on our disagreements, so that can be quite a challenge. To be honest, moderation is an inexact science and is often based on my mood as much as anything. But I’ve tried to formulate a few policies to try and make this possible.
Posting/Commenting Policies (subject to change any moment)
I spend very little time here on a daily basis. I check in to comment or look things over and see if the discussion has swelled the banks of propriety. To help in the process, I have these informal and malleable policies.
1) I operate a tiered commenting system.
- I delete a comment here or there and ask the person to back off or tone it down.
- When someone refuses to listen or “goes postal” or if someone is a constant violator, I put them on comment moderation. Trolls. Insulters. Those who refuse to stay on topic. They get moderated. It doesn’t mean their comments don’t get through, it just means I have to look at them first. I hate this, because it is work for me! But it is necessary.
- When someone is on moderation and continues to be insulting or play the troll, or whatever, they can eventually get banned. I’ve done that with only a few. They earned it!
- Generally, I do not debate my moderation decisions publicly. I use my SBC Voices email (named in honor of some of those for whom this post is written) firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss moderation decisions. If you want to talk about a deleted comment, discuss it there. Reposting a deleted comment will get you put in moderation pretty quickly.
One thing I hate to do is delete a series of comments. Repeatedly I’m asked when I delete a single comment to delete a whole string. That is not that easy; it takes time I’m unwilling to give and I almost never do it.
One other thing – each regular contributor has the privilege of moderation on his own posts. They often use different standards than I do.
One other other thing – All commenters are NOT equal. If someone comments anonymously, they are likely to get a higher level of scrutiny and moderation than someone who attaches his or her name. Also, this is a site about and for Southern Baptists. Others are welcome and allowed to comment, but a non-Southern Baptist who tries to turn the conversation away from our general purpose is going to be more quickly moderated. You can join in our family discussions if you like, you just can’t troll them or attempt to impose your own agenda on them.
2) Commenters are responsible for their own comments.
I’m not your mother.
I get contacted by people who are offended by a comment and act as if my failure to delete it constitutes an approval of the comment. Not so. I only delete comments if they are personally insulting, way off topic, profane or in some other way inappropriate.
The whole point of SBC Voices is to give people who disagree an opportunity to speak. I can’t tell you how many comments I disagree with, even get annoyed at. Generally, they stay.
You are responsible for your own comments. If it doesn’t have my name, it is not my opinion.
3) The best way to control comments is to control POSTS!
This is one of the lessons I’ve learned. Calvinism discussions have taken 4.8 years off my life from trying to moderate such discussions. But I realized that if I just didn’t publish certain types of posts, we would have much better discussions. It is absolutely true.
- I do not publish Calvinism-related posts which just throw mud at the other side. “Calvinists are evil.” “It’s all the traditionalists fault.” I’ve just stopped posting those. It’s a tough call sometimes. But if a post is Calvinism-related it needs to be reasonably written and argued, be respectful to the other side, be biblically-oriented and further the discussion. Mud-slinging is just not helpful.
- Criticism of our entities is a tricky issue. One of the blessings of blogging has been how it has opened up the entities. We have a genuine duty to question and critique our entities. However, articles that just level accusations without evidence, that are conspiratorial in nature, that are disrespectful in tone – generally we avoid those. If a post simply repeats gossip, I avoid it.
It is a tough call sometimes.
Now, to the reason I am writing this. Yesterday, I published an article by Eric Hankins. It was the first in a series. I was informed that some in the twitterverse were upset with me for publishing this. I have a policy of blocking anonymous twitter sites that mistake hatred for discernment. Why listen to cowards? But I am aware that questions have been raised about some of our posts and our comments. Sometimes I’ve even had some friends question me on this. So, because I’ve been asked these questions repeatedly, and because I’m aware that this is “out there” I thought I’d give you my answers to some questions.
Why on Earth Did You Publish That, Dave?
The answer to that is usually pretty simple. It is a legitimate Southern Baptist Point of View from a legitimate Southern Baptist. It does not have to reflect my POV or convictions. There are many personal or POV blogs. They only publish material that advances their particular POV. Pro-Calvinist and anti-Calvinist sites abound. I try hard to make sure this site is neither (or perhaps both). If you don’t disagree with some of our posts, I’m failing in my goal. I disagree with a LOT of the posts I publish here.
Why did I publish Dr. Hankins series of posts? Because Eric Hankins is a Southern Baptist pastor who has a legitimate viewpoint. It is not my viewpoint, but he articulates his views respectfully. That’s all I can ask. I look forward to disagreeing with the rest of his series!
I am amazed at how easily offended people are when someone articulates a viewpoint different than their own. You don’t like what Dr. Hankins has to say? Fine. Write a response! If it is well-written and respectful, I’ll post it. Not interested in angry screeds, but a reasonable response to a post has a great chance of getting on here. But don’t expect us to only publish those posts that agree with your point of view (or mine).
Honestly, folks, as far as I know, no one ever died because someone expressed a point of view that differed from their own! You can survive a post or a comment that disagrees with you.
Why Do You Let HIM Comment?
Wow, passions run high. It really bothers people that this person or that one is allowed to post here. Folks, that is ridiculous. If a person is a Southern Baptist, they are allowed to comment here – unless they have broken trust by engaging in personal insult, trolling or some other abuse of the site. I don’t carry a list of acceptable or unacceptable commenters based on their soteriological position or their opinion of certain college presidents. That would be contrary to our stated purpose and goal.
This is a place where your opinions are going to be disagreed with. People will annoy you. But this is not a POV website. If you want a place where only non-Calvinist/Traditionalist opinions are welcomed, I can name several offhand. If you want a place where you only hear the Calvinist perspective, those sites exist as well. Here, you are going to have comments from people you disagree with, even those you do not particularly like.
Deal with it.
Honestly, if this was my full-time job, I’d try to be more consistent and have more extensive policies. Its not. So, I have a few guidelines I’ve developed that I follow as best I can. One thing I know, nothing I do is going to please everyone. That’s life.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions.