“People are free to do with their blogs what they want, but when they begin to apply so-called “guidelines” both inconsistently and unfairly, they should not expect it to go unnoticed nor unchallenged. . . . With their new model (or old model or some model) now firmly in place, Voices may find themselves, as they say, hoisted on their own petard.” (Comment on “Power Plays and Moves to Oppress Dissent in the SBC”)
“Tighter control” through new and improved commenting policies seems to be all the rage these days in certain Southern Baptist and Reformed circles. First, SBC Voices, perhaps the most well-known blog for Southern Baptist news and opinion, instituted new commenting policies on Wednesday afternoon. Of course, those policies were not published until after a well-respected blogger and long-time contributor to Voices had a rather innocuous comment deleted based on the then unpublished policies. Curiously, to be sure, Denny Burk on Thursday linked (here) to a new Kevin DeYoung (“DeYoung, Restless & Reformed”) post (here) about blog comments that was likewise published on Thursday. I just love happy coincidences!
Just to be clear. A blog, be it SBC Voices or From Law to Grace, is not prohibited from instituting standards for blogging and for commenting on said blogs. In fact, there is no constitutional requirement that blogs even allow comments. That’s why the First Amendment is such a great right. It allows us to post material (libel excluded) which we deem appropriate and it allows us to restrict who can come onto our blogs and what they can or cannot say. I would defend the right of any blog owner to implement whatever policies and procedures they so choose. Blog owners, writers, and editors are even free to apply their policies inconsistently and unfairly. There is no First Amendment right for a commenter to post whatever he or she wants and then expect it to be published on a blog which is owned and operated by another. As has become the rallying cry of some as of late, “If you want the freedom to say whatever you want, start your own blog!” Thanks. We have.
However, once those policies and standards for commenting are adopted and published, it will not escape notice when said policies are misapplied or not even applied at all. Less than 24-hours after I made the above comment, a new opinion piece which seems to run afoul of their new commenting policies and standards was published on SBC Voices. In response to Rick Patrick’s post, “Acts 29 and Bad Science Fiction Movies,” I began my comment thusly:
Wow! Now tell us what you really think about Acts 29. First, while I am glad (I’m not sure that’s the right word) that Dave posted your OP, I think by doing so, this illustrates in the clearest way possible the absurdity and hypocrisy of the new commenting guidelines. The irony should be so crystal clear that it will not be lost on many.
While some privately took offense with my characterization, what would give me reason to think that the mere publishing of this post (which some might deem the very first comment on the topic at hand) is itself an illustration of absurdity and hypocrisy? Glad you asked. Here’s the answer. One of the new commenting guidelines rolled out on Wednesday states:
2) Respect People! Personal attacks and insults will not be permitted. It is one thing for me to say, “I disagree with you.” It is another to say, “Your idea is stupid,” or even “You are stupid.” If your comment is designed to insult another person, it is out of bounds. (“Comment Moderation Policies at SBC Voices,” published on March 28, 2012)
While readers of this blog understand that I have profound concerns with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill (here and here) — and by extension the Acts 29 Network — I was nevertheless flabbergasted with the unnecessary inflammatory rhetoric used in the post to describe — by way of analogy — churches affiliated with Acts 29. After likening Acts 29 churches and pastors to aliens among us (think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) — which I thought was clever, funny, and slightly pointed — the post goes on to say:
“Although it is not my intention to incite, this next analogy may do exactly that. When I compare traditional denominations to the existing sovereign nations on earth and liken Acts 29 to a terrorist network, I am certainly not speaking of their functional intent–these are brothers who are truly sharing the gospel–but only of their organizational structure. Just like a terrorist network contains infiltrating cells within a variety of nations while preserving their primary allegiance for the terrorist organization itself, Acts 29 churches appear to enjoy carte blanche in forming their own “denomination without walls. . . .
Just as Muslims embark upon both public holy wars and the more secretive infiltration of cultural subversion, religious denominations are subject to the same threats. While the liberalism a generation ago was a “holy war” fought over inerrancy, today we face the more illusive threat of subversion from within as the Acts 29 Network grows stronger and larger inside of us.” (full post here)
As I shared with Rick on the comment stream at Voices, I think much of his article is spot on. However, the use of inflammatory rhetoric in likening Acts 29, and churches affiliated with the church planting network, to a terroist network “was beyond the pale.” (Although I think the analogy used was a poor one, Rick has since clarified that the language that he used and apologized for the “terrorist metaphor”). It doesn’t matter that it was an analogy (or a metaphor within an analogy). That does not make it any less offensive nor does it somehow exempt the content of the post from the new standard, “Respect People!” Of course, there is one way in which this could fall under an exemption — if the original post is not held to the same high standards of Christian dialogue that commenters are held to. If the OP is not seen as a comment, but rather just an opinion from diverse voices, then I suppose that the “no personal attacks and insults permitted” clause will not be enforced.
I would submit to you, my friends, that this application (or, rather non-application) of the commenting policies to the original OP is the very definition of absurdity. If Voices (and other Baptist and Reformed blogs) want to “clean up the blogosphere,” then shouldn’t the post be held to at least the same standards of the commenters, if not to even higher standards? I’ll let my readers decide that question. But, until then, enjoy the mental and linguistic gymnastics that are being practiced by some at Voices to keep from being hoisted on their own petard!
However, just because a blog adopts certain policies does not