My Hesitancy to Censor
I completely understand that some people are here to convert us to the Truth as they understand it. I too have gone onto blogs and message boards for the purpose of presenting ideas that I knew they did not believe. For example, I went on the bible.org message board to share about biblical unitarianism. I was permitted to argue my side for about two days, but once it became clear what I was doing they locked the thread and never reopened it. When I persisted they banned me from their site effectively excommunicating me. This has happened to me several times and it stings. If you’d like to listen to a Byte Show where I spoke about my experience in detail click here. I have experienced the frustration and anguish of being censored so I really do not want to do it to others. Ideally, we would be able to use the Scriptures and reason to patiently convince people over time. Of course, there have been a few cases where I have actually censored people, but this has only occurred a total of three times over the last four years and that is because I have erred on the side of grace rather than strictness or a desire for ideological purity.
However, at the same time I feel that we have come to a crossroads as to what to do. People get frustrated when someone overwhelms the recent comments list with irrelevant or mean-spirited statements. Furthermore, it has come to my attention that people are actually leaving the blog because of the unchristian behavior of a few. This is where I think a line must be drawn. If someone leaves because of the truth that is one thing but if they get annoyed or verbally abused then that is another. To insure that as many people as possible can enjoy this web community, I think the time has come to officially lay out a policy. But before I suggest what behaviors will not be tolerated along with a policy for censoring, let’s turn to the Scriptures as our guide.
Biblical Guidelines for Communication
Here are some verses to keep in mind regarding how the Bible teaches us to communicate with eachother. Since kingdomready is a biblically based website we hold ourselves and others to these standards.
Psa 34.12-13 [NASB]
12 Who is the man who desires life And loves length of days that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.
Ecc 10.12-14 [NRSV]
12 Words spoken by the wise bring them favor, but the lips of fools consume them. 13 The words of their mouths begin in foolishness, and their talk ends in wicked madness; 14 yet fools talk on and on. No one knows what is to happen, and who can tell anyone what the future holds?
Eph 4.29, 32 [NASB]
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear…32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Eph 5.2-4 [NASB]
2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Col 3:8 [NASB]
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
Col 4:6 [NASB]
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
2Tim 2.23-26 [NASB]
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Jam 1.26 [NASB]
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
What Is Considered Inappropriate
With these texts in mind I would like to propose a brief list of inappropriate behaviors. They are numbered for the sake of future reference. Please keep in mind that we need to be concerned just as much with how we argue as we are with what we argue. We need to remember the apostle’s exhortation to defend the truth with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3.15).
- Cursing, foul language, and blasphemy (blasphemy = trash-talking God)
- Attacking people’s intelligence, motives, or character rather than their arguments. (i.e. calling people stupid, etc.)
- Completely unrelated comments (i.e. pontificating about summer in poetic form on a post about Jesus’ resurrection
- Incoherent comments or riddles (i.e. including bizarre, contradictory, or just plain nonsensical statements)
- Overwhelming the recent comments list unnecessarily (try to put all of your comments in one entry per post)
- Hijacking a post repeatedly (i.e. we all do this from time to time but if you do it constantly it really does become onerous)
- Disrespect towards others (i.e. sarcastic statements intended to belittle, inappropriate labeling of people, overly critical demeanor towards a certain person, etc.)
How To Disagree Respectfully and Fruitfully
Here are some positive statements about how we can argue constructively. Whereas the previous list speaks to what we should not do, this list gives guidance as to what we should do.
- Keep in mind that while you may be convinced that what you speak is the Truth, others are equally convinced about the truth of what they say. No one has “all the truth” and we must all be aware of the possibility that we could have been mistaken or misled. We have not always known what we know now, and at some point (or points) in our lives we have all come to realize that something we once believed was wrong. Pr. 11:14 – “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
- When presenting your viewpoints, it is not sufficient for debate to simply proclaim what you believe, especially if that viewpoint differs from either “mainstream” Christianity or the views of the majority on this board. You must present evidence from the Scriptures as to why you believe what you believe.
- Frequently a viewpoint or belief is backed up with Scripture, by means of incorrect interpretation or faulty logic. When presenting a rebuttal to another poster’s presentation, as has been stated above, use compassion and brotherly kindness, and avoid name-calling and making judgments about the poster’s intelligence, character, or motives.
- In a rebuttal to another poster’s views, it is not sufficient to make sweeping generalizations, such as “That’s wrong,” “That’s ridiculous,” “That’s just your opinion,” “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” etc. A rebuttal must address the specific issues in the view you are rebutting, and demonstrate from Scripture why you believe them to be in error.
- Faulty logic can be demonstrated fairly simply. An error in interpretation may be more difficult to prove. One of the biggest keys in interpreting the Bible is that all passages of Scripture on a given subject must agree and fit together without contradiction. If there are two possible ways to interpret a passage, but one contradicts other Scriptures while the other fits, then the one that fits is more likely to be correct.
- If, after open, honest debate, two parties still do not agree on an issue, and each side is convinced that the other “just can’t see it,” then the Christian thing to do is to “agree to disagree” and not continue wrangling and arguing about it. We will never agree on everything, so this will likely be how many debates will conclude.
- What we should avoid is taking the attitude of “I must proclaim The Truth, and continue to proclaim it whether they want to hear it or not.” If parties agree to disagree on a matter, they should let it go, and not keep bringing it up, especially in other threads that have nothing to do with the matter on which they disagree. If a poster continually proclaims his views with no intention of debating, it is seen as baiting an argument, which detracts from the thread, and it engenders strife as well.
Official Censorship Policy
As our Lord taught us, we are to correct each other in love and with respect when we see a brother or sister transgressing. However, there are times when someone persists and then the question comes up, “What do we do when someone refuses to change?” Here is the official policy we will use for such cases.
- Identify the inappropriate behavior (quote their exact words if possible) and gently correct the person with Scripture. Anyone is free to do this step. Be sure to also cite which specific “Inappropriate Behavior” the person has exhibited. Remember, the purpose of confrontation is so that the person would improve, not that they would get kicked off (Galatians 6.1).
- Email the moderators (email@example.com) to let us know that step #1 has occurred. The moderators are not always able to keep up on every comment that is made on this blog, so don’t assume that a moderator has seen you execute step #1. Also, bear in mind that it may be a couple of days before we get back to you.
- If the behavior persists, an official warning will be issued by myself (Sean) or Victor publicly (i.e. as a comment).
- If the person still continues in their inappropriate behavior, they will be removed from posting on the blog and an email will be sent directly to the offender with clear instructions on what they need to do in order to be restored to the community
I wish we did not have to have these rules, but in the end I think it will help all of us to be more godly in our e-conversation.