I was fuming. I read the words and they just got worse. My temper rose and my brain started to whir.
I was plotting what I would write, the words that would critique the post that had got me riled. I was imagining my acerbic wit weaving its way across the page. How I would make my point in such destructively understated prose. I plotted the layers I would sequence to use words to make one point directly and another more subtly in line with others across the arc of my writing.
I was angry. Someone had said something I didn’t feel should be left unquestioned. But my motives were less pure. My mental scheming stopped dead with a tweet that pulled me from my fanciful flight of blogging heroism.
It’s one of those nights where I just wish I could bake for the Internet. I am convinced people must be civil when eating pie.
— Preston Yancey (@prestonyancey) October 3, 2012
I was not being civil. I was ready for war. Funny things these internal squabbles, inside the body of Christ when we tear each other limb from limb to make our point. Civil wars are anything but civil. I’ve done it before and it left me cold. My stats may have gone through the roof for a day or so. I may have won plaudits for the way in which I took down someone who said something I disagreed with, and moreover slighted many others not including myself.
I was right. I was sure I was right then, and I was sure I was last night. When Mark Driscoll made comments about British preachers I thought I would come to their defence. And last night I thought I’d come to the defence of another maligned group damned with the faintest of praise from one of my more conservative brethren. I tweeted my horror, just moments before Preston Yancey tweeted his call for civility. It could have been straight to me. I do not know whether it was about the same fracas but the words struck home.
Being right wasn’t what mattered.
I paused. I reflected on the days that followed my post about Mark Driscoll. I thought about the debates that ensued in the comments, on facebook and twitter. I remember hovering several times over the delete button in the back end of the blog. For all that I liked what I had written I did not like the way it was being received or how it reflected on me. I was ready for the whole piece to be consigned to the dustbin of internecine blogging. And I reflected again on the amount of search referrals I’ve had this week after blogging about Vaughan Roberts and his interview about same sex attraction.
I am not responsible for what people search to find what I write, but I am responsible for what they find and read. For quite a while my response to Mark Driscoll was my most read post (now superseded by Jennie Pollock’s guest post). If I had written in anger this morning, if I had offered a redoubtable defence of my case, I may have received acclamations for bravely saying something others were thinking. I may have got a boost to my statistics after a quiet summer. But I would be offering a tone of debate and discussion I could not defend.
I would be writing for the attention it would receive. I would not be building bridges or helping unite a frequently factious church. What I would write would be for my benefit and not anyone else’s.
People who know me will know what I would have said. And those who don’t but read these words, well I’m afraid I’m leaving it there. I’m determined not to become a landing page for those looking to pick fights between sections of the church. I’m not going to slag off this individual, and I shall do my best not do so to any other. I’ll engage in debate and discussion, I’ll write about what I agree with and disagree with. I think difference is healthy and the church should foster a culture where we can speak of our difference in a civil manner and not hurl threats of excommunication if you don’t tow the party line.
But body blows are too far. Personal attacks are not needed. I want people to read what I write, but not at the expense of pulling someone else down. Scoring cheap points is a pastime I can live without. I guess this is a mantra. Or a positive revolution as suggested elsewhere. Let’s be civil. Let’s make civility fashionable.
And let’s make each other pie as frequently as possible.