Saturday, August 20, 2005


No pictures tonight.  I'm not in the mood.

Call me thin-skinned.  Call me oversensitive.  I'll even agree with you.  This is a fault I've worked to overcome over the years, but I've never entirely succeeded.  For example, I always get upset when a conservative Christian pops up out of nowhere to attack something I wrote online.  Usually the comment is anonymous, so I can't even respond directly.  Instead I look the comment over, and consider again whether the criticism has merit.  I second-guess myself.  I feel guilty for any deficiencies I think I see in my own writing, beliefs, or character.  I get upset and frustrated for not having communicated effectively enough to be understood, to win the person over.

But really, it usually comes down to one thing.  What parts of the concepts of compassion and tolerance don't these people understand? I'm not talking about all Christian conservatives, mind you, but occasionally I get a comment like this one, that basically takes me to task for loving my neighbor.

This time, the comment in question was posted to the St. Michael's & All Angels Arts blog.  This blog is ancillary to the main church (news) blog, started so that parishioners can contribute photos, essays, prayers, poetry, art--well, pretty much anything, as long as it is compatible with the fact that it's a church's blog. But nobody sends me (or the church) anything for it, so rather than leave it completely neglected, I occasionally post something on it, usually adapted from something in Musings

The comment that upset me so was posted to an entry of pictures and a tiny bit of text provided by Ila Abernathy, about her annual trip to Guatemala to help displaced Maya in remote villages with medical supplies and training.  That happened to be the oldest entry on the face of the blog at the time.  The newest entry, the one this anonymous person was talking about in the misdirected comment, was my rant from June about how poorly a Wiccan friend of mine is treated by doctors, social workers,etc. because of her affiliation with a fringe religion.  The commenter felt that I --and St. Michael's generally--was betraying God by advocating compassion and tolerance toward this friend.

But for me, the story of the Good Samaritan, the edict to love one's  enemies, and any number of other passages from the New Testament, demand no less.  The idea that you can and should be mean to someone, discriminate, condemn, maybe even beat up or kill that person, all because he or she is not one of Us, not a Christian/ Muslim/ Jew/ Democrat/ Republican/ American/ Whatever, is exactly the sort of thing that leads to suicide bombings, the Holocaust, and really, most of the evil in the world.  Not that the commenter was advocating anything of the sort, but clearly, my plea for tolerance was being condemned. So what is the person advocating, if not intolerance? The difference between that and those other horrors is one of degree, not one of concept. A person can be wrong about something, terribly wrong, but that doesn't give us the right or the responsibility to treat that person with hostility. 

So as I said, it's appropriate for me to disagree with my friend's religion, but it's not appropriate for her pain doctor to refuse to see her, or for someone to label her a troublemaker and deny her services, solely on the basis of religion.  And really, how does preaching at her, shunning and mistreating her, and implying that anyone who defends her is betraying does any of that follow Jesus's teachings and examples, or convince D/S to become a Christian again?  How does the song go?  They'll know we are Christians by our hate?  Of course I want her to find her way back to Christianity eventually, but this is no way to accomplish that.

Maybe I'm being harsh.  Maybe it's a mutual misunderstanding between me and Mr. or Ms. Anonymous.  Maybe I made this person feel attacked, and this was the response.  But either way, I'm feeling all hurt and insecure here.  I want to go in a corner and whimper.  You don't like me!  You think I'm bad! 

And have you ever noticed that saying you will pray for someone can sometimes be a passive-aggressive attack on a person with whom you disagree?  The implication is that I'm on the fast track to Hell, and only your prayers can turn me around, so that I will agree with you and go to Heaven after all.  Yes, sure, go ahead and pray for me, and for my friend. I pray each night for everyone everywhere, no exceptions. I pray that we will all come to know that God is real, that God cares, that we will all understand better what God wants from  each of us, and for help to get through the difficult times in each of our lives.  I pray that we will learn to live up to our potential, using our talents well.  I pray that we will learn to truly love and help one another, not just our particular insular groups but everyone.  But don't tell me you're praying that I will see the error of my wicked ways. I'm far from perfect, but I'm not all that wicked.  Your prayers will neither keep me from Hell nor send me there. 

One of the commenter's criticisms was the claim that I had posted an "evil symbol" on a church blog.  This confused me at first.  I looked at the entry where the comment was posted, and saw pictures of Guatemalans, and a picture that a child in Guatemala drew. Was this person seeing something in the drawing that wasn't there?  But no, I later noticed that I had a right-side-up pentagram in the entry about my friend, mostly because I didn't have any other illustrations for it.  This symbol is not Satanic, but perhaps I should not have put it on the church blog, even as an illustration of the beliefs of others.

Understand:  I am not a minister, priest or deacon.  My only formal course in religion was nearly thirty years ago at Syracuse University.  I've read much of the Bible but not all of it, and I've read some modern translations of rejected (non-canonical) scriptures and other modern scholarship.  I am the church webmaster, and I help out at Mass in minor ways, mostly as crucifer and lector.  But I don't speak for the church, except to post announcements, mostly written by others.  The opinions I post on the Arts page are my own.  They're intended to be one person's opinions and spiritual journeys, to be interspersed with the contributions of others.  Unfortunately, others don't contribute.

So what should I do?  Should I let this comment spook me, again?  Should I stop posting to the Arts blog until I find others to contribute, so it's not all me, assuming an authority I don't have or want? 

Or should I still express my opinion from time to time, and hope that most people will see Christian values in my words, instead of anti-Christian ones?


P.S.  I took the advice below, and posted a version of this to the SMAAARTS blog.  I also emailed Father Smith, who was also attacked in the original comment, asking for his input.  And I received a lovely, loving email today from a self-identified conservative Christian and fundamentalist, saying that I was right to love others, to keep my chin up.  Thank you, and God bless you all--whether you agree with me or not. 


gaboatman said...

I'm sorry the commenter has hurt you and you feel attacked.  Personally, I think you have a really good entry here for your church blog.  I think you should cut and paste this entire entry into the church blog and let the parrishoners answer the questions in your last paragraph.  By the way, I agree with you about the Good Samaritan lesson and that ALL of God's children need to be tended to.

plittle said...

I came here to tell you I thought you should post this entry in the church blog in response to the comment, and find I am not alone in my opinion. (I love it when that happens). Validation rocks! Also, perhaps you should speak to your minister about it as well, maybe asking him his opinion of whether to post the response there. It could be a way toward opening up a discussion about Christianity among your fellow parishoners, and generating more interest in the blog itself.

shellys555 said...

Karen, once you're online, you're open to stuff like that. If you're going to post, you have to, IMO, learn to ignore the stuff that comes from ignorance or a tightly held view of the world that doesn't coincide with yours.

It took me a lot of years to realize that the only power someone has over my feelings and reactions is what I allow, that I can't change the opinions of everyone and certainly not of most folks I encounter online, and that a post or a comment here and there in cyber space don't matter in the long run. I'm not talking about the world at large; just a small part of cyber space. Our part and what we allow in it to bother us. Especially when the comments come anonymously.

People use their online forums to vent and they'll comment to either agree or to vent/disagree. Some folks won't comment unless they agree, but others just want to spread their venting around, especially if they read something that triggers it.

You can do as suggested and address the comment on the journal itself, or you can leave it alone or delete it, then move on. It's a matter of what you can live with. But try to not let such folks get to you.

I've had my own online "altercations," tho not nearly in the same league as this, but I decided a few months after I started blogging that while my blogs are public, my comment areas are not. I get to decide what goes there and what stays. I like being the administrator like that. And it's not that I want to avoid dissension. I just don't want to keep comments that I find unhelpful or annoying. Just recently, I deleted a fairly nice comment from my writing blog because of the poor grammar and an odd attack on a blog exchange service. I didn't think the comment belonged on my blog.

And so it goes.

pattboy92 said...


I'm a Christian, and I think your points are absolutely right.  It saddens me when fellow Christians -- or those who say they are -- get so overconfident that they feel they can dictate how others are treated.  If the situation were reversed...if it was the Christian who needed the help and his doctor refused to treat him because of his beliefs, he wouldn't stand for it for a second.

The God I believe in IS one of compassion.  I cannot imagine "advocating compassion and tolerance" as being a "betrayal" of God.  It's in compassion and tolerance, understanding and interaction, where some of the most effective ministry can happen.

How can anyone believe that shunning or mistreating someone is a way to minister on behalf of God, when He NEVER does that to His people?

Don't let the comment spook you and don't let it keep you from contributing.  As long as there are people who feel the way that commenter felt, we need all the compassion in the world that we can get!


ryanagi said...

Just let it roll off your back, hun. I agree with YOU. In true "what would Jesus do" fashion, you have the right idea.  I can't stand these so called christian sects who look down their noses at all other forms of Christianity and other faiths. They are NOT acting humble before their God. They do NOT have all the answers. They do NOT have love in their hearts for ALL their fellow man as God commands. Just keep on keeping on. You are on the right path, in my humble opinion.