The Yellow-Bellied Blogger
I have been amazed at how little people are willing to stand up for something using their real name here in our new world of the “web.” But I am even more amazed at how much people are willing to stand up for just about anything in any conceivable way while NOT using their real name. (One exception to this principle is Doug Wilson, who acts the part of incoherent internet assassin with his real name all the time, and without shame: e.g., the Court of Presbytery Church in America, Metzler, Gibbs, Johnson, McLaren, Kincaid, Sandlin, Nolan, Morin, COTK, postmodern scholars, city counsel members, Joan, Gier, the Southern Poverty Law Center, so on and so forth).
This is a remarkable fact, and suggests that there is something profoundly important in identity when it comes to our social practices. There are certainly some formats and occasions when politely masking identity could be appropriate. For example, if a decent guy who was fully assassinated by his pastor wants to judicially inform current congregants of certain facts and documents, he may need to mask identity just to get the first hearing. And you have interesting journalistic tasks that might warrant the masking of identity; I hear that one of the ways the KKK was taken out was via the means of an anonymous reporter who was also a mole inside the KKK. He was able to shame them on a regular basis given his inside knowledge.
But generally speaking, it is clear that identity creates enormous boundaries to social behavior, so much so that the lack of it produces a high volume of destructive, sometimes sinister, internet behavior. It also does not afford the real person a way to gauge how to give a response to the anonymous writer. For example, I am currently dealing with a Christ Church apologist at Vision 2020 under the name “the Princess” or “Taro.” There is evidence that this is a name that has been used by a number of kirker personalities. When I offer short and firm replies to the “Princess,” it is very difficult knowing how to respond since sometimes I cannot tell if the Princess is a 15 year old girl or a grown man. Likewise, it was preposterous receiving an “apology” from the Watchman. For all I know the Watchman is four different people and I have nothing but “Watchman” attached to a history of a number of comments made over the last couple months. Even if I knew the Watchman was one person, I do not know if the Watchman is characteristic of this one person’s real personality. Even if it was the person’s real personality, I still have no narrative context of this person’s linguistic actions. My philosophy thus far tells me that I therefore have no real way to successfully evaluate this person’s given actions. (I decided not to reply to this apology also due to the fact that all the evidence suggested that it was given for merely strategic purposes and was clearly not an apology directed to the real issues on the table at the time.)
Considering all this, I wanted to note an interesting article recently published by Kevin Swanson. First a warning: Swanson mischaracterizes the spawning of the Ligonier Law suit, and I hope that his assertion that Ligonier got “pulled into the morass by their blogger” is due to only pure ignorance. Without getting back into the entire story here, I want to remind you that Tim Dick initiated contact with this “blogger” only after this blogger set up a blog for the purpose of presenting a discussion over RC Sproul Jr’s defrocking that was unjustly censured after the fact. Dick was also in the practice of playing the internet assassin, slandering folks on the internet by claiming web sites such as Peter Kershaw’s were simply filled with slander—an outrageous suggestion. I should also note that I have accused Ligonier of lying–with sufficient reason–and I am not anonymous.
With that said, I would like to otherwise recommend the article. Swanson does not provide a link to the article, so I am copying it below; but you can find his web site here. He has a link to a radio talk on this same issue, but I have not listened to that. As always, you are free to call me on my cell phone: 509-330-1503.
November 28, 2006
Unfortunately, the Christian world (not to exclude the Christian homeschooling world) is now plagued with infantile, irresponsible, and even slanderous blogging, that threatens to do damage to the unsuspecting and naive among us. Of recent, I have been guided to these blogging sites by fairly innocuous e-mails bearing links. Upon perusing the content (which goes on for volumes on end), I could only cringe with embarrassment that such information is made public to a watching world. What was it that Jesus said? “By this all men shall know that ye are my disciples, if you blog nasty things about one another?”
According to secular news reports, Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul Sr.) was pulled into the morass by their blogger, and for a time the ministry pursued a complaint against the individual in the Seminole County Court. Per the Orlando Sentinel, the plaintiff was unable to pursue the suit due to the anonymous character of the blogger in question.
If you visit some of these sites you will find silly accusations flying around like two year olds kicking sand into each other’s faces in the sandbox. Some of these “Christians” seem to know some biblical terminology, and they are also quite handy with adjectives, dropping in such choice selections as “unethical,” “obnoxious,” “corrupt,” “less-than-honorable,” and “legalistic.” Some seem a little perturbed at the way a counseling situation or a church discipline issue progressed, and I would bet a dozen donuts to a dollar, they are home-churched homeschoolers, where no church in their right mind would take such rabble rousers, without immediately slapping them on a discipline fast-track. According to a Ligonier press release issued a month or two ago, the ministry was unable to identify church leadership to which their blogger friend might be accountable (let alone his true identity). I’m not surprised.
I struggle to understand the agenda behind the negative blogging. Do they want to argue a fine theological point (in the embarrassingly-public venue of the world wide web) by that really-effective means of character assassination? Are they trying to obtain some justice for some offense by way of the objective and controlled (and, might I add, conveniently anonymous) judicial setting of the. . . world wide web? Have they already lost a battle or two in the church courts or in civil courts, and now they find a therapeutic way to sooth a wounded ego? Perhaps a little old-fashioned envy over ministries that are more influential and effective than their own on-line slander ministries? Or perhaps in their formative years these were the rotten little boys and girls who found that special delight in kicking everybody’s sand castles to smithereens? Or maybe they’re just being sifted as wheat.
At this point, as far as I know I have no blogger assigned especially to me by the prince of this world wide web, although I hear that my name has been used in vain a time or two. When your ministry gets big enough, do you get assigned your own personal blogger?
On one occasion I did make the mistake of engaging a brief e-mail exchange with one particular blogger. Upon my request for the opportunity to connect with the individual by phone or in person, that I might be able to follow through with the Matthew 18 injunction, the mysterious blogger coyly dismissed me, with an “I’m not particularly interested in a friendship with you, Mr. Swanson.” Hmmm. Interesting.
Out here in the west, we have a few adjectives of our own for people like this. Low down, yellow-bellied cowards.
Let me say this as plainly as I possibly can. Any “Christian” blogger, who casts aspersions on another professing Christian in the public web forum, who is not a member of a church, accountable to ordained elders/ministers/pastors, and who refuses to provide some means of contacting him personally by phone or in person, is a yellow-bellied blogger, and his blog is not worthy of a second’s worth of attention on the part of any true believer.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” 1 Tim. 5:19 (This precludes anonymity.)
By the way, you can reach me at 303-520-8814.