Thursday, October 1, 2009


I think I need to change my profile. Maybe. Maybe not. As any of my extremely limited number of readers knows, I make no bones about coming from a Christian perspective. I also mention that one of my passions is apologetics and I even quote one of my favorite verses on the subject:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (I Peter 3:15)

I still try to live by that verse, but the “gentleness and respect” part sometimes gets me into trouble. Whether I am talking religion or politics, the views I hold are usually not mere preferences but rather convictions. So it is a challenge to avoid getting too passionate or argumentative. This is why I prefer blogging to spoken debate. While alone at my computer keyboard, I can take a deep breath, gather my thoughts and calmly put together a reasoned discourse while perhaps sipping a glass of wine. I then read it over several times and say a prayer before clicking on the “submit” or “publish” button.

Yet I am also at a bit of a disadvantage, if you will, when I say out front that I am a Christian and even quote verses about treating people with gentleness and respect. What do you do when you want to show the ridiculousness of an opposing view by hurling a zinger or otherwise having a little fun with the written word? Don’t get me wrong; anything I write would be pathetically mild compared to some of the vicious vitriol I have seen elsewhere, and of which I have already written in a previous post, Christian and Atheist Bloggers Abound. I make it a point to not respond in kind and I always try to remember “there but for the grace of God go I”. Yet there are times when I like to poke a little fun, and that gets me into trouble.

For example, I recently had to apologize to an atheist blogger after challenging his use of strawmen to try to distract from the excellent arguments posted by the blog's author. (See Observations and Atheism and the ensuing comment string.) He took my poor attempt at humor as a personal attack and called me on the carpet about not living up to I Peter 3:15. My apology was accepted, so all is well that ends well. But I wonder, where do I go from here? There has to be a balance between being deferential, gentle and respectful, and at the same time having the liberty to demonstrate absurdity by being absurd, poke fun at people, or occasionally hurl a few zingers to add a much needed exclamation point. Any ideas?


Shirley Vandever said...

I have found that when people post comments on the internet, especially if they are anonymous, tend to put less thought into what they are saying than if they were, for example, speaking to someone in person or writing a business report. The tendency to resort to snark, sarcasm, and hyperbole is a little too tempting. I’ve probably been guilty of it myself earlier in my “blog awareness”, but of late have come to the conclusion that it is useless to go back and forth on blogs or anywhere else on line.

My rule now is that if I can’t give a response that at least shows a modicum of thought, then I don’t comment at all. I also avoid blogs that tend to encourage outrageous exchanges that enlighten no one; they seem to revel in pure verbal voyeurism. It is just not worth my time. I don’t even find it entertaining, unless one finds train wrecks entertaining. It really makes blogging somewhat disheartening at times, and I have kind of gotten away from it lately.

Of course, this doesn’t solve your problem. I don’t think there is an easy answer. It probably lies more with your personality and how you normally handle things. It is difficult to remain civil when you are confronted with incivility.

As for myself, I normally choose avoidance, sometimes with a touch of sarcasm. If someone is especially nasty I will thank them for their well thought-out contribution to the discussion and ask them to come again when their obviously superior insights can assist in my self-enlightenment.

But that’s just me. I don’t think one solution exists, and each situation probably has to be handled a little differently depending on the circumstances.

I guess you will have to rely on your faith to guide you. Oh, and maybe that glass of wine.

Domenic said...

The fact that the guy had the nerve to use a quote in the bible to defend himself is very telling. I've long said that part of the problem with things like email are that we can't see people's facial expressions or hear their voices when they write. So something that we pass off as sarcastic humor might be interpreted differently. I've had my share of run-in's with atheists (and non-Christians), and while I try to at the very least respect their beliefs, it angers me to no end when they have the nerve to pull out something from the bible to defend their point. I agree that we should all respectfully disagree if necessary, but pulling a reference like that if you're an atheist is, what we would call in the sports world, "busch-league."

JD Curtis said...

If they want to be respectful, then fine. If the want to come in here acting like a--holes, then they can expect to be treated like one. Sound fair enough?