Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Existence of Injustice does not Justify Its Existence: A Lesson in Blog Commenting

I've done a bad thing.  I commented on a blog.  Actually, that's not true.  I replied to someone else's comment.  I confess, and I am ashamed.  And now I'm just gonna talk through a bunch of my somewhat unfiltered thoughts about the situation.  Deal with it.  If you have any questions or thoughts at the end, please bring them to light - this is all kinda messy, and I'm sure there's room both to call me out and shore me up.

As a general rule, I do not comment on blogs or articles.  If I agree with the post, well the author has made the point and does not necessarily need my support.  If I disagree, well, the author likely wouldn't have written the post if he/she wasn't somewhat convinced of the opinion, and my little comment will not make any difference.  The one exception I may make is when I find a post or argument (or sometimes even a particular phrase or sentence) actually offensive.  If a remark or argument rises above mere opinion and into something I feel is perpetuating some sort of offense, be it evidence of a systemic injustice or unfair stereotype, I might feel compelled to chime in.

That was not the case this time.  I was simply reading a post from a blog I find agreeable and thought-provoking, and very rarely contains content I find actually offensive.  But then I read some comments...

This post was on a Christian blog, and dealt with the issue of gender roles, and I saw a comment that I felt had rather missed the point.  But what's more, I recognized the commenter.  I've seen his comments before, almost always on posts dealing with gender, and almost always contrary to the author's point of view.  Being a fairly progressive Christian blog, the gender posts lean towards egalitarian ideas, and this commenter is fervently complementarian.  (Please bear in mind, while I am no strict complentarian, I also do not imagine myself some champion of the feminist or egalitarian cause.  I am what I am and that's all that I am, and I prefer not to box myself into movements or labeled ideologies.  Interpret my stance beyond that as you will.)

Anyway, this guy comments frequently, almost any chance he can get to assert his complementarian ideas (and I've got no beef with the views per se).  This particular commenter's tone, though, is particularly condescending.  Particularly holier-than-thou.  Particularly arrogant in the way it comes across.  This is maybe not the way he intends it, but the tone is there nevertheless.  Eventually, the frequency and smug nature of his posts finally reached my limit.  

He seemed to believe that certain institutions have been in place for several millennia, and that this is not to be questioned, for their persistence itself is enough evidence that they are right, so we should accept them.  He wrote, "For centuries, male leadership both in the church and house have never been criticized or questioned until woman's suffrage and the rise of feminism in the 19th and 20th centuries."  Well damn that women's suffrage.  According to this logic, the very existence of injustice justifies its very existence.  And I could not hold my tongue.  Needless to say, he read my reply, but I doubt he actually heard me.  I fought the urge to reply to his reply and failed again.  I thought, "If only I can clarify, maybe he'll see my point this time!"  I should have known better.  No one is really commenting on blogs because they want to be persuaded of anything other than their already entrenched position.  Myself included - I knew that I was right, or I wouldn't have bothered.  

At one point he also wrote about hermeneutics:

"Honest and objective interpretation of Scripture should remain void of personal bias, notion, belief, socio-political stand, and culture. In fact, it should be read and understood within the context of the time and culture at which the author wrote the respective book. Then, rather than dismissing the context it should instead be applied universally to our time and culture as much as feasibly possible."

Is it just me, or is he not basically saying, "We must read the Bible ignoring cultural influences.  Except we must know the cultural influences of the time in which the Bible was written.  Then, we must read the Bible taking into account its original context, and then apply it as though we live in the same context, ignoring any changes that have taken place in the last 2,000 years."  Seriously.  That's a terrible way to do hermeneutics.  

Well, this all happened, and I can't take it back.  Neither of us walks away with any different opinion than we had going in.  I'll still see his smug attitude toward any blog post suggesting that maybe women actually do have something worthwhile to teach us, and should not be prohibited from teaching us simply because their boobs are screwed on a bit too tight.  It is not enough to have a heart and mind devoted to Christ and his ways - one must have the balls and masculine jawline of Christ as well.   

At some point I realized I needed to just stop, look at this blog and these comments, and ask what I've learned from this whole situation.  I've learned that we, as a Church, as the Body of Christ, do a terrible job at teaching any coherent ideas about what hermeneutics are and how we should discuss them.  I think we also do not teach history well - church history, or the history of the world surrounding the church - as many people seem to have awfully diverse ideas about what was going on 2,000 years ago.  (Recent hullabaloo concerning the existence of Adam and Eve offers further evidence of this chasm.)  

We must be able to have respectful, yet frank discussion.  I think one of the most insulting things Christians can do at the end of a debate is to offer their prayers for the other party.  It's like one more shot across the bow saying, "I'm right, and I'll pray blessings upon you so that one day you might be right like me."  I rarely believe that these offerings are sincere.  I sure know I wouldn't mean it.  We should also not assume that other people are stupid just because we disagree with them.  At one point, while noting some key differences between Paul's culture and our own, I suggested that the concept of homosexuality did not exist when Paul was writing.  I was told that the Bible talks about homosexuality several times, and was then told, "Read your Bible :)"  Apparently, after a lengthy discussion about history, hermeneutics, and the Bible, my Bible literacy itself was still in question.  How did all this happen?  And why do I keep going back to check for updates?

Ever since my last post, a little over a week ago, I've found myself very opinionated.  I'll comment on facebook statuses, I'll write my own facebook statuses about articles that I read, I'll reply to tweets about this or that or the other thing.  Maybe it's the recent surge of news coverage of the Republican primary campaigns and I'm all riled up.  Plus, I'm home for the summer and not involved in a very active Christian fellowship to allow for the discussion of these sorts of issues.  And I'm away from the good old UNC campus where I always had both liberal and conservative groups of friends where I could bring up whatever was happening in politics or social issues at the time. Am I just antsy to get back around more people where ideas can flow more freely? 

Whatever the case, I have to also admit that the whole ordeal was still great fun.  Perhaps I should just stay out of it next time.  Isn't that why I have this thing?


  1. Preach it.

    Agree or disagree, there should always be room to express your thoughts without stubbornness or ignorance getting in the way.
    Demonizing another political party/set of beliefs will get our country and our world no-where.

    Maybe that's too much to ask for...

  2. Preach it.

    Agree or disagree, there should always be room to express your thoughts without stubbornness or ignorance getting in the way.
    Demonizing another political party/set of beliefs will get our country and our world no-where.

    Maybe that's too much to ask for...