Tuesday, 5 June 2007
about comments (again)
We have noticed an increasing tendency by some commenters to make ad hominem or derogatory comments about other people — sometimes about other commenters and perhaps more often about people in the news.
We want discussions here to be conducted in a spirit of Christian charity and we are going to take a strong line on this. We will not approve comments that include ad hominem remarks. Comments on someone else should concentrate on their words or deeds. People should be accorded their proper names and/or titles, not a pretend or derogatory name or sarcastic title preferred by the commenter. Please note that this applies to people on all sides of discussions.
Secondly, we reiterate a plea we made a year ago: ‘please consider seriously using your own name, rather than a pseudonym. While we do not, at this time, intend to make this a requirement, we do wish to strongly encourage the use of real names.’
Finally, a reminder about comment-length: ‘a few people have sometimes written very long comments that really are essays in their own right, rather than being comments on the original article, or direct responses to previous comments. We have therefore decided to introduce a length limit of 400 words per comment, with immediate effect. Longer comments than that will in future quite probably not be published. If you still want to write such essays, we suggest that you set up your own blog, and you will be very welcome to then link to them in the comments here.’
Posted by Simon Kershaw on
Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 2:48pm BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
About Thinking Anglicans
Thank you, Simon. Your work and that of your colleagues is much appreciated.
I very much appreciate and applaud the sentiment behind the restriction against ad hominem attacks. Thank you.
As for the use of real names, I plead that the use of pseudonyms continue to be permitted. In my own case I have reasons for doing so (mainly I don't want my views expressed to be confused with official views of the church of which I am a part, but also for personal reasons).
Naturally this is a privilege that should not be abused, and for my part I promise not to do so, but I am sure there are others who also have good reasons for not wanting to use their real names.
Anyway, I also appreciate the work you all do here and hope that you continue with it. Blessings to you all.
Thanks for the reminder - I need it from time to time - it is tempting to use made-up names for some people - and that is one to which I have given in more often than I care to think about.
I am sympathetic to those who wish to remain pseudonymous for various good reasons. In fact, friends of mine have told me I am foolish to use my own name, but what's done is done.
Having spent a lot of time and energy hiding from myself, I'm getting reckless in my old age, I guess.
The 400 words is long enough, and I've found I can usually get more involved responses into that.
My pseudonym includes a link through so everyone can find out who I am, the pseudonym does have a religious meaning (it would help if when adding a new comment it actually saved the identification information like it says it should).
There is never a reason to have a crack at someone; there is also a fine line between attacking the person and using a short cut metaphor. Rowan Williams has been so described. In the end it is better to just explain the criticism. It is easy to cross the line, I try to check if I have or might have.
The difficulty I have here is that because it is not a forum the cul-de-sacs get long and someone replies on some extended point down one cul-de-sac when the news item has been updated on another and I have tend then left the old one behind. I notice even today I missed a few postings of 3rd June. Anglican-Mainstream has a forum where the subjects continue under the same headings. I have to say I find some of the tone of those comments very negative and personal, and see nothing equivalent here. No one has attacked me personally, for example, even in this matter of being anti-supernatural, it being called non-biblical and the like. I don't regard such comments as personal. Incidentally, though I do it, I actually think praising a person is a problem, in that it is often personal and should be around the argument - though we are people and not simply discussers.
Well said, Simon. Thanks (even if I'm guilty from time to time ;)
May I gently suggest that the ad hominem category include instances where commenters blatantly mis-characterize the positions of those with whom they disagree ? The most prevalent example of this is when a "conservative" states as a fact that those on the other side have "abandoned the faith of the church" and similar remarks. Simply stating strongly, and disrespectfully worded, *opinion* as fact over and over again is both poor argumentation and definitely counts as an attack unworthy of a Christian.
I see those conservative bludgeons as a sign that the poster actually has nothing intelligent to contribute. As the insult is generally dished out to everyone who puts forward a more complex argument, I don't ever take it personally.
Forbidding those kinds of comments only stops these kinds of people from embarrassing themselves in public - which may of course be a worthwhile aim, but may not be what Simon had in mind.
Tut, tut. If you look a bit more carefully you will see that 99% of the discussions and comments at TA (conservative and liberal) boil down to whether some position or other abandons or undermines the "true" faith of the Church--whether (e.g.) that faith is defined in terms of open-ended uncritical acceptance of the sexual practices of others, or open-ended uncritical acceptance of Scripture and Tradition regarding same.
I'm speaking in extremes here (and my biases obviously show), but you get the point. Your standard would shut the site down for both liberals and conservatives. Still, most folks try to keep it civil most of the time, which is not bad considering how committed most are to their respective positions.
PS-In general it seems to me that every real theological dispute always boils down to this same issue: who is supporting the true faith, and who is abandoning/undermining the true faith. So, if we are to put this into practice we might just as well take the next step and close down theological debate altogether. /s
Your call for due respect is welcome.
It has become a most unwelcome and tiresome feature of the comments section to the extent that I alsmost stopped reading them. It has become a blight on the general tone of the blog and I have become increasingly reluctant to recommend it to other people as a result.
What is a particularly sad reflection on the Church is that the comments are so predictable.
The words length limit is also welcome.
I hope that you will now enforce both discplines.
(At least that's what my wife's 8th grade students say.)
"... open-ended uncritical acceptance of the sexual practices of others, or open-ended uncritical acceptance of Scripture and Tradition regarding same. "
Oh, oh! here we go again!
Both are equally navel fiddlers, if you ask me...
(and then there is that most ancient and most worne piece about "the practises of Others" :-(
IT'S ABOUT YOU, stupid!
Heh, heh. Fair enough :) But what I was trying to get at was not limiting "real theological dispute." Rather, I was trying to address how one goes about it. If one tries to make a case that position X "abandons or undermines the 'true' faith of the Church," then at least be willing to say that this is based on "my (or someone's) interpretation of Scripture, Tradition, etc..." or something along those lines. You know - take some responsibility for your interpretations & opinions...
To simply present opinion as settled fact, esp. when said opinion makes insulting implications about the faith of others, is an ad hominem attack in my book (frequently of a rather passive-aggressive variety).
"it would help if when adding a new comment it actually saved the identification information like it says it should"
It works on my PC - have you checked your cookie settings?
"Incidentally, though I do it, I actually think praising a person is a problem, in that it is often personal and should be around the argument".
As someone personally affected by much of the debate that is, for others, purely theological, I find TA an emotional nightmare at times - a bit like open heart surgery, as a friend of mine called it.
Coming across praise for others is a welcome reminder that contributors are real people with a heart and a sense of humour.
We too often forget that our debate is more than a theoretical exploration, and anything that keeps this blog human and humane is sorely welcome to me.
Good on you, Simon. However, I do understand why some people may need to use pseudonyms. I just hope that they won't use them as a cover for trashing others. I don't think civility in argument equals blandness (as some people tend to suggest when this topic comes up). We can still have a robust argument. I don't want those I disagree with to "expose themselves", I want them to learn the same respect they have a right to expect from me. Maybe that's idealistic, but the internet is a depressing place these days... an editor on the Guardian CIF said to me recently: "I can't believe how vilely some of our contributors behave." It's a salutary reminder of what we can sink too. And of course, I know I have been a sinner in this respect, too.
It is good reminder to all of us to watch our standard.
Personally, I agree with David H that "the ad hominem category includes where commenters blatantly mis-characterize the positions of those with whom they disagree".
Yet, like Erika, I think that stopping them from stating them on this public forum does not stop them doing it elsewhere or in private nor in how they educate others on what their position is.
In fact, one of the things I love about Thinking Anglicans is that people are very honest about what they think. Thus they make the bold statements and there is the chance to comment on whether that statement has a valid premise or if there is a flaw in the logic or if other texts of bible bring a different light to their emphasis.
Because TA posts can not be edited after the fact, it is a gold mine of theological to'ing and fro'ing with precedents set that are useful both here and elsewhere.
My other amusement is that there are some posters who apologise and/or express embarrassment when they make a faux pas or go too far. There are others that apparently have never made a mistake or for whom the person they have wrongly insulted is unworthy of an apology.
The evidence speaks for itself in this regard.
Those who attack me do not hurt me, it was a choice to trust in God when he kept anointing me to do this work. If God trusts me, then I will trust myself. My hope and vision comes from Isaiah 49:23 and 54:15 "If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you." Not just for myself, but for all Jews and gentiles, males and females, young and old, pure and afflicted, human and other.
You mean to tell us that Comment is Free has editors who actually read the comments? Well, well, well...
Steven and DavidH:
Can we try to set some parameters here?
Let me explain: if someone is a weekly (or more often) worshipper at the same (national) church of which they've been a member for 10 years or more, can we at least concede such a person has NOT "abandoned the faith of the church" as *that person* understands it?
[JCF = J. Collins Fisher. But I'll usually stick to the initials, for reasons of *professional privacy*. You never know when a contrary view could cost you a job!]
In my faith journey I have become increasingly aware of the questions begged, and power issues raised, by the simple word "we".
Who "we" are is often the undisclosed subtext of the debates in which "we" are engaged. "I" or "we" has a non-trivial connection with the doctrine of the Trinity, and substantial relationship to the conflicting ecclesiology implicit in many contentious discussions. "We" can easily beg the question, or assume that boundaries exist without theological or scriptural warrant.
A wise supervisor advised that I should avoid the word. This may be too strong, but I would urge caution.
I have posted this for the benefit of people who are inclined to take care.
Interesting. I don't like the expression "we", as in books, either, sometimes written by one person. "Who's that then?" I wonder. Categories - I trade in them all the time - are dangerous shorthand: let's call them heuristic devices. (That's right, one of those words I've learned to use because others used them and I've never looked up the precise meaning.) Oh and all right, praise is a good thing.
I don't immediately see a way of amending my registration so as to put in a name. A reminder would be helpful to this elderly greybeard.
“In general it seems to me that every real theological dispute always boils down to this same issue: who is supporting the true faith, and who is abandoning/undermining the true faith”
That’s such a disappointing starting base!
Every theological conversation and exploration boils down to people trying to better understand God’s will for themselves, their church and for mankind as a whole. Sometimes they agree, other times they hold different views.
Trying to determine who is right and who is wrong, and I’m not even sure either is possible considering the enormity of the quest, is a cul-de-sac we sadly seem to go down every so often. But it has nothing to do with the actual exploration.
I have been deeply encouraged by the recent conversation between Thomas Renz, Ford, Cryptogram and others. It has been fascinating to see how they first seemed to separate neatly into “liberal” and “conservative”. Yet, they did not fall into the trap of lecturing to each other, but listened carefully and replied well. Touching points were found, possibilities of seeing Christ in the other who had previously possibly looked predictable, explicable and... well.... wrong.
Agreeing isn’t everything. Faithfully walking together and taking the others and their views seriously is what matters.
The saddest consequence of the fundamentalists' attempt to stamp “right” and “wrong” on each other’s foreheads is that it reduces complex human beings and fellow travellers to opponents and does nothing to further our understanding of each other or of God’s will for us.
Mea Culpa. I am well rebuked. I have a temper and a thin skin.
Counterlight = Douglas Blanchard of NYC. I use the moniker only because it's more interesting, and less common, than my given name.
I basically agree with your comment about citing reasons for the argument or characterization of another's position as departing from the true faith. However, the fact is, at TA the basis often tends to be assumed as the arguments have been repeated so often--in fact ad nauseam--in the past. Conservatives cite to Scripture and Tradition. On the former the particular texts are generally well known and the position of the Church historically on the issue of homosexual acts is well known. Liberals counter that the Scriptural texts in question (as well as the prior "beliefs" of the Church) were merely culturally conditioned, are misunderstood, or are superseded by modern knowledge, a new movement of the Spirit, etc. Other arguments are sometimes made by both sides, but there is no resolution, no agreement, and seemingly no possibility of agreement on any of this. Hence, posters (especially long time posters) often "skip to the chase".
Merely attending Church (even an Anglican Church for 10 years) is no guarantee that one's opinions and beliefs do not depart from the essentials of the Faith, or even the basics of Anglicanism.
I will grant you that the individual in question may well be true to their own understandings, even if completely false. However, is that really relevant in the quest for Truth? Individuals at various times have sincerely believed all kinds of nonsense, and even the Church has not been free of error.
Further, I have no reason to believe anyone at TA isn't being true to their own particular understandings of the Faith--there are a lot of sincere people at TA, but that doesn't mean that everyone is right. How could they be when so many hold diametrically opposed beliefs?
These are some of the reasons I, like many conservatives, rest on God's self-revelation in Scripture as being ultimately determinative, with the Church as a corporate body (rather than individuals) being charged with the task of interpreting Scripture. However, even the Church is not free to ignore or abuse Scripture. (Cf., Article XX of the 39 Articles).
So, a long detour, but my response remains: No. Church attendance does not render one's opinions and beliefs sacrosanct and above criticism for departing from the Faith.
This is a very worthwhile thread. However, I find it odd that Goran would respond to one of my posts with what appears to be an ad hominem attack when the purpose of the thread is to discourage ad hominem attacks. However, maybe I'm missing something here.
I suppose the formulation could have been better, but it is no ad hominen, but a general observation.
Strictly speaking I think Goran delivered a gratuitous insult, not an ad hominem attack. Not meaning to excuse it by any means. Though I share his sense of exasperation.
On the general subject - its all too tempting to use the comment feature of blogs as an opportunity to vent one's overall grievances with the way things are going, as opposed to offering constructive criticism (or support) of the topic of the day. And it's also enjoyable (albeit in a sleazy, low-level way) to read exchanges of invectives. I've been using my real name for a few weeks, and been trying to repress my impulse to vent. Mostly I'm successful; but after I read this post I must admit that I frantically looked up my past submissions to see whether/to what degree I might have been offensive. I think I will resolve after this not to respond to any post when I don't have anything directly pertinent and original to offer on the subject.
Thanks for the clarification. I am certainly relieved to know that "stupid" is merely a gratuitous insult rather than an ad hominem attack.
PS-I note that Simon's comments also covers "derogatory comments about other people" as well as ad hominem attacks.
Note, Steven, that I specifically said "worshipping", not merely "attending." I'm NOT talking about someone warming a pew, seeing the church merely as a kind of social club (OR social service agency!).
"there are a lot of sincere people at TA, but that doesn't mean that everyone is right. How could they be when so many hold diametrically opposed beliefs?"
I don't know that "everyone is right" . . . but I also don't know everyone ISN'T (essentially). *My* view is limited, being one fallible, subjective person's *opinion*. How is it that your POV, Steven, escapes these limitations?
"These are some of the reasons I, like many conservatives, rest on God's self-revelation in Scripture as being ultimately determinative, with the Church as a corporate body (rather than individuals) being charged with the task of interpreting Scripture. However, even the Church is not free to ignore or abuse Scripture. (Cf., Article XX of the 39 Articles)."
...but you reserve the right to *yourself*, to decide when "the Church as a corporate body" (oh say, TEC for example) is "ignoring or abusing Scripture"? What makes you, Steven, anything other than an "individual [who] may well be true to their own understandings, even if completely false"? How do you know that those who disagree w/ you (for example on issues of sexual ethics), don't "rest on God's self-revelation in Scripture as being ultimately determinative" even more *faithfully* than you do?
I'm trying to understand your logic, Steven: help me out.
Why is it that so many conservatives see themselves as prophets, and yet sound so much like lawyers discussing contract law?
Goodness gracious, my real name is Leonardo Ricardo de Castillo Fuentes...but I can't use my REAL name officially until OUR CHURCH authorizes same sex blessings/marriages and the legal ceremony corresponds with it...guess, I'll just have to rely on the Shamans ceremony (my love and partner is a Maya person) as a stop-gap approach to a Christian/BCP (in Spanish por favor) marriage...seemed Godlike and loving to me (plus the miracle of the dozens of honeybee messengers that swarmed in from nowhere and landed on me/us and didn't sting and apparently blessed the "union" for eternity we were told).
Real life in the Global Center is clearly so much sweeter than listening to +Orombi and +Akinola preaching at Global South "get togethers" that LGBT people are abominations that God "hates" (and our children "hooligans") and we ought be thrown in jail for loving one another or "speaking out" in public and letting all of YOU "pretenders" know who WE really are!
Leonardo Ricardo de Castillo Fuentes votes no on selective Scriptural exclusivity AND anonymous "posts" from fearfilled folks who discriminate against their fellow Anglican brothers and sisters just because we are LGBT Christians.
“(and then there is that most ancient and most worne piece about "the practises of Others" :-(
IT'S ABOUT YOU, stupid!“
I find it strange, that an innocent remark on the most widespread mis-application of Christianity as a “free for all” to attack “the practises” of “Others” (I suppose implicitly in some kind of Hell-believing, but mis-applied, ”concern” for the Neighbour’s Soul), but not chiefly about our precious s e l v e s, is so offensive to Steven…
Also (I may be mistaken) I take IT'S ABOUT YOU, stupid!“
to be, so to say, une façon de parler – established, admittedly a bit direct, but not abusive ;=)
"...that doesn't mean that everyone is right. How could they be when so many hold diametrically opposed beliefs?"
Hey guys, ever heard of "and also"?
There are times when two things that appeared to be diametrically opposed actually both turn out to be valid.
A classic example is light. There was a huge debate about whether light came in waves or in particles. It turned out that both were correct. Light comes in photon particles that travel in a wave format.
Similarly, with many of these debates. There will be souls who will come to see that unconditional love and unilateral grace covered, not just the pure but also the feminine and afflicted.
Like Jonah, Jesus did not come to perpetuate the scriptures and priestly interpretations, but to transform them.
We refer to Christ as "the Light of the world", so many of our images of Christ refer in some way to light. I read a book recently in which an Orthodox monk was speaking scornfully of Western civilization and our turning from God, and he included believers in that group. One of his comments was that for Westerners, 'enlightenment' means possession of understanding of the world, science, etc. In the East, 'enlightenment' is one way of referring to baptism! So there is much to meditate on in your ideas as to 'and also' in the context of light.
Re: "Note, Steven, that I specifically said "worshipping", not merely "attending. . . ."
How can that be assumed, and even if assumed how would it be relevant? Heretics, Hindus, and kooks of every assortment all may worship (and some of them at Anglican Churches), but though I may like them, work with them, and respect their opinions in a variety of areas, I don't look to them in forming correct opinions on matters involving the Christian religion.
Re: "*My* view is limited, being one fallible, subjective person's *opinion*. How is it that your POV, Steven, escapes these limitations?"
My opinion, to the extent it departs from, or even falsely interprets/applies, the witness of Holy Scripture is certainly subject to error and, like everyone else, I foul up more than a dozen times a day on a variety of issues. However, I think this is a case of the "pot calling the kettle black". I've never noticed that you are shy about promoting your own POV on this board as being "True".
Re: the TEC as the "Church" and why I don"t trust what it says as a corporate body.
First, because I am speaking about the "Church" as the "Church Catholic", not any particular branch or province. Local aberrations have always been possible and occurred in the history of the Church: Arianism, etc. Second, re-read my prior statement regarding Scripture, the Church as interpreter of Scripture, and Article XX.
Your remark deserves thought, and you could have chosen an even more immediately obvious example by citing to the mysteries of the Faith. How can God be both one and three? How can Christ be both wholly Man and wholly God? Further, "both and" seems to apply to some varieties of physical phenomena as well. As you note, in the range of the infinitesimally small, the categories of particle and wave seem to become jumbled.
However, my basic response would be that (to the best of my knowledge), the realms where the diametrically opposite unite are realms beyond normal human understanding, perception and comprehension. As such, they are interesting, expanding, and often inspiring, but they do not help us solve the basic problems we are dealing with on this board. For example, you might try applying your "both and" strategy to resolving the following diametrically opposite propositions:
(1) SSBs should absolutely not be allowed in any church or province of the AC.
(2) Provinces should be free to authorize SSBs.
I think you will find it doesn't work at this level.
The reality is that we have diametrically opposite beliefs in a single organisation
If that wasn't the case, then we could much more easily agree to disagree
I picked this text up this evening - "Rule for a New Brother, adapted" says the attribution - not immediately obvious which rule, and it is a partially inclusivised text, but pertinent, I think:
Obedience demands of you
that you listen to the other person;
not only to what he is saying
but to what he is.
Then you will begin to love in such a way
that you will neither crush nor dominate
nor entangle your brothers and sisters
but help them to be themselves
and lead them to freedom.
To 'love in such a way' seems to me to be the vocation of a Christian, though the ends might be differently expressed (salvation, kingdom etc). The doctrine of the Trinity has to do with both inward identity (the essential Trinity - who God is) and outward working (the economic Trinity - including what God says) - and neither of these aspects can be expressed in any meaningful way without reference to love as an essential component.
But to use the word I urged caution about 'we have all sinned'.
Thank you very much for this, Mark!
Thanks for the clarification. I am certainly relieved to know that "stupid" is merely a gratuitous insult rather than an ad hominem attack.
PS-I note that Simon's comments also covers "derogatory comments about other people" as well as ad hominem attacks.
So glad you're relieved. Note that I did not use the word "merely" to describe an insult nor did I suggest that derogatory remarks were o.k. In fact what I said was, "Not meaning to excuse it by any means." As it happens I consider insults to be worse than ad hominem attacks, which are merely bad arguments and time wasters.
Mark Bennet asks about the provenance of "Rule for A New Brother". It comes from the Brakkenstein Community of Blessed Scarament Fathers in Holland, and was published by Darton Longman & Todd in 1973, with a foreword by Henri Nouwen. It was translated, it says, by the Benedictine Nuns of Cockfosters - and they've been at Turvey since Adam was a lad.
Thank you for reminding me of it, and the encouragement to find it on the shelves, dust it down and re-read it!
The passage quoted is from the fifth section, entitled "Called to Freedom"
I've been attacked quite a lot on this site. I don't mind too much actually because I think in today's world people are entitled to get angry and even when the attacks are ott, there is always something to learn from them. I've never posted anonymously, just because it would compromise my professionalism to do so and also I simply don't have the time or energy to do that on top of everything else. Still, it is nice now to know that I can now turn to Thinking Anglicans first thing without breaking out into a cold sweat first as to what might be on here. It's rather like turning to Andrew Brown's column in the Church Times. It has about the same effect on my heart rate as having ten cups of black coffee in one go.
There is an old saying relative to heat and kitchens, Miss Gledhill.
A word of thanks, Ruth, for your comprehensive blog coverage of Dar Es Salaam, and for your link to TA which got me hooked!
Ruth - I don't get why Lambeth Palace excludes you.....you dress must have clashed with someone there one day