Public Apology and Discussion on Double Standards for Blogging vs. Talking

I'd appreciate some honest feedback on this issue. I have posted two things here on SI in the past few days which have both received swift condemnation from some. I want to explore why employ a double standard between informal, face to face conversations vs. blogging and whether we should. The point of this topic is not to whine about people questioning me, but to quickly explore the very nature of blogging vs. talking

Example #1

I posted that Rob Bell was an "idiot" and nobody should pay attention to him. I was rebuked by some who feel this kind of tone is unhelpful. However, if we are honest with one another, wouldn't we use words perhaps very similar to these in informal, personal (not Pastoral) interactions with fellow Christians?

"Hey, Tyler, did you see what Rob Bell said about homosexual marriage?"

"Oh, no, don't tell me!"

"He says he's for it!"

"That guy is such an idiot!"

Do we really presume to say we don't have these conversations with our friends?

Example #2

I was looking for some informed feedback about Northland. More rebukes ensued; some questioning why I would presume to recommend colleges to Christian teenagers, others implicitly accusing me of cowardice for not contacting Matt Olsen directly. However, don't we voice similar concerns in informal, personal (not Pastoral) interactions with fellow Christians?

"Hey, Tyler, you know Jimmy is turning 18 next year, and I'm thinking about where he should go for college."

"Ok."

"I've been thinking about XYZ Bible College, but I've heard some bad things. What do you think about that?"

"I've heard some things too, Bob. I can ask around and see if any of my friends have some info and get back to you. Worse comes to worse, we can always call the school."

"Thanks, Tyler."

Later . . .

"Hey, Andy, I've got somebody who has some questions about XYZ Bible College. Have you heard anything about them? I've read some things, and heard other things, which makes me a little uneasy about them . . ."

"Tyler, you're a coward. Call them yourself. Who do you think you are!!"

Would any of us really expect to get that kind of feedback from an informal query to like minded, serious Christians?

I have apparently misunderstood the nature of this blog. I had assumed it was a place for informal, candid exchange of information among serious Christians. I view it as a virtual coffee shop, in effect. I had assumed I could feel free to replicate the normal, candid, informal flow of conversation here that I would employ among friends in person. That is evidently not the case. I don't say this maliciously or in a pouting way - I just understand where I stand now. From here on out my comments will be measured, moderate and calculated with an ear towards "correctness."

If I have offended anybody with my comments about Northland or Rob Bell - please understand the context in which they were given, accept my apology and let's all move on.

TylerR

1468 reads
Greg Linscott's picture

Tyler, 

As one who chimed in on one of the threads, I just want to say my intent was more a reminder than a rebuke. I have backed off on involvement here at SI, but back a few years ago when I was more prominently involved, I linked a Filings story on Holy Hip Hop/Christian Rap that ran in World magazine. From the ensuing comments on that thread, I actually got into a personal dialogue with Chester Allen, aka "Voice." Some of that is referenced in this archived thread: http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=5162 The point is, you never know who is reading.

Yes, this is a place for informal discussion. However, it is important to remember that our words carry weight, even here on the internet. I am not condemning those who would call someone an "idiot" per your example, but I know for my own sake, I cannot afford to do that even in a scenario like you imagined. I find that those kind of words carry meaning in my own heart and mind- and the difference from saying "what is he thinking?" versus "what an idiot!" may be minor in some people's minds,but to me makes all the difference between opposing ideas versus hating people. Even our private demeanor has bearing on that.

Personally, I say, embrace it. Be accountable for what you say, and what you type. I have tried as much as possible to use my real name when interacting online, for that very reason. Yes, people can find out what I've said over the years with a Google search. That should give me some pause before I publish. We can talk friendly like, and I would love to share that coffee with you. I just need to remember that there are people next table over who might overhear. How I speak, even informally, provides an example to others on how Christians envision personal respect and loving speech. I need to make sure that example is a good one.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Tyler,

SI is definitely a place where you can discuss things like you asked about Northland. However, like in any "coffee-shop" discussion, you are going to get a lot of different responses. One thing is certain about this place though -- talking off the cuff without facts generally doesn't go very far, and has proven itself over the years to be less-than-useful in almost all cases, if not all.

The blog source you referred to for Northland's issues is one that is generally not too respected by most of the participants here, so realize that if you bring it up (and then try to tell the other participants not to go off on that source), it still prejudices the discussion -- if you think that source is at all valid, then it will sound like your question is not that serious to some, or alternatively, like you are asking the wrong group of people for advice.

You were pointed to some other threads, and some of the participants here *do* have some concerns about some of the changes at Northland. However, when the question sounds like it is phrased to be loaded (and your blog source would do exactly that), then there is no good way to answer such a question without telling you to read the other threads or ask them directly.

Most people reading here probably only know about Northland what they hear or read. Even those that have experience with the school might be out of touch. If you want to discuss a particular issue, ask about that issue, but an open ended question like "Is there something wrong with Northland?", especially to a group that holds a wide variety of positions on various issues, will often generate just the type of responses you got.

If you couch your question as you did above and mention that you've heard some things that make you uneasy, what is it you are trying to ask? If anyone has heard anything, no matter how questionable in origin or fact? Whatever it is that makes you uneasy, ask about that issue, but the question above makes it sound like you are fishing for rumors. Sometimes such questions even start rumors or put uneasiness about the organization you are asking about in others minds. If you are uneasy about an issue, ask about it directly. You might get an answer that will actually help, or point you to someone who can.

Since you are a pastor part of whose job it is to help students make decisions like things about college, it is not out of line for you to just contact the university and ask about things that are troubling you. I'm sure someone there will be more than willing to help. Or, ask a couple of the people on the threads who have expressed concerns. Maybe they know something that will help you make up your mind. Maybe the SI audience in general will too, if you ask the right kinds of questions.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'll be more careful on the blog. Greg is correct that you never know who is reading. Only a fraction of the people on here contribute - so who knows who reads these things. Stupid mistake by a young guy. Lesson learned - won't happen again. Sorry!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I've done some writing on this topic before somewhere... but Internet discussions are a tricky hybrid of informal conversation and published text. In a conversation we'd casually call somebody an idiot (though I think I don't do that very often... though I often think it!) maybe. But if we were writing a book, we'd use different language. Probably one reason is the relative impermanence vs. permanence of these two mediums of communication.

We intuitively think of casual conversation as brief and soon forgotten... and think of books as enduring and not quite as soon forgotten.

Web discussions tend to have the spontaneity (and heat) of live interaction, like conversation, but they linger and get read by dozens, hundreds, thousands. So it's a venue that calls for counterintuitive behavior in many ways.