Over at Cranach, Gene Edward Veith (provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College) ponders the state of argumentation in a world of blogging, and for good reason. His
. . . innocent little post has now chalked up a record 422 comments at last count. What happened is that a very heated debate broke out between Lutherans and non-Lutherans on the true meaning of John 20:23. Before long, Luther was getting bashed, and non-Lutherans were getting bashed, and feelings were getting hurt on both sides. Then, at about comment #359, people started talking about ME, taking me to task for allowing unkind things being said on my blog. I should not allow certain things to be said. I should establish a code of conduct, require registration, moderate comments, monitor what people say, and delete negative remarks.
Dr. Veith is surprised? Blogs and the comments they sometimes invite are a bit Wild West. He does offer a few rules for cyber argumentation, of course. For instance, sure, Jesus could call Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” but you can’t because you are not Jesus. Good point, but mostly he concludes bloggy argumentation, if it is to be real argumentation instead of a string of bad names, comes down to trust and respect and humility. Since he owns the site, he tells his responders . . .
. . . I’ve got to trust you, and I do. Learn how to argue. Don’t have a thin skin. Talk with people you don’t agree with. Try to win each other over. Realize that we have in common both the wretchedness of our sin and the forgiveness of our Savior.
Maybe Dr. Veith’s experience was not that unusual and his advice not that striking. Still, civility does retain some place in debate, doesn’t it? And if the rules for civility Dr. Veith suggests are basic if not simple, possibly those exactly are the sort that need the most reinforcement time to time.
I’ve never experienced anything I would regard as vitriolic, though rancorous comes close. Something I posted here earned a comparison to a boil being lanced. The responder, a fellow Lutheran, conveyed the idea I was writing for a bunch of traditionalist boils, if I wasn’t the boil myself. I would like to know who was wielding the lance, but that’s of no matter. After wondering if traditionalist pastors as myself “visit the holocaust museum or something to get in the mood before one of [our] meetings” he then asserted that I and others like me are really, oh gosh, Calvinists.
Now that stung. Lutherans never acquired the custom of burning witches, but we did go on hunts for “crypto-Calvinists” hiding in our pews and pulpits, and I’ll grant the guy probably we weren’t as thorough as we should have been, which may explain his continuing search. But still. I’d put him a time out chair for that, along with the others of his brood. Maybe there is something just mean about us Lutherans.