Yesterday, Jared Moore submitted a post called, “Do You Desire Revenge or Repentance?’ focusing on a phenomenon I have seen often in blogging. As Jared admitted, there is a biblical place for correction and calls to repentance, but I’ve seen that go way overboard – and often. I’ve observed “discernment bloggers” go postal on those they believe are in sin, leading me to believe that they want the destruction of the other side more than they want true repentance leading to restoration. I realize that this is a personal observation and opinion, but it is one I’ve observed and strongly believe to be true.
I thought Jared’s post hit the nail right on the head, addressing this issue very well.
Evidently, though, there was more to the story than I knew. A blogger, known as “Jim G” had some pretty harsh things to say about Jared’s post, and even Jared himself. Here is some of what he said.
- You are shamefully repeating a tactic I’ve called out on this blog many times…
- This is nothing but cowardice, and you should stop it.
- So, man up, Jared.
- …you should be above such manipulation.
- The accusation was slander…
Why was Jim so upset? What troubled him so much about a post that seemed to me to be biblically based and relatively benign.
That’s when I found out the backstory. Jared had evidently sent a text to several bloggers whom he believed had violated the guidelines he set forth in his post. Three were named, I do not know if there were others. Jim advocated that Jared should “name names” and address specific issues in the post. Jared’s intent was to write a more general principle, but Jim felt that was some sort of dodge.
One of his points is that blogging should always be specific, that general posts such as Jared’s (and many I have written) are not good and not honoring to God.
- So, man up, Jared. Quit hiding behind your vague accusations. You are accusing TWW of sin – at least it is pretty apparent to me.
Evidently, to Jim, writing generally instead of specifically can only be motivated by cowardice. In response to a comment by me, Jim said,
- There is no such thing as a “general problem.” If there is a widespread problem, then there are multiple instances of a specific problem. Jared tweeted out, by his own admission, to a handful of people he thought were doing wrong. I have no problem with that. Then, he posts this article vaguely accusing “discernment bloggers” of sin. “General problems” aren’t committing these sins, if in fact they are being committed. Jared had real people in mind – specific ones, as he admitted – yet would not say who they are.
Jim denies the reality of a general problem and seems to be arguing that we should address specific issues by naming names.
I have heard that dozens of times. Name names. Address specific situations not generalities. I, too, have been accused of cowardice for not often engaging in direct confrontation. More than once, I’ve had the label “passive aggressive” lodged against me. Both accusations may be true from time to time, but I have some other reasons that normally, I address blogging issues in generalizations rather than in specifics.
Here are some thoughts about this process.
1) I used to do a lot of “Battle Blogging.”
I tried it; didn’t like it. I called out this person or that for reasons I thought were valid. Looking back, some of them were good, some were pretty shaky. If you look back in my long mothballed personal blog (This Tent’s Just Right), you will find quite a few of those. I have written a few at sbcIMPACT and and here as well. Every once in a while I see something I think needs to be addressed and do it. But for the most part, I’ve just come to believe that battle blogging is spiritually unproductive. It can make me feel better to “let someone have it” but it does little for the kingdom.
2) I agree that addressing a specific situation in generalities is cowardly.
Two bloggers come to my mind from the wild west days of blogging (no, I’m not going to name them – you can blast me in the comments for that!) who would do this all the time. One actually wrote a series of diatribes against me, but my name was never named. Everyone knew exactly who was in this person’s sights, but names were never mentioned. The blogger was trying to deliver a specific message to me as a generalization. It did seem a little cowardly to me. When I tried to contact the person by email, I was told that the person had no desire to talk to me. Essentially, it was okay to talk about me on blogs (in a non-specific way) but not to talk to me personally.
I remember another blogger who wrote often in opposition to the various causes, campaigns and crusades of Wade Burleson. Almost none of his articles named Wade but it took an IQ of about 78 to realize who was being discussed.
My general impression was that these bloggers were trying to make specific accusations without being held accountable. “Why did you say that about me?” “Excuse me? You were never mentioned!”
I always thought that kind of blogging was silly. If you are making a specific point, don’t couch it in generalities. So, to that extent, I agree with Jim. If you are going to make a specific point about a specific person, then you should be specific about it.
3) There is a difference between engaging people and engaging ideas.
I have been planning to write an article about eschatology in direct response to one my friend Joel Rainey posted. Dealing with theological issues and people’s opinions should obviously be done specifically. Disagreeing with someone’s ideas, opinions, or biblical interpretations is not personal and ought not be considered to be an insult.
4) Public debate is not the place to work out private angst or animosity.
I know many will not agree with me on this, and I will admit that I have most definitely violated this in my blogging career. But very little good comes from engaging in angry public debate. A personal dispute is better solved quietly, by phone or email, rather than out in the world for all to see.
Let me use a specific illustration here, thanks to the example from my onblast friend. For many years, there has been a public, acrimonious debate between supporters of Ergun Caner and those who oppose him. A lot of blood has been spilled in the debate. Calls for repentance. Personal insults. Diatribes, screeds, invectives, harangues, and tirades.
After several years of that, are we any closer to unity or reconciliation than we were when this all started? Has any of this produced any genuine repentance from anyone?
I’m still waiting to see two people go after each other publicly and see it result in the edification of the Body of Christ.
5) There are general conditions that should be addressed generally.
This is my thesis and the point at which evidently Jim would disagree. He claimed there is “no such thing as a ‘general problem.'” He is wrong about that. I’ve seen many tendencies that are common to large groups of blog commenters. So, I write articles about generalities instead of dealing with specifics.
When you address general situations by using specific illustrations, your point gets lost in the personal back and forth. It becomes about the person rather than the idea!
Let’s go back to Jared’s post. I didn’t know about the exchanges Jared had with other bloggers by twitter, so I simply read the post as it was written. It was not about whether I liked this person or that person’s style. It was about the principle. Jim focused on a particular person and so the discussion became focused not on the point Jared was making but on his judgment of a blogger he liked and whom he thought Jared was attacking.
Through the years I’ve been involved in blogging, I’ve often been more focused on the process of blogging than some of the disputes themselves. I’m more concerned about the WAY we discuss Calvinism than the discussion itself. For me, it’s about how we interact and how we communicate.
So, I tend to look for tendencies and patterns of behavior rather than call out individuals or address specific situations.
6) You can’t make rules, only guidelines.
Like most things, it is impossible to make absolute rules here – it’s more of an art than a science.
Here i am arguing for the value of writing generalities while responding directly to Jim’s comments. In the midst of the discussion, I’ve mentioned several specific instances but in others I’ve left things general. I have reasons why I made some things specific and others general, and it makes sense to me. You might not understand my logic or conviction. You do the best you can and I’ll do the best I can.
But I do have some guidelines by which I operate. For the most part, I try to avoid personal grievances on public blogs – I just don’t think it is productive. I go private (email, etc) to resolve those.
I prefer to address patterns, trends and common behaviors rather than using my blogging platform to settle personal issues.
That’s how I see it and I feel comfortable trying to put these principles into practice.